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I considered posting this on Meta SE instead of Ask Ubuntu Meta, but because several of these are Ask Ubuntu specific, I went with here. That said, I think the rest of SE chat should get an update, but that is a separate question.

The chat design is rather... inconsistent with the main site. And, in my opinion, looks outdated. I propose that chat gets a redesign. Here's what the Raiders of the Lost Downboat (the Ask Ubuntu chatroom mostly for discussion about site moderation) looks like. I've blurred out some messages and usernames to protect privacy. If you are really wondering, the chatroom is public.

Screenshot of Ask Ubuntu chatroom.

I think chat could use some changes regarding how it looks. Here some of my ideas:

  • Change the orange bottom bar where I put my message to be a solid color. That pattern is from 2012. On the Ask Ubuntu site, it uses a solid color, and I think chat should be the same: enter image description here
  • The bottoms (all rooms, [ask] site rooms, send, and upload...) should be matte (i.e., not 3D). See this UX SE question for some examples of that.
  • The "put your message here" textbox should be the same style as the "Add a comment" one: Comment textbox
  • Tags should render like they do on Meta (chat tag vs.
  • The mute icon (top-right, left of all rooms) should probobly be updated to have the same style as the rest of the SE icons. The RSS icon should also be updated to have a matte theme.

In summary, I think the chat should get a re-design to make it look more modern, and consistent with the rest of Ask Ubuntu. Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

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  • @someone I agree, it is decent. It works, but... I feel it is very outdated considering how the rest of the SE sites look. I tried to find a dupe both here and on Meta SE, but surprisingly, I couldn't find anything asking for a chat re-design. Chat should look good (and modern) on all platforms, not just mobile.
    – cocomac
    Jan 4 at 4:19

1 Answer 1

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Chat has never been a priority for SE but if that changes and they decide they want to put some work into it, then I would say that the absolute least important thing to do would be this kind of purely cosmetic changes.

We have real issues with chat moderation, the way it is split across servers in some cases (MSE chat, SO chat and SE chat), the way it is not split between sites so that problems on one site become problems in another (which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the situation), the way flags are shown to all users, including those who don't speak the language of the flag and all sorts of other things.

The actual chat mechanics are, for me, the best I have ever used. I love the SE chat engine, specifically the ability to easily reply to messages, and the simplicity of it combined with the glorious lack of emojis. The UI is OK, maybe it could be improved (but please not by making buttons look like not-buttons!), but that seems like a very, very low priority.

So my vote is for leaving the interface alone and if any work is to be done, that should be to add/improve actual features and not just a facelift.

That said, I admit I also personally disagree with a lot of your suggestions:

  • Change the orange bottom bar where I put my message to be a solid color. That pattern is from 2012. On the Ask Ubuntu site, it uses a solid color, and I think chat should be the same: enter image description here

Yeah, OK, sure. Seems simple enough and harmless. I kind of prefer the current pattern, but I don't have any strong feelings either way.

  • The bottoms (all rooms, [ask] site rooms, send, and upload...) should be matte (i.e., not 3D). See this UX SE question for some examples of that.

No, no, no, please no! These are buttons. They should look like buttons: clearly 3D and clickable.

  • The "put your message here" textbox should be the same style as the "Add a comment" one: Comment textbox

It already is, isn't it? One of these is the chat text box and the other is the comment text box. I

one text box the other text box

The only differences I see is the background color and the text in the box itself. Do you mean you want the drop-shadow around the box that appears on the site? How would that work on an orange background?

  • Tags should render like they do on Meta (chat tag vs.

Tags already do render that way. You just need to write them as [tag:foo] in chat. See https://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/60051570#60051570:

screenshot of a chat message showing the markup for tags

  • The mute icon (top-right, left of all rooms) should probobly be updated to have the same style as the rest of the SE icons. The RSS icon should also be updated to have a matte theme.

I don't see any benefit in changing the mute icon. It seems fine and understandable as it is. And the SE icons in general are very unclear and confusing (e.g. the ones on the top of this page where we need to somehow guess what each icon is supposed to represent). Why would we change a clear, familiar and instantly recognizable icon (see below) to something else that we would then need to train users to recognize?

mute icon

I don't actually know what the "RSS icon" is, but I also am not a fan of matte (if that wasn't clear so far! ;P) so I doubt I would personally be in favor of changing it.


In summary, I would argue that this sort of cosmetic change would be a waste of developer time and if they want to put any effort into chat, there are loads of important, functional changes that should be prioritized over minor things like changing the aesthetic from something already good to something that could maybe be prettier, but could also be uglier. Sounds like a lot of work for negligible (if any) benefit.

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  • I had no idea a flag in chat is sent to all mods throughout the network! That sounds like a lot of inbox spam for you mods.
    – Dan
    Jan 4 at 17:54
  • 4
    @Dan oh, not only mods! There are two kinds of chat flag: "regular" and "mod". The regular ones are shown to every single user with more than 10k rep on the entire network! You may have seen a few (you'll only see them when logged in to chat and until someone handles/dismisses them so they're easy to miss). The mod ones are shown to all moderators from any stack exchange site.
    – terdon
    Jan 4 at 18:09
  • 2
    big +1 to the answer hahaha @Dan if it helps you to sleep better, they don't get sent to our inboxes - they just pop up as fairly unobtrusive (yet somehow difficult to ignore) numbers displayed around one's user pic in the bottom bar.
    – Zanna Mod
    Jan 13 at 8:36

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