What do you think about offering on a general news website a reply functionality on comments only for the first level? Post comments will be shown in chronological order (descending) while replies will be possible only for first level and threaded under the comment in ascending order. Do you think it's a usable solution for the end user?

A reply functionality is currently not present. Discussion are not so technical but we noticed that sometimes users tend to refer to a specific comment by indicating the name of the commenter so we are considering a reply functionality. Seems that users do not need to engage in in-depth conversations, so I'm wondering if giving them a reply functionality only on the first level and thread the discussion like gmail does could be a good solution for the given context

  • Does this not belong on meta.ux.stackexchange.com? Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 13:33
  • no, I'm talking about using this kind of implementation in a website, not on StackExchange. I'm searching for feedback on the suggested presentation of comments and replies.
    – Toddy Log
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 13:36
  • 1
    Could you edit your question to include some background information about the website you are talking about. Explain what kind of website, how user interact with it, the purpose etc. Then explain your UX problem. The question is currently a little hard to answer because we are missing information. The more specific your question, the more specific the answers will be. Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 13:40
  • added some considerations to the question. Thanks for the feedback
    – Toddy Log
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 14:00
  • 3
    My first thought is that if you allow replies, you should allow it all the way. Either you mimic a monologue, or a dialogue. But not something in between. So only allowing replies on 1 level seems strange at first sight. Therefor: let me turn the question around: if you are allowing replies, what is (from a AX point of view) the added value of allowing them only on the first level in your opinion? Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 14:07

2 Answers 2


Toddy, there is another question labeled Hierarchical/flat comment system that might be related to your inquiry.
It got several answers (including one by me).

I realized that things happened, over time.
One is that people are now used to address responses not to a previous post but to somebody, using the "@" tags so common in twitter.
Other thing, that happened to me (and maybe lots of other people I'm not aware of) is that the hierarchical organization of posts is not a must, and that it's more the way a developer sees things than the way normal people see it. We developers see hierarchies everywhere, like for example in file systems, families, message threads, whatever, but that vision is not shared by everybody.
On the other hand, the hierarchical organization can break the chronological oganization, which is much more interesting. It answers he question what is happening? instead of what are these two guys (in a deep mutual answers stack) saying to each other?.

So I foster the use of flatter comments systems, like in this site, which is quite successful BTW.


Perhaps this discussion is what you are looking for? It all ultimately depends on what audience you're targetting, and if you want to ask for comments on your content, or you want to foster discussion.

  • thanks Andrè, I'm trying to find an intermediate solution between the flat and threaded mode to fit well with a generalistic website. Threaded mode is very hard to follow and I think it's better for technical and professional context, while flat mode could leave the users with the unfullfilled need of a reply functionality
    – Toddy Log
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 14:06
  • So... how about what is happening here? You have replies, and you have comments. That's two levels only. You can still reply, and even have short discussions using the @... convention, but you don't have a fully threaded system.
    – André
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 14:16
  • flat is hard to follow (Is this a followup to @ToddyLog - or André?
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 12:20
  • @Mark: The point is that it shouldn't matter too much. (Semi-) flat is not meant for long winded discussions. If that is not what you are after, then it is perfectly fine not to provide for it.
    – André
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 8:21
  • @André I find it an issue for even as low as 3 comments as here
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 10:37

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