Is any one else seeing this as a usability problem?

enter image description here

According to the accepted answer here, the review counter at the top bar does not show a personal counter, but some kind of a cached total counter. This is also confirmed here. If we accept this as true, then it becomes a UX problem imo. What sense does it make to show a counter to a user when that counter is not related to the user, but to something else which apparently cannot be influence by that same user. It is also cached and therefor mostly incorrect. What is the purpose of this counter?

1 Answer 1


Totally agree. A misleading indicator doesn't really provide a benefit in my opinion. In fact I commented such against the linked meta stackexchange post, and it was responded to:

Notify users of possible reviews on toolbar

This is just confusing me. If the purpose of the indicator is to say 'stuff needs reviewing' then just have an indicator / icon or something. Don't add a meaningless number into it. We don't have a number inside the mod-alert indicator, or in the Inbox indicator, they just have a status - 'things in here need reviewing' or 'nothing'. – JonW ↵ May 7 at 13:55

@JonW At least the number changes and gives you an idea of the magnitude and scope of the review backlog (if any). An indicator that's effectively always on is worse than a number in the scenario where a large backlog exists. – Anna Lear♦ ↵ May 7 at 15:55

However rather than just pointing out whether it is or is not good UX it's probably useful to suggest improvements. So this is what I think:

  • The purpose of the indicator is to show that there are reviews in the queue
  • It has a number in there is to indicate the overall severity of the review queue
  • The numbers are cached and not personalised so are never accurate.

With these things in mind I suggest an improvement could be:

Have the indicator take the form of a coloured shape, a different shape for each colour status. Kind of like a traffic light, but with different shapes to help with accessibility.

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What the thresholds are would possibly have to be configurable, as different sites (StackOverflow in particular) will have constant RED otherwise, but the general idea being - red status means there are lots in here, amber means things are OK but need looking at and green means the review queue is pretty well under control.

The aim would obviously be to keep the queue in the green.

Alternatively, if this is a bit too 'in your face' we could just highlight the 'Review' item differently depending on how severe the queue is. Something like this perhaps:

enter image description here

This is a bit more subtle true, and a bit trickier to implement, but might be a nicer implementation.

/EDIT - I've now posted this as a suggestion on the main Stack Exchange meta to see what the general community think: Can / Should the review count indicator be changed to be colour-coded status instead of numerical?

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    I love the review underline idea. Maybe just have a single, thin line that changes from black to bright red based on severity? Then it's just a question of using border-bottom: 1px solid $severity;
    – fredley
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 9:49
  • I don't understand what Anna Lear is saying in the comment you quoted. She says the counter is an indication of the magnitude of the backlog. So if it shows "6" there should be a backlog of 6 items. Why are my counters all 0 then? Because the counter is inaccurate (due to chaching) you say? Then why does it immediately decrease as soon as I review something? Also, suppose it is indeed incorrect, would your suggestion of statuses also not be incorrect all the time then? Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 10:04
  • @BartGijssens: By getting rid of the hard numbers and just having a general status idea, the idea would be that it gives a general overview of the status of the review queue for the site. If it's low then you don't really need to urgently do anything, but if it's high then the likelyhood is that there is something in there you can help out with. Hopefully keeping it quite 'wooly' like this would remove much of the confusion. And mean it's never 'innacurate' because there is no firm accuracy in a colour / gradient.
    – JonW Mod
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 10:08
  • My fear is that in reality it will always show the same status. It will never be 0 (even if it is 0) and it will never be high (even if it is high). So it will always give the same in-between status basically saying "there may be some items, but maybe not". Which is the same as saying nothing at all. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 11:18
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    This is horrible UX. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 18:19
  • I like the counter, but it should show your personal review state.
    – Keavon
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 4:31
  • @Keavon: yes but development is saying that it cannot so that for performance reasons. Which I can understand. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 6:17

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