"Load Next" and "Load Previous"

In version 10.X, when using a link directly to a forum reply (such as from an email alert), you will often see multiple "load previous" links above the reply, and multiple "load next" links below the reply. Based on information from Telligent's developers, we understand that this is working as designed, but we have some concerns:

1) Most of the time, the links/buttons do nothing; clicking them just makes them go away and no additional content is loaded. Why display them, if there is no content to load? Telligent says this is WAD and is not receptive to making a change.

2) In cases where the links do load additional content, they tend to cause confusion. First, the default link is not obvious and very easily overlooked. We made a change to the site to make them colored and more obvious, but this still leads to confusion when the person reading the thread does not realize that there are more replies. 

3) Even if the person reading the thread notices the "load next" / "load previous", its extra clicks and work needed to just read the discussion. We were told how this is mainly due to performance concerns with very long threads, but this behavior occurs regardless of the size/length of the thread. There should be a way to always display all content (no load next/previous links) for threads under a certain number of replies for example, but Telligent has not been receptive to any changes.

Does anyone else on 10.X share these concerns?

Thanks,

Jesse

  • Yes. We're running an external (i.e. non-staff) discussion site for our community, and they are constantly and hopelessly confused by the thread behaviour. For that matter, from a user perspective, I can't understand it either.

    I can see that the reasoning is about load times on long threads, although frankly our threads aren't that long by comparison with some discussion forums. However, most forums paginate - one SMF forum I've used has had threads running to hundreds of pages.

    I don't want to broaden this too much, but it relates in my mind to the issue of nested threading. In many ways I like that (and let's not turn this into another discussion of nested vs linear forums, as that's been going on for decades and there still isn't agreement). We've left ours nested, partly with it in mind that that's how Facebook and similar systems work, so it ought to be familiar to the newer generation of users.

    However, the undoubted problem with nesting is scanning a long thread for new messages. That's hopeless on Facebook, and no better on Telligent but, when people are having discussions about issues that matter to them (which maybe doesn't happen so much on Facebook!) then it also becomes important to them not to miss new messages.

    Coming back to your point, then, I can see that loading, in one page, a very long, nested thread would have issues. I can also see that pagination would be a usability nightmare; it's bad enough now finding the new messages scattered up and down the thread, but finding them scattered across 20 pages as well would be awful.

    I think some basic statements would help. The use case that is really bothering our users is the one above, of finding new messages in an active thread. So, is the following true, and if so could it be published clearly in the documentation?

    Load Next/Load Previous will never hide the latest messages in a thread, but will only hide "sub-threads" that have not been updated recently.
    As above, though, I've no idea whether that is true. If it were, I would know that I didn't need to use Load Next/Previous when looking for new messages in a thread, which is probably the most common use case.

    If that were so, users might want some kind of control over how aggressive the hiding should be (i.e. hide everything you can in order to make new messages and their sub-threads more obvious, or, Show me as much of the thread as a reasonable load time will allow). At the moment, it seems as though the same thread behaves in different ways on different loads (even on the same client). That creates a feeling of uncertainty and unpredictability that our users very much dislike.

    Related to this, at the moment we're looking at whether we can mark new messages to make them stand out in a visual scan. Our users are also totally unimpressed by voting, scoring and related things, so we're looking at whether something like "Top Replies" could be used for the more useful "Latest Replies". Still doesn't make it easy, but that's partly inherent to nested threading.

    Hope this helps, and that I haven't broadened the discussion too much, but we really want to keep our users on board - especially the most active ones who drive the community.

    Edit: an unrelated usability issue is that "Report as abusive" is next to Edit under More. I've just flagged my own message as abusive

  • A supplementary comment from our users that the response to Load Next/Previous (i.e. the load time for the additional content) can be long by comparison with the original thread. This doesn't seem client-dependent. I'd agree as a subjective impression. Again, this is on long threads (heading towards 100 messages maybe, in various sub-threads). Given that the original thread load was OK, it shouldn't be a server issue either.

  • Thanks drnas, I appreciate the feedback. I hope Telligent will take this under consideration. I also see similar issues with the "report as abusive" button - many accidental reports due to the button location, especially from non-English speaking members involving translation packs.

  • We have a user story for improving this. One workaround may be to set your threading depth to 0 to mimic classic threads with the live functionality of 10 - it's a configuration option in the widget. 

    I should add that not showing a load more indicator when there is no data is something that is an easily definable/known improvement, but requires an API update. But the undefined area is regarding the general behavior of what to show when linking to a permalink. It currently shows the permalinked reply plus all of its parents up to the root, but that could be missing other contextual replies that were made to other branches. But knowing which to load and show is the challenge. We have a threshold of total thread replies currently, under which, it will just load the whole thread anyway and scroll to that item. But past that threshold, we run into this. This is a separate issue from hiding the load-more when there's no data.

  • Thanks. However, for our users, I think the point is the same. It's a discussion forum, so permalinks are significant, but their value is a bit ephemeral, because discussions become less important as they get older.

    The use case for viewing new posts is the more important one. I can start from the home page but, in an active thread that interests me, I want to find all the messages since I last visited, in one go, while looking at that thread. It's being able to do that easily that really makes discussions lively. So, Load Next/Previous behaviour needs to support that use case.

    The other thing, as I said, is predictability of load behaviour - especially important for our audience. There are some clues in what you said. However, I need to be able to write simple statements, for a non-technical audience, along the lines of:

    When you view a thread, you will see all the messages unless there are more than x of these. On mobile devices, only {smaller number than x} may be visible initially. In a larger thread, some of the {whatever the criterion is} messages may be hidden. {Followed by some advice for making best use of the feature.}

    A "load all" button would be good too. Working your way down a thread looking for all the Load Next/Previous links, and having the page update each time you click one, when you were really just confused and wanted to see the whole story even if it took a while to load, is a bit of a pain!

    But, as I said, it's no better on Facebook.

  • I should add that, in some cases, some messages remain hidden even when all Load/Next links have been exhausted. This really confuses our users, as the typical use case here is for someone who previously read/contributed to the thread to be going back to see the latest updates. That user then wonders why messages that were there last time are not listed anywhere. This is typically where the entry point is a link to a new message, as opposed to a link to the top of the thread.

  • This has been improved in the latest release of 10.2

  • That's good news, Patrick. Can you provide some details on the improvement please?

  • The release notes will be made available within the next day or 2

  • I see the release notes here, but no mention on load next/previous. Is it this?

    Improved Threaded Comment and Forum Replies User Experiences

    • Accurate view more indicators when viewing comments and replies.

    Some visuals would be good here, if there is an expanded version of the release notes in the works.