Edit: actually nine blunders.
As an author, item comments are the only part of ThemeForest I interact with every day — multiple times per day. Item comments are my support channel, and they are still horribly broken.
Yes, Envato recently did some “visual” updates, but they introduced (and reintroduced) bugs that definitely should have been caught in QA testing. I’ve tried to ignore them, but it’s becoming a real pain in the ass.
Part 1 — Notifications
Comment notifications — This situation sucks for authors. I’ve mentioned this before, but it needs to be addressed: http://themeforest.net/forums/thread/comment-email-notification/82362?page=1#692213
When a buyer comments he has the option of getting email notifications of replies. Authors cannot get notifications. Here is how this scenario plays out:
Buyer comments and ticks checkbox for email notifications. Buyer assumes that author also gets email notifications. Author is never notified. When he manually checks the dashboard (1 minute, 5 hours, or 10 hours later) he sees the comment and responds immediately. The buyer is notified immediately. So he responds immediately expecting the author to respond quickly. The author is never notified. He sees the message whenever he refreshes the dashboard…maybe in 20 minutes or 6 hours. The buyer gets angry that responses take so long.
There is no API for comments so authors cannot build their own tools to check for new comments. Authors scrape by providing timely support by checking ThemeForest every hour or so, which is a waste of our time and mental energy.
The comment system puts strain on the author/buyer relationship, and could be improved. It has been this way for nearly 3 years (years!) since I became an author.
If buyers can get comment notifications and trivial forum posts can get email notifications, why can’t authors get notifications of item comments?
Part 2 — Dashboard Usability
Scannability — When I load my dashboard, I’m only looking at two things:
- Are there “new” comments?
- Are my sales higher?
I put emphasize on “new” comments authors cannot mark specific comments as “read”. Authors have to mark all comments as read since the last time we did so. Here is a scenario where this is a problem.
- User comments on my item asking for more information.
- I respond, but need to follow-up with more info.
- I do not click “mark as read” to keep this comment on my dashboard.
- Several other users comment with different questions.
- I check my dashboard and quickly scan for new comments, while remembering that I’ve already answered the last comment.
The way I scan a comment is by looking for the last avatar in its thread. If it is a user’s avatar, then I know I need to respond. I can discern this in 0.2s without reading anything.
If it is my avatar, then I know it’s not a new comment and I can move to the next comment.
The recent dashboard updates have permanently placed my avatar adjacent to the reply textarea. In effect, I can’t scan for new comments as quickly because my brain is trained to see I’ve already responded.
Having my avatar adjacent to the textarea doesn’t help me. I know who I am when commenting. This just slows me down.
Modal Editor — Why did it have to be a modal? An edit-in-place UI would be significantly simpler and more consistent with the normal comment writing interface. Look at how Flickr handles editing for photo descriptions.
The modal textarea does not expand to the correct height of the content. So once you’ve posted a long and detailed reply, you notice some corrections to make. Now you have to use this 6-line modal and deal with scrolling inside scrollable pages.
Modal Editor Breaks Keyboard Nav — Yup, this bug is back. And it’s exists in a context where you specifically want to use the keyboard arrow keys to precisely select text and move the caret for editing.
Part 2 — Mobile
Reality check: authors use smartphones to check their comments while on the go. We will write detailed replies to buyers on tiny 3-inch screens, and Envato makes this infuriating.
Mobile Dashboard — This is what authors actually need (since years ago). I don’t think anyone is holding out hope that Envato will launch a fully responsive marketplace that considers the diversity of tasks authors and buyers need to accomplish on the site. Pinching/zooming does not cut it.
What authors need is a mobile dashboard. Build a URL we can visit that is under 25KB and only does two things: show my revenue and moderate new comments.
Icons — The “flag this comment” and “edit this comment” icons are ridiculously small targets, which require multiple pinch/zooms to get anywhere near being tappable on a smartphone. And then they’re unrecognizable because it’s an @1x raster graphic.
Give the “flag” icon the text “flag” to increase its target area and improve understanding of what this icon is.
Move the “edit” button to after the comment itself. Include the text “edit comment” to increase the click area and help us discern the tiny stick is a pencil and pencils mean edit.
Self-Expanding Textarea — This does not work on iPhones. It half-expands for each line, which makes proofreading or editing my comments a complete nightmare.
Modal Editor — The kiss of death. Try editing an item comment on your phone. I bet you dollars you pesos you throw the phone out the window. It’s flat out unusable. This is precisely why you shouldn’t use modal overlays.
People are using your non-mobile site on mobile devices, and the design decisions you made just a month ago (feeling modern and fresh) are putting a stranglehold on our ability to support buyers efficiently.
Part 3 — Text Formatting
Blockquotes — Some buyers like to write novels in item comments. Replying to them is confusing if authors can’t reference their comment using
blockquote elements. Currently there is no styling for blockquotes in item comments. This should be a 90 second fix.
In my opinion, these are all obvious and glaring problems. I’m disappointed that Envato chose to ship code with this many issues, but I’m not surprised given pace and quality of user-facing development done over the last few years.
This has been highly critical, but I hope constructive information for Envato to consider.
Consider my high-horse unmounted. I’d love for feedback from other users AND Envato.
they should hire you as UX specialist.
you know what? you just did the job for free. let’s hope they will listen to your proposal.
Such a shame it’s going to fall on deaf ears
There’s a job opening here: http://techjobs.envato.com/roles/senior-ux-designer.html
Put someone who know about this stuff, let him do the job, create a thread on forum, get burned alive by the community for making those changes.
In that job description they should mention the position involves dealing with wild beast on the forum. We are waiting Senior User Experience Designer. We are waiting.
SimpleSites4U saidApparently so. Sigh.
Such a shame it’s going to fall on deaf ears
Naaah, I’m all ears (and to my knowledge they function fairly well, still.)
I will be bringing this feedback up within the next meeting, and will of course get back to you with a reply as soon as it has been discussed. I do however expect that this will be happening early next week.
On a personal note, thank you for the elaborate post, GravityDept, I really, REALLY, enjoy reading well-written and documented stuff, aside from the fact that I also agree with most if not all mentioned issues. I would also add my bit of experience with Android using the marketplace forums, and the multiple issues with jumping text-boxes, impossible scrolling and buttons that are there (as in visible) yet when you try to “click” them, you either click the one above or the one beneath, no matter how close you zoom in or what sharp utensil you grab to fulfill this purpose.
Kind regards, CB.
@ contrastblack — Glad to hear it, and I hope the verbosity expresses the extent to which authors use and depend on a well-tuned system.
About the item comments give this a go http://themeforest.net/feeds/user_item_comments/author.atom