Conversation window UI

Sean Egan seanegan at
Fri Aug 3 14:05:00 EDT 2007

On 8/3/07, Andrei B. <andrixnet at> wrote:
> 1) It took me quite a while, looking at the avatar to understand something.
> Sorry. it's tiny.

Why is the buddy icon something you need to see all the time? Does it
add to the conversation in a way that a preview and the ability to see
full size on demand doesn't?

> I loved Gaim/Pidgin's display of the full 96x96 (Yahoo at least) avatar in
> the conversation window.

There were problems people complained about with regard to the old
buddy icon. It forced the text entry to a larger size than most people
want. If you chose to shrink the text entry to a more comfortable
size, the Buddy icon would draw over other elements of the interface
in a very un-attractive fashion. Because we save the size of the text
entry and use it for other conversations, and buddy icons across
buddies are of inconsistent size, a lot of micro-managing of the text
entry area size was very typically needed. This was all complicated by
the fact that we automatically grow the entry box as you type in it to
allow you to see what you're typing.

All of these were fixed by moving the icon to a consistent size and place.

> Few avatars are really well designed to be easy to understand at
> significantly smaller sizes.

I disagree. Of the 201 buddies currently online on my buddy list, only
3 had avatars that weren't immediately evident. Nothing a hover-over
didn't solve.

> 2) the areas marked "wasted space" are discarded by sean on the account that
> "the window was streched too wide". Even if many people like the window
> narrow, I don't believe it should be considered an absolute rule.
> Personally I keep my window quite wide because I make real and good use of
> such width and height for the conversation in progress.
> And I like flexibility rather then rigid constraints.

This is a completely invalid conclusion. Keeping the elements in the
window as small as possible is the way to allow for flexibility.
Forcing lots of things in the window, because you don't like that you
have unused space disallows someone entirely from using the window at
a smaller size, where keeping things small does not prevent someone
from using it at a larger size.

> 3) at first I tended to agree with the removal of the status icon from the
> tabs, but then, after some thought, I very strongly oppose it. Why? Simple.
> I have the conversation window on top, other windows behind it and the buddy
> list not necesarily visible. It is the icon in the tabs that tell me about
> the status of each buddy that I have an open conversation with. And I value
> this information.

I understand that people like this information; anytime we remove
information from the UI (e.g. the protocol icon in the buddy list,
64x64 pixels of a buddy icon in the conversation window) we've learned
that people who have come to depend on that information will riot in
the virtual street.

If removed, it certainly won't be a popular decision, but it's my
belief that – like the protocol / status icon overlay in the buddy
list – this information is actually doing more harm than good.

> 4) The formatting toolbar has been fixed to contain a couple of dropdown
> menus, following a bugreport concerned about window width issues.
> However, the suggested solution in that bugreport was for the toolbar to put
> the buttons that would not be visible due to small width into a dropdown
> that becomes the rightmost item on the toolbar. See OpenOffice for example.
> Such a solution would indeed give the conversation window great flexibility
> to both kinds of users : wide and narrow conversation window.

I think our solution is much better than the suggested one. I don't
understand what's wrong with an attractive, well-organized toolbar.

I do see what's wrong with:


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