I was chatting (:-) ) wtih Jack about how the question-list page felt crowded to me and particularly that the chat pane felt over-emphasized to me. Even though the pane is narrower than the main pane (where questions or the question list go), I think I'm seeing it as emphasized more because it's more *dense* -- it's a column of text with very little whitespace. You don't want wasted space in a chat interface, so just spreading things out in that pane wouldn't be the right approach.
Another issue that came up while we were chatting was migrating between rooms. I'd lost track of where we were and didn't feel I had an easy way to see what rooms I was in and how many messages were waiting for me since I'd last been there.
These ideas came together, and after clearing it with Jack (I don't want to be a pushy newcomer), I drew some sketches. The main ideas here are:
- Have a distinct notifications area, and not just for chat. (I didn't draw it here, but I imagine this being collapsible and only shown if you *have* waiting notifications.)
- Be able to toggle between showing chat and seeing a list of rooms you're in. Clicking on any of those rooms would take you there.
- The room list, like on SE, would show gravatars of who's there.
- The list would show the number of new messages since last you were in that room, like chat in an inactive tab on SE. Like the SE rooms list, it would also show you how long ago someone talked.
- The sections (main page, notifications, chat) have clear boundaries with some padding, as compared to current chat notifications which just overlay the chat with little padding. (That confused me when I first saw it; I thought I'd somehow opened the chat in two places.)
Please forgive my crude drawings to try to illustrate this point. These are not proper wireframes or anything like that, just Paintbrush.
Expanded view (active chat room):
We have just released the first step towards this. Now notifications and chat:
* are in separate panels
* have a border around them just like the border around question/answer posts
* both have titles describing what they are ('Notifications', 'Chat', or 'Comments' if it is a room for a question)
In addition, the stack of room icons now shows a count of unread messages in the room, and it polls for changes. We think this request is mostly `completed` now…