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Case in point - GitHub's "Fork" button. This button used to show all the forks that exist for the current repository but now it doesn't do that anymore. GitHub suddenly changed it to act as if the "user wants to create a new fork" so it open a new webpage asking you to create a new fork. This not only broke the old user experience but also made viewing the current forks almost impossible.

As a UX pro, how would you fix this button's behavior if the requirement was to :

  1. Show existing forks aka don't break old behavior
  2. Allow users to create a new fork

Should you make one button do 2 things like the 2 options can show up on the new page or when you press on button etc or is there a better way?

enter image description here

2 Answers 2

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The problem that GitHub has here is ambiguity. Fork is a verb and a noun. The button shows the number of forks so one could argue that the button shows forks. But it's a button, not a link so it suggests that it performs an action and the label "Fork" suggests that it will fork the repository.

A way Gitlab solves this is by splitting the button into two buttons:

enter image description here

By following gestalt principles by connecting those buttons, the first with the label "Fork" gives meaning to the number on the second button, but only for those who have at least a little prior knowledge and are able to know or guess this. But just like Gitlab, most users of GitHub have a technical background so that's not a problem I think.

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  • I like the point about verb/noun ambiguity, splitting is a good idea too, hope GitHub UX or PM are seeing this :) May 6 at 1:36
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Is there a better way is totally dependent on the problem we are trying to solve. Taking your requirements into account:

One way to solve it is to allow the "Fork" button to actually do what it says i.e fork, which is how they have currently done it, but with an additional explanation to the user on where they can now view existing forks.

I do not have context into the overall information hierarchy of GitHub, but I would put it here: enter image description here

Because the top right tabs seem to house actions: Unpin, Watch, Fork, Star. While the more dominant tab seems like where you could view a list of things based on the tab category.

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  • hmmm I prefer the current placement as it's distinct and that is where mouse tends to go a lot. May 6 at 1:37

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