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We've all seen sticky topics in online forums - a post which is forcibly stuck to the top of the list by the author(or moderators) of said post. Example:

I have a case now whereby we have an application where one person sends notes to another, the author can choose if this note will be sticky or not, based on the importance of the content, however the viewers don't have the freedom to 'unsticky' any note.

This means that if a sticky note is no longer relevant for one particular viewer, they are not able to 'unstick' the note themselves. I see this as a UX problem of usability freedom.

How could this be dealt with? Could attaching ('nonsticky') red flags to important notes and then filtering the list by that be a solution?

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  • Would it be okay for the user to be able to "unstick" any stuck message? I'm wondering if having a "Mark as seen/read" functionality would work. This way, these pinned messages can function more as a high-priority notification that the user can actively dismiss, after which point, the message displays in the default sort order in their feed. – maxathousand Sep 10 '18 at 15:49
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    sticky posts seem to bend post's purpose to act as a band aid covering a lacking notification system. – dandavis Sep 10 '18 at 19:35
  • @maxathousand that was my thinking behind replacing the sticky with a red flag which you can switch on/off and then filter the list by flags. 'Un-sticking' a sticky doesn't really make a lot of sense as it breaks the 'sticky-ness' – RobbyReindeer Sep 13 '18 at 8:58
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So if I understand this correctly, the sender of a note decides that it sticks to the viewers screen? I can already see a scenario where everybody stickies their own notes, because if you don't, your viewer won't see it. You need a very diligent group of users that genuinely attributes the sticky feature only when needed, or this feature will backfire.

The reason why sticky topics are usually a moderator feature, is because you shouldn't have a stake in how important this type of content is. Your own note means a lot to you, so it's very tempting to highlight that if you can. But if everyone does, nothing is important. You need to either keep a cap on how many sticky notes you can send, or put a timer on it. This way you can at least partially manage the amount of sticky notes a viewer can see at a time. Or you should allow a viewer to decide whether he wants to keep the note or not.

One way to deal with this is to create a system based on priority/importance, with sticky being the highest. If a user has more options, chances are much higher they will take an appropriate label rather than simply sticky everything.

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You could give the viewer the option to hide those sticky-notes for his own particular view and placing the hidden notes below the (for the viewer) relevant stuff.

To answer your question: Sticky-notes can be good UX, if the sticky-notes don't prevent the viewer from achieving his particular goal.

Sticky-notes are most effective if used with concern, if you have 10 sticky-notes the chances are that people don't even bother to read them, so keep the sticky-notes to a minimum and manage them regularly so they don't get displayed while being outdated.

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Hope you get the idea.

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  • Why below the hidden content? How would you visualise that? I would say collapsing the sticky notes section would be the better option, as sticky notes are "forever important". – user68158 Sep 10 '18 at 8:29
  • Not below the hidden content, i mean placing the hidden content below everything else, since it is completely irrelevant for the viewer. – Pectoralis Major Sep 10 '18 at 8:47

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