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  How would you rate the general look of physicsoverflow.org compared to PSE and MO?

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

physicsoverflow.org is functioning great as it stands, but perhaps there's still room for improvement on the way it looks. To help Dimension10 understand how others see it, could everyone else give a rating out of 10 for the general look of physicsstackexchange.com, physicsoverflow.org and mathoverflow.org ?

asked Feb 2, 2015 in Discussion by physicsnewbie (-20 points) [ revision history ]
edited Apr 2, 2015 by dimension10

3 Answers

+ 3 like - 0 dislike
It was OK for me. The only inconvenience was not receiving mails and a glitch of private message system.
answered Feb 2, 2015 by Vladimir Kalitvianski (22 points) [ no revision ]
But what about the general appearance and the message it sends out? Are some more professional looking than others?
To me they look just different, like any site with an individual design. PO is rather functional.
+ 3 like - 0 dislike

This is not a criticism of Polarkernel, who is doing a great job. It is just an answer to the question.

Compared to Stackexchange

The site is noticeably slower. This can surely be fixed with code optimization, perhaps to implement the recursive edits of the tags in the system in C, rather than in high-level language like PHP, as I presume it is done now (this is the non-paranoiac reason to share the source code). Hiding and unhiding, for instance, can take a long time--- several seconds, it is instantaneous in SE. This is not to fault Polarkernel who implemented a tremendous tag-system in a way that looks bug-free.

The notification system of SE's is simply the right way, and our way (list of question style things) is the wrong way. But this requires some serious UI effort.

The main serious issue is the requirement of doing all administrative voting on the dedicated pages. While this is necessary sometimes, "vote to close", "vote to move as off topic", and "flag as spam" should appear as stand-alone votes attached to threads, so that they can be done automatically by the community, not requiring constant administrative oversight.

Compared to Quora

The main "wow features" of Quora is that every discussion was fully threaded hierarchically, and could be viewed as a tree. This is a feature that is difficult to implement efficiently, but Quora did it. The reason to do the same is because tree-structured comments and discussions can be moved at the top node directly to another spot, or linked in a heirarchical way, like a filesystem. This is useful when the site is enormous, but now it is not necessary. Also, it is not a request for work from Polarkernel, again, it is just a statement of fact.

It also remembered everything you typed, so that if you left an answer half-written, and you came back two months later, it would still be there half-written. If this is done client-side, this is great. If it is done server-side, it is a massive breach of privacy, as it requires every half-baked thought to be transmitted to the server. I think Quora does it server-side, as a purposeful breach of user privacy, but we obviously can't do that, if we want to implement it. So perhaps it is best unimplemented.

Where we are best

The editor we have is simply better than SE's or Quora's. We have better MathJax support than SE, which would take forever on long pages (now it's better), and we do not run into slowdowns at large file-sizes like they do. The Q2A editor was always a delight, especially that Polarkernel added preview and auto-preview (thank you).

We also implement hierarchical tags, which makes us head and shoulders above SE. This is the main feature we have that nobody does--- the ability to organize content by field and subfield indefinitely deeply. This feature will become more central with time, as we are able to offer folks the ability to target their own narrow specialist interest, both in reviews and in Q&A. It is of course not obvious that this is useful now with such a low number of users.

Regarding the question

The look and feel may be tweaked and optimized rather easily as compared to the guts. It is better to look a little uglier and get the guts right (as we have done) than look flashy and have a rotten inside.

answered Feb 2, 2015 by Ron Maimon (7,535 points) [ revision history ]
edited Apr 2, 2015 by Arnold Neumaier
+ 3 like - 0 dislike

I may be biased (since a lot of the design changes were done by me), but to me, this site looks much more well-designed than either of the sites you've mentioned, and also the default Q2A design. I base this on the following design philosophies of mine:

  • Flat design - PhysicsOverflow is the only site among the four that actually embraces flat design. The only exceptions you'll see here are the green arrows for hierarchical categories, the search button, and the site logo (ok, if you want to be picky, after clicking an editor button).
  • Clear hover changes - When you hover on any object on PhysicsOverflow, the colours change significantly, but not enough to make it look odd and unprofessional.
  • No silly animations - PhysicsOverflow is best at this too. The only animation you'll find is the sidebar collapse/expand animation, which actually looks pretty good.
  • Suitable colour scheme - PhysicsOverflow is second only to PSE at this. Our colour scheme is generally grey and blue, with black text and white backgrounds otherwise.
  • Suitable, consistent fonts - PhysicsOverflow uses a consistent, reasonable font throughout (Helvetica), except for one place (no prizes for finding out, it's the logo). But at least the logo has a suitable font (Computer Modern, the "LaTeX font"). By the way, the PSE navbar fonts render badly on Chrome, which is unfortunately the most widely-used web browser.
  • Minimal design - Thanks to Ron for pushing this, you won't be finding odd, rounded-corner borders here anymore.
  • Site logo - I think our logo is really the best, thanks to user10001. The best part is it's really open to interpretation. See e.g. What does the PhysicsOverflow logo mean - Quora.

I do see some holes, like the strange upload image button, and the other things mentioned above.

answered Feb 3, 2015 by dimension10 (1,955 points) [ revision history ]
edited Apr 2, 2015 by dimension10

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