I plan on building a voting system for rating objects using a thumbs up or a thumbs down. The question is this does it entice users to vote more when viewing the total amount of votes represented as a percentage value or the total number of votes the object has?

Say for instance I upvote an object but the percentage does not immediately change due to the high volume of votes it has (80% of users vote 'yes' based on 40,0000 total votes).

The alternative would be that as soon as I upvote I see my contribution (40,001 total votes).

Regardless what is a better representation overall. I guess you can say the main objective is to give the overall community of users the absolute best representation in popularity of an object.

1 Answer 1


That really depends on what people are voting on exactly, the effect of their vote, and how many others have voted. Consider this design, before a vote was made:

A design showing percentage for and against and votes summary

Although not a complete argument, the less effect your actions have the less motivated you are to act. Thus if 50000 people voted against and only 12 for, people may be less motivated to vote.

Also consider the bandwagon effect, where knowing 50000 voted against and only 12 for, may make people go with the majority and vote against.

In addition, large numbers reduce readability and few bother to look at the least significant digits as these hardly representative of the overall scale - which is what most people are after. Thus a change between 22071 and 22072 may go unnoticed by users (see change blindness). Not to mention the delimiter issue.

Now consider this design:

An image showing before and after percentage bar, with the upvote and downvote icons on the sides. After the user took action, the downvote is highlighted

It is likely to promote higher vote rate as users have no idea as for whether or not their vote will alter the percentages. The highlight of the selected choice does signify the user that the vote has been counted.

But as you mentioned, only some will gather why the percentage didn't change. So I'd go for a third design, as your proposal, where the amount of voters is given after a choice has been made. This will also serve as a reward - users will learn that in order to see how many voted, they have to vote:

Same as previous image, just the after also shows amount of voters.

With this design, you could also shorten the number to 20K.

  • Thanks for your input. What's the site that uses that particular voting system you have in your example? Feb 4, 2014 at 0:44
  • It's site that can change the world, but sadly it is still in my head...
    – Izhaki
    Feb 4, 2014 at 10:38
  • If it can change the world for the better, it had better get a move on out of your head. Don't sit on it. Sitting on it will inevitably hurt your head (though for the life of me I don't know how you would sit on your head...) Feb 4, 2014 at 17:29

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