The UX of Quora

I think I am highly subject to fads.  I used to use the jQuery mailing list every day.  Then it was Experts-Exchange.com, then UXExchange.com, then UI.stackexchange.com and most recently it’s Quora.com.  I am generally hooked into the UX, UI, Design topics.  I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks.  Here are some of my findings about the user experience of using Quora.

The best thing about Quora is the high quality of the participants.  There are posts from really influential and powerful people.  Even more, the answers to the questions are often the actual people involved.  For example, a question about AOLs CD campaigns was answered by Steve Case himself.  Many of the questions are answered by exactly the right people.  I think this facet of Quora can not really last.  As the unwashed masses flood Quora it will become less cutting edge and alot of these early adopters will move on to greener and less crowded pastures.  This is the best thing about Quora, but also it’s greatest vulnerability.

One remarkable thing is that Quora has no reputation system.  You can vote answers up and down, but there is no way to see if someone’s answers are consistently useful or not.  There is just no ranking or people.  On the one hand, rankings provide some “game interaction” in the usage of the site.  However, they have a dark side.  Any system with rankings inevitably leads to a very few people dominating the rankings with so many points that it’s impossible to catch up.  This discourages newer users.  StackExchange uses rankings and badges heavily with usually good results.  However, the downside of reputation may prove that Quora is doing the smart thing by avoiding it.

Quora uses a system of logging in with your twitter or Facebook accounts to try and create some accountability from the posters, so there aren’t as many anonymous users.  However, recently I have seen a spike in Anon User postings.  They are annoying and I wish people would take responsibility for their words.  If this gets worse, the system will degrade quickly.

The thing I hate about Quora is the homepage once you are logged in.  I “followed” a bunch of topics, but it is totally unclear how this feed works.  It seems like it’s sorted by activity, but I am not sure if new questions in topics I follow are shown.  The feed in StackExchange is much clearer to understand.  I find that in Quora I am constantly re-reading things and wondering if I lost my place.  There is no concept of read/unread.  I find the whole page quite annoying and I probably will lose patience before too long.

The iPad support is decent, but I hate, HATE, HATE the tiny little box to type in.  Why can’t that box be resizeable?  This reminds me of the box on Yelp that is tiny to write a review.  It stops people from writing reviews…or answers in this case.  There is no spell check, the capabilities are awful.  I am not asking for the world.  Wordpress has a gorgeous editor.  Something half as good would be good enough.  At least make the damn thing resizable and bigger on the iPad.

Overall, the content and the participants are what keep me using it.  If they ever lost that, I would be on to my next fad.  I think the web is getting faster and faster at creating fads that come and go.  Its dangerous and beautiful like a freak storm that floods a town and then disappears as quickly as it came.  I wonder what long term effects this will have on our society and culture?

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