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Solving the problem with nested replies and too much indentation

By KajMagnus @user_145
    2013-06-11 10:55:20.176Z2016-05-03 07:42:42.474Z

    Have you felt annoyed by threaded discussion systems, where each reply is indented a bit to the right of the comment it replies to? And, after a few nested replies, the indentation becomes rather wide, so there's not much space left for the comment text. Have a look at this example: (from this website)

    Too much indentation example: the comment text becomes too narrow


    There are some ways to approach [the problem with too wide indentation resulting in too narrow comment text]:

    • One website, [Reddit](, breaks of the discussion to a separate page, when the indentation becomes too deep.
    • LiveFyre stopped indenting after 4 nested replies

      One discussion system, LiveFyre, reverts to a flat discussion when the indentation becomes too deep. See example to the right.

    • Finally, [Hacker News]( simply lets the comments get narrower and narrower, as far as I've seen.

    A better solution?

    Another way to mitigate the problem is to simply avoid indenting, when possible. And instead use arrows to show which comments replies to which comments. Here is how it looks: (and this is the exact same discussion as in the very first example above)

    No longer too much indentation, problem solved

    Here's the example above, in real life: (the picture above is from 2013-06-13).

    What I've done, is: If a reply to a certain comment is the downmost reply to that comment, then don't indent that reply.

    In the cases I've seen, this approach actually solves the problem with too deep indentation. However I wonder if another problem becomes somewhat worse: Will people mistake the discussion system for being a flat discussion? And always reply to the comment at the very bottom of the page, regardless of which comment they actually want to reply to? — However, would this matter much? Perhaps one could simply let the discussion system be a hybrid between a flat and a threaded system, if that's what people choose to use it like.

    Your Thoughts?

    What do you think? Is it a good idea to avoid too-deep-indentation in the way I've done?
    And if you think this is really interesting, have a look at this ux.stackexchange page.

    • 9 replies
    1. A
        2013-06-14 17:39:32.114Z

        Looks very good! In fact, you can probably remove all the arrows except those showing a split in a tree (first "and again" in the example).

        What I'm wondering however is -- is it possible to use this kind of approach to formatting of programming code?

        1. UKajMagnus @user_145
            2013-06-15 12:45:24.590Z

            Re removing more arrows: That an interesting idea. I tested, in Gimp, and it seems to work well — it's looks like an improvement (less clutter).

            (And actually doing it, will have to wait — too many other things to do now :-) )

            Actually I don't think it's good to use this approach, for programming code. If there's too much indentation, then... one ought to rewrite anyway :-) It might almost be good to get an indication of when one has nested stuff too deeply.

            1. A2Anonymous1
                2015-02-04 12:39:48.164Z

                personally i think this approach is wonderful

                1. A2Anonymous1
                    2015-02-04 12:40:11.955Z


                    1. A3anony
                        2016-01-13 10:59:03.735Z

                        another comment

                      • In reply toAnonymous1:
                          2015-02-04 12:40:24.135Z


                      • In reply toAnonymous:
                        UKajMagnus @user_145
                          2013-10-04 23:16:29.510Z

                          Okay now I have actually removed the unneeded arrows :-). I like it better this way, although someone was a bit confused by this design — I think s/he assumed that the discussion was flat (not threaded), and then s/he was surprised when sometimes arrows and indentation appeared. — But perhaps it's okay if people are sometimes a bit surprised.

                        • J
                          In reply touser_145:
                          Jason Hardin
                            2013-10-03 14:10:08.844Z

                            It is an interesting design, but requires the use of sight. How do I under stand the reply relationships when I am using a screen reader?

                            1. UKajMagnus @user_145
                                2013-10-04 23:09:04.791Z

                                That's a good point. To summarize my answer below: Screen readers should work fine, but I haven't tested so there might be lots of (other unrelated) issues.

                                Detailed answer: The underlying HTML doesn't change because of this design. Replies are still placed in HTML list items inside ordered lists, and I think this should make screen readers happy, at least as happy as they are with other "normal" discussion systems. — The actual styling, indentation and arrows is added by CSS, which I think/guess screen readers ignore.

                                Unfortunately I haven't tested Debiki with screen readers at all, so there might be lots of issues (but I wouldn't expect this design to be one of them).