Improve UI for threaded conversations
I think that the threaded conversation view has a fundamental UI problem.
At present, the text control at the bottom of the view will start a new conversation, and replying to an existing conversation requires a specific action.
We have been trained by pretty much every other chat program in the world that the box at the bottom of the screen is for typing a reply to the current conversation. To change this behavior requires Teams users to un-learn a common behavior and re-learn it just for this program.
Users spend most of their time using other programs. Conforming to the users' expectations is an elementary lesson of UI design.
The current design frustrates users, and once a new conversation has been initiated by mistake, there is no way to correct that mistake and merge it back. So we violate two basic principles: don't surprise your users, and don't punish your users for making a mistake.
UI guru Bruce Tognazzi sums this up exactly right:
"It doesn’t matter how fine a logical argument you can put together for how something should work. If users expect it to work a different way, you will be facing an uphill and often unwinnable battle to change those expectations. If your way offers no clear advantage, go with what your users expect."
This strongly suggests that the bottom text control should be used to continue a conversation in Teams too, and that the "start a new conversation" action should be the exception that requires its own button.
To select the "current" thread, simply click on any message in the conversation. This allows removal of the "reply" button on every conversation, freeing up screen real estate, which is a requirement for implementing a compact mode.
The selected thread would either be highlighted, or (better) should open in a separate tab, so that the current thread of conversation is intuitively obvious and can occupy as much space as possible.
This also ties in nicely with the request to "tear off" individual conversations into their own windows, which would then have a single thread of conversation, and the same UI convention.
The state of each tab should be persistent - if you switch away and back again, then you should be in the same place as when you left it (even with a half-composed reply).
There must also be a very simple way to get back to the list of threads from the single-thread conversation tab.
James C commented
If they want to make it act like Facebook, they should make it look like Facebook:
- the “respond to this thread” input fields should already available for each thread; users shouldn't have to click a “Reply” button
- place the “Start a New Conversation” input field at the top of the window instead of the bottom
This sounds like a great idea. Maybe the Teams team will get it through their heads and properly implement these threaded conversations correctly along with implementing a proper separate group chatroom function.
Michael Saulters commented
I would prefer the option to remove chat threading entirely. We've already organized different channels for our teams to use to chat. We want those to be in time-order, not threaded.
Agreed. For my money, remove the Reply button completely -- or provide a setting to do so. It wastes space AND it causes a great deal of confusion. Once a Reply thread is started, then it jumps ahead in the sequence such that other replies -- that did not use the Reply button -- are lost. At the very least, provide a setting -- per room -- to remove Reply. A simple hide works.