MATLAB Answers

Jan
11

New design of the forum - grey on white / wish list #3 / bug reports

Asked by Jan
on 14 May 2015
Latest activity Commented on by Chen Lin on 21 Oct 2015
NOTE: this discussion is continued at MATLAB Answers Wish-list #4 (and bug reports)
I've opened MATLAB Answers this morning and found the new design.
The field for typing the "Body" does not consider the font settings of my browser anymore, such that my preference of sans-serif fonts is ignored. In addition the text color is a medium gray, which is hard to read for me due to the too light contrast.
Blank lines in the code let two separate code boxes appear. This makes almost all code, I've posted in the forum, invalid. It has been discussed repeatedly, that blank lines in the code confuse the indentation of the display in the forum and that this is a really bad idea. But instead of improving this, it is made severely worse now.
The new design contains even more white space, such that standard questions cannot be answered without extensive vertical scrolling. It is a very bad drawback, that I cannot see the question while I type the answer.
There is still no suggestion to use a proper code formatting, such that I have to spend 20% of my forum time typing corresponding comments as before.
But I'm coming back to the most important problem for me: It is a physical problem for me to read the low contrast grey on white text. Does anybody know a tweak or CSS trick to increase the readability?
TMW, please take into account that this new design is physically hard to read for people without young and 100% perfect eyes. This is very annoying for me.
Splitting code blocks at white lines is simply a bug. I cannot imagine why this error has not been detected before the new design has been published. The argument, that TMW is extremely conservative with changes in the forum to ensure a stability does not convince me anymore.
[EDITED] The box around the thread, the preview box, the boxes for preformatted text and code have a grey background now. So some text is even medium grey on light grey.
I'd be glad if the designers refocus on the purpose of the forum. Whatever this purpose might be, the optical reception of the characters is fundamental.

  24 Comments

Yeah, I don't know what happened either. Now Walter's link is answerable/commentable whereas yesterday it wasn't. Maybe the Mathworks saw our posts and fixed it.
I edited the link last night to point it to www.mathworks.com
You should be able to locate the posting by doing a search on tag:wishlist
I don't see that w/ Firefox 41.xy (and haven't previously prior to updating). The backgrounds are all white; wonder if there's a preferences setting causing local color instead....

Sign in to comment.

15 Answers

Answer by Nick Earnhardt on 14 May 2015
Edited by Nick Earnhardt on 14 May 2015
 Accepted Answer

This completely SUCKS! HORRIBLE!
I tried closing and reopening my browser times and times, I thought there is something with the browser but apparently NOT!
What the heck is this! Everything seem to be randomly scattered here and there, as if browsers can't open the forum correctly!
I hope this is a problem with their server and not a new theme! LOL
Sure some good changes were required but not demolition!
Is this gonna stay with us?!

  7 Comments

I get 67 characters wide in the response box.
It depends on the amplification you're using; at the time I had been having the sidebar on the Version ID in the header of the desktop picture somebody had pasted and had expanded to try to make it legible. Hadn't gone back fully to "small and tiny" at the time so that's what actually showed up.
Irrespective, 30,40,60 is still miniscule compared to the whitespace owing to all the nested frames and particularly the wasting of the whole RH third of the window.
The point being I don't see how anything TMW has done has really "solved" or "improved" anything about the interface of significance. It still is way too klunky, has all kinds of warts and the problem of the paucity of data per screen is ridiculous.

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Chad Greene
on 14 May 2015
Edited by Chad Greene
on 15 May 2015

Why are there so many frames within frames? A comment lies inside the frame of my monitor, inside the frame of the browser, inside the discussion thread frame, below an answer frame, inside a comment frame, inside a text frame. The result is a bunch of cluttered boxes that inhibit natural flow of a discussion.
In particular, boxes around comments make the text box look active, as if the user can edit their own or anyone else's text:

  0 Comments

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Jan
on 15 May 2015

The current layout of list of questions displays 6 questions on my 19'' monitor. In another Matlab forum I see 17 questions, or in a specific category 22 questions. When the discussion of questions is the purpose of a forum, a high density of information is essential and much more important than a fluffy and light-weight visual impression.
Now take a look on a very short question:
The area of interest is marked in green and fills 13% of the full screen window. Of course a longer question would fill more of the page. But even for a tiny question the distance between the information and teh area for answers is as big as possible. But there so many other details on this page, which are not needed while I type an answer: A link to trial software, a counter for the number of given answers, "opportunities for recent engineering grads" and a link to apply immediately, and a huge white block on the right. The space for Tags and Products is larger than the initial size of the input field for answers. As soon as comments are added or the question exceeds 5 rows I have to scroll vertically to control the question and my answer. You cannot avoid vertical scrolling for large questions, but it is important to reduce this to the minimum.
The field for searching has the potential to be useful, but during writing an answer it is a killer, because it closes the current window. Therefore it cannot be used directly to search e.g. a FEX submission during answering.
While these points mean a bad functionality, the reduced contrast of the text attacts my eyes physically. There have been so many good suggestions to improve the usability of the forum, which are waiting for years now. But TMW decides to reduce the readability of the text instead. What's wrong with clear and sharp characters in black on white?!

  4 Comments

@dpb: And if we buy 40" monitors? There is a nice 3840x2160 pixels 40" display from LG for only 420€. This would allow to see 12 questions. Not impressive.
Perhaps TMW and the forum users have different opinions about the purpose of this forum. But I cannot imagine a purpose which is conform with a reduced perceptibility of the text on one hand and the low density of information on the other hand.
Exactly. I usually answer questions in this forum while waiting for code to run... I find it's a useful way to fill the 2-10 minutes while keeping my Matlab skills in shape. I'll usually open the page, check if any followup needs to be added to previous answers, then scan the front page to see if any new questions jump out at me. If not, I move on to something else.
With this new format, there's so much junk and whitespace around the questions that nothing jumps out at all... don't think I'll be answering much if this format persists.
@Jan: ): I've a dual-monitor setup w/ 24" and a 23". There's less than half the width containing anything other than whitespace so the number lines used vertically is way too many and then when add the interminable number of boxen and big buttons/toolbar/etc./etc./... it's absurdly a waste of real estate.
@Kelly: I try to make a pass by once or twice't in a morning and afternoon (altho if I'm doing bookwork or often some of the recent pro bono work I have a hard time making myself really do what I'm supposed to be doing it may be far more frequent escape! :) ).
Anyway, I check my Answers/Comments threads as you say and then have a sorted view of "Unanswered" that I access directly via the browser recall by typing "sort" which brings that url up and gets me there directly. I scan first page for interesting topics and respond or not depending...
Meanwhile, as noted above, I can otherwise go to the cs-sm newsfeed via Thunderbird or another newsreader, see a list of the threads in an upper pane and just pace down thru unread to get the questions plus any responses to my previous answers in the lower pane with a single keystroke. I can do at least cs-sm and comp.lang.fortran plus check OpenWatcom ng for any action in the time it takes to just look at my own answers/comments at the forum.
For the same reason, the number is falling off and will continue to do so unless TMW can find a way to improve the interface significantly. Just letting us at it w/ a newsreader would be major start, even if they don't want to propogate it over nntp public gateway.

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Guillaume
on 14 May 2015

The css that is responsible for the grey text colour is line 1687 of site6.css (preceded by a comment Laurel Testing !), and it's actually defining the colour of the body element:
html body { color: #595959; }
The font of the answer box is overridden in application.css starting at line 1698 by the last two lines of this css:
.matlabmarkup textarea {
resize: none;
display: block;
overflow: auto;
min-height: 150px;
border: 0;
outline: none;
padding: 0;
font-size: 1.1em;
font-family: monospace;
}
How you override that is browser dependent. On firefox, you use usercontent.css (or an extension).
I totally agree that the new css needs some serious adjustments. There are many rendering issues (weird boxes on the answer list page, code boxes split by blank lines, ultra large font in answer box, too much whitespace everywhere, mismatched sizes all over the place, etc.)

  1 Comments

Thank you for mentioning the entry points to fix the css manually on the user side.
I've played a lot with userContent.css in Firefox and do not observe any differences.

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Walter Roberson
on 14 May 2015

I reported difficulties to Mathworks last night and they started looking into it then. I don't know which parts are intentional and which parts are not.

  2 Comments

Let me repeat this: "I don't know which parts are intentional and which parts are not." This hits the point: It is the opposite of usability if teh user cannot decide, if it is just a mistake.
@Walter
Thanks a lot for reporting! it's much better now!

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Image Analyst
on 14 May 2015

Some of the changes instituted yesterday around 5:40 p.m. EDT are okay. I like the code being in shaded boxes and the ability to see what you're typing when you're adding tags to a long list of tags (before what you typed just plain didn't show up until you clicked submit), but mostly the changes are worse. For example the small light font, the splitting the code boxes into two whenever there's a blank line in the code, too much white space, not scaling up well, etc. I took a screenshot and brought it into Photoshop and found the darkest gray level of the text is 89 (=59 hex as Guillaume found out). But unfortunately most of the text is not even that dark due to anti-aliasing/font smoothing. See the screenshot below:
The pixels near the edges of the letters are in the range 190 to 236. Definitely harder to see.
With so much white space, I can't see as many questions on the screen at one time as before. It's like the lines are double spaced now. To make it worse when I "control-mouse wheel" to enlarge the screen items and make them easier to see, they're easier to see but I can only see like 3 or 4 questions. If I zoom out, I can see more but with my high res screen, the letters are too small and faint to read.
Tags and Products used to be on the same line and now they're on separate lines. That's less compact and means fewer questions per page.
Followed links used to be very hard to see (in Firefox). It was like blue if you hadn't visited that link and then bluish purple if you had visited the link before. Now it's virtually indistinguishable. It doesn't follow the "Visited links" (Tools->Options->Content->Colors) color that you set in Firefox. If you tell it to use your colors, so that you can see which links you've clicked on before, then everything else looks messed up.

  2 Comments

I like the new code boxes, but each empty line of code creates a new box. The end result gives the appearance that the code is not in a linear order, but are may be many unrelated bits that can come in any order.
x = 1;
y = x + 2;
z = y + 3;

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Chad Greene
on 14 May 2015

Seems like TMW went live with the new design before testing with Firefox.

  4 Comments

This is one answer containing only 1 line of text and 3 lines of a comment + a white line. But if fills my 19'' monitor completely already. The exploding white areas minimize the information density.
I tried it with Chrome and IE also and it was not remarkably better.
Jan, I agree. I have a huge, high-resolution monitor because I like to see lots of information in context. But the combination of enormous text and vast areas of white space means I get to see about as much information as if I were using a smart phone. Ctrl - helps with the text size, but the white space remains.
I'm seeing terrible formatting in Firefox as well (the side bar in particular). Chrome is rendering as intended, I think. Running Mac OS X 10.9.5.
I also second the general consensus that there is waaaay too much whitespace in the new design.

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Image Analyst
on 14 May 2015
Edited by Image Analyst
on 15 May 2015

One other annoyance. I've zoomed in my Firefox browser to make the text larger and easier to see. But if I click on 'Commented on' to go to the latest posting in the thread, it doesn't put the top of the comment at the top of the browser viewing window. The comment is actually above the viewing window so I have to scroll up a bit (text moves down on the screen) to see it.
[FOLLOW UP] Actually it doesn't depend on zoom. When I reset the zoom (View->Zoom->Reset) it still places the comment above the viewing window.

  1 Comments

Yes, I see that as well...seems like Jan or somebody else noted that quite some time ago, too. They've simply got the wrong point being brought to focus.

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Chad Greene
on 15 Oct 2015

The design of this forum just keeps getting worse. Seems to be slower than ever, harder to navigate, harder to see new questions, still impossible to know why some days your reputation points go up, still plagued with superfluous boxes within boxes within boxes, still incredibly low density of information. There's a difference between updating and upgrading.

  8 Comments

@Kelly — In the banner at the top of the ‘MATLAB Answers’ frame (such as in the current frame you’re reading here), click on ‘My MATLAB Answers’, right-click on ‘My Answers’, then ‘Open Link in New Tab’ to create a new tab in the ‘correct’ format.
@Kelly - I've made my own Answers home page link (a Chrome bookmark), http://se.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/answers/?term=, which takes me directly to the old home page.
Now I need to hide the Home tab of Answers so that I don't click it by mistake.
Thanks for all the great feedback. I’m the new Community Product Marketing Manager, and appreciate your insight into new features and designs. We have a similar discussion about new landing page at Wishlist-4, where I shed more light on the “why” behind the new landing page.. Thanks again for your thoughts.

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Walter Roberson
on 14 May 2015

Good points about new style:
  • make-over for mobile phones to concentrate more on content
  • I kind of like the boxing of code in postings
Bad points about new style:
  • mobile phone format hides the log-in further down. Which is fine if you are already logged in, but people who don't use the forum as often are not going to be as inspired to log in because it is buried in menus
  • the boxing of code needs to extend to the entire code section when there are empty lines
  • the boxing of code has a horizontal scroll bar for wider content instead of wrapping it. As a lot of code gets posted and wider code is common, that requires more mousing than it should for the common action of reading postings
  • semantically, sections might be indented to represent quoting material (such as from documentation or an assignment), or might be indented because it is code that should not be flowed. Flowing of quoted material can be acceptable in situations where monospaced is not important. But it is not clear that it is desirable for there to be automatic boxing of quotes or force-monospace material. I have seen some places where the boxing of quoted material looked okay, and other places where the boxing of quoted material looked intrusive.

  29 Comments

For comparison, if I maximized, the usable text fills from 6" to 13" (roughly) whereas the total screen display width is 20.75". That works out to <34%.
As I've noted before, the "Discover" ad (that I personally don't think needs or should be on the page at all) is a major culprit to the waste in that it is the only thing occupying all that real estate to the right of the question/answer/comment outer frame and it covers only the very topmost section of the page; all the rest below it for the life of a discussion is thus unavailable.
At least if TMW is adamant about keeping the ad, spread it over the width at the top below the header and let the frames then flow to the RH side of the page boundary. That would roughly double the usable fraction by itself.
ADDENDUM Or, put the ad at the bottom below the new "Answer" box if just absolutely think it must be there. But, still, the fact is it doesn't fit the page purpose.
The system just flagged some of my pure MATLAB code as possible spam :(
Possibly it noticed that I had answered a bunch of questions within a particular time -- e.g., about 8 of the 15 most recently active Questions. Those kinds of things happen for the active volunteers.
I rescued it, since I was following that thread. I had to ask Randy Souza to rescue some of mine if nobody encountered them or checked on them (by checking More > Flagged Content). Flag them or contact Randy to get the scourge removed. (I usually check ‘Flagged Content’ once per day, sometimes more often.)
As Image Analyst mentioned, those with some minimum number of RPs should be exempt from the filter, providing there is no way for the ‘evil ones’ to alias our accounts and post spam from them. However since higher and stronger fortresses create better archers and trebuchets, it’s only a matter of time until the spammers destroy MATLAB Answers with their pointless intrusions, if that is their intent.

Sign in to comment.


Answer by dpb
on 17 May 2015
Edited by dpb
on 17 May 2015

The basic problem is still twofold --
a) The refusal to use a newsreader format with threaded entries as any reasonable serial-discussion forum should whether it's physically stored as a database or not, and
b) The idiotic choice of wordprocessor "Wordwrap On" as a default setting for code. Hence, unless one knows the trick of typing two blanks as no new user/poster is going to, the code formatting is guar-on-teed to be fouled up.
Others have touched on the issues of the boxes and all...it's just a_bad_idea (tm) from the git-go as is.

  14 Comments

It's routine w/ newsreaders -- this all goes back to why I was so strongly against the proposal of doing it as a forum on such a design as this to begin with...
Unfortunately, after they've invested all the effort in this ill-advised direction, the chances of actually realizing it was the wrong choice and fixing it are probably nil. At best we might see some minimal improvement in the interface but I'm afraid the base design has doomed the result to something not much better than current.
Personally I never go near the Matlab Newsgroup as I find it a horrible format, but I guess I had just got used to Matlab Answers whereas previously I never contributed to any forums/newsgroups of this kind. The only time I go to the Newsgroup is if a Google search lands me in a thread there.
One search-related thing I do find annoying though is the options in 'Refine by status' (to the extent I rarely use it). The 'Unanswered' category is fine, but a 'No answer accepted' (or some better phrase) would seem more use than 'Answer Accepted', or even better in addition to it. I never want to search for all questions with an accepted answer, but maybe that is just because I am usually looking more to answer question than to find answers myself.
I never use the TMW newsgroup portal, either, I agree it, too, is an awful interface.
I use a traditional newsreader (Thunderbird mostly) and a feed from another news server in the manner newsgroups were intended :)
When their feed isn't broken (most of the time altho it does seem to break fairly often and may, when does, be gone for a couple of days until somebody finally notices), those posts that are made there show up and (I presume, anyway), that replies show over there altho I have to admit I've not checked that recently, it seems like I did "once't upon a time".

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Jan
on 17 May 2015
Edited by Jan
on 18 May 2015

When I open mathworks.com in the browser, the message "Read fonts.mathworks.com" appears in the status line and nothing happens for about 3 to 15 seconds. This feels rubbery and it reduces the usability. I do not observe such delays on other web pages, but opening the documentation on mathworks.com let the browser pause for 3 seconds.
If I am a newcomer on this pages, I'd possibly decide after 10 seconds, that the web site is not working and stop the loading.
(Firefox, Win7/64, 8GBit internet connection)
[EDITED] This time opening the forum took 22 seconds while "Read fonts.mathworks.com" was displayed.

  0 Comments

Sign in to comment.


Answer by dpb
on 18 May 2015
Edited by Walter Roberson
on 18 May 2015

When a response is edited the link to that answer or comment is broken.

  3 Comments

I just tested that and I do not find it happening.
The closest to that I have found is that if you request to navigate to a link to an Answer or Response, then at least on Firefox, the display is positioned so that the top two lines of material are not visible, hidden behind the "Home | My MATLAB Answers | Ask a Question" toolbar.
I didn't test broken link. But I know about the display window not being scrolled to the correct position, like Walter mentioned at the end. I also know that the Mathworks already knows about that issue.
You have an active link under *Latest Activity" if the text is Edited By instead of either Answered by or Commented on by?
I see only the text "Edited by"; which is not a link any longer to that Answer/Comment directly; have to navigate to the thread itself and then try to find the section that was modified. I'm using Firefox only a cycle or two behind at most (I tend to wait a week or so after first nag screen before updating in case something nasty is discovered on first roll out. I've been putting of the very latest a few days now but not way out of date as IE--I think some of that is that TMW/Matlab I think maybe rolled back IE w/o asking if wanted to when I recently installed R14 to work out some issues w/ mex.)
Ewww....the version of IE here (old; never use) can't seem to even load a displayable page; just a bunch of various shades of gray boxes show up with a list of subsections and numbers down the LHS of screen but it's total gibberish otherwise.

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Jan
on 19 May 2015

Now the code boxes have a grey background - which reduces the contrast again. Is it an old-fashioned opinion that reading text in black on white is easy?

  0 Comments

Sign in to comment.


Answer by Thomas Koelen on 20 May 2015
Edited by Thomas Koelen on 20 May 2015

If I scroll down to a topic I have to scroll up all the way to go to the top part of the menu of the website (file exchange, link exchange etc.), maybe make it appear again when you start scrolling up instead of having to scroll all the way up. Very annoying...
<---
Also, there is no way to start a new line wihout having a white line in beween as shown above.

  3 Comments

@Thomas: You can hit the smart up-arrow in the grey box on the right bottom to scroll to the top immediately.
If an empty looking line contains a "& nbsp ;" (without spaces) it does not vanish. Example:
 
This is a large white vertical space created by two empty lines and the non-breaking space HTML code in between. But think twice if you really want some. Reader might think, that there is enough white space already outside the text.
A, only noticed the arrow just now :). Empty looking lines was not what I meant though, I meant just continuing your current sentence on the next line. Is there a way to do that aswell? Right now you have to fill the box to go to the next line.
Let's try: neither nor works (both are embedded in this line, and the strings are written using &ampamp; to hide the escape character.
Let me test, what's working instead: ☺ ?
All you can do is inserting one space
before the first character. Then the text
is "preformatted", but put in a fancy grey box now.

Sign in to comment.



Translated by