The first time I tried to undo an UP vote I naturally tried to click on the DOWN arrow expecting the score to subtract 1.
Instead I had to click on the UP arrow again but logically if you are not aware of the limit/rules you would think it would iterate (+1+1=2 not 0).
Of course the same is true for undoing a DOWN vote.

Here's the proposed change: when you have voted once the opposite arrow acts as an undo.
1/ undo a UP vote: click once on the DOWN arrow (and a second time to downvote)
2/ undo a DOWN vote: click once on the UP arrow (and a second time to upvote)
And remember to change the tooltip dynamically.

"The lowest voted feature request we look at has thirty upvotes" so remember to upvote this question!

related questions:

  • 6
    Don't be afraid to ask these questions - as the UX stack we're in a unique position to be able to give useful expert feedback about the usability of stackexchange's UI. It's worth mentioning. – Rahul Jun 7 '11 at 21:39
  • 2
    I'd be curious to hear if Jin has done any usability tests with controls like this and whether there are any interesting metrics coming out of click analytics (eg. a heatmap). – Rahul Jun 7 '11 at 21:47
  • 1
    I had to go into a meta to find out how to do this too. It's certainly not intuitive (for me). – boehj Jun 9 '11 at 13:38
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    I am pretty sure that if he can extract/analyze the first undo vote of any user he will see such pattern: tries to undo his upvote with the down arrow + has to read the button tooltip because it became a down vote instead and he wants to undo that too + clicks on the down arrow to undo his downvote = ▼+▼ (multiple tries to learn the proper way = bad experience) – Knu Jun 9 '11 at 23:03
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    status-declined @Jeff could you at least tell us why? – Knu Jun 11 '11 at 15:46
  • 1
    @Knu - your last comment on Patrick's answer is exactly why it was declined... – Charles Boyung Jun 13 '11 at 20:07
  • @Charles that's funny and sad @ the same time. – Knu Jun 13 '11 at 20:09
  • @Knu, yes, yes it is. Unfortunately, I (and I'm sure many others) have come to expect it from SE at this point. – Charles Boyung Jun 13 '11 at 20:13

If the arrows are supposed to be more like toggle buttons (as some of the answers on meta.SO state), maybe they should look like toggle buttons. Give them more of a 3D look and then have them look "depressed" when you have voted one way or the other. That way it would be much more clear to the user that to "deselect" a vote, you click on it again, just like any other toggle button.

  • 1
    It depends on the site. On Apple they look like toggles. – kinokijuf Dec 25 '11 at 9:48

Whichever vote undo method we pick, someone will claim it is "not discoverable" and complain about it.

It's been this way for 3 years -- out of millions of users and millions of votes, there have only been a handful of discussions of this.

Six of one, half dozen of another.

edit: we are starting to do more micro community grants, so if the UX community wants to obtain a grant to run a usability study on Stack Exchange (or elsewhere), so long as the results are published somewhere, this is something we could support.

  • 1
    Thx for taking the time to answer. Usually people don't report the little glitch or process bumps they encounter on a website. In fact I did it because we are on the UX website (it should be perfect). Since you don't want to make that change (which would only hurt regular users which want to turn a downvote into an upvote directly or vice versa) Jin will just have to tweak the arrows slightly to make it obvious it's a toggle button. – Knu Jun 14 '11 at 12:17
  • @knu see my update.. this might be a springboard for some kind of UX study with a micr community grant, though I think the scope is a bit too small in this particular case. – Jeff Atwood Jun 14 '11 at 20:40
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    An A/B test might be in order (something like optimizely). I wouldn't know how to manage that. It's probably a job for one of the UX moderators. – Knu Jun 14 '11 at 22:49
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    I think allowing both the up and down arrow to undo a vote will not much confuse existing users, only the ones who are changing their vote from +1 to -1 or the other way around will have to click twice. – Paŭlo Ebermann Jun 17 '11 at 23:08
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    I have 13K rep on SO and I just figured out that double clicking the down arrow will remove my vote. I say make both ways work like Paŭlo mentioned. Both camps get what they expect and the extra click to change your vote is a small price to pay IMHO – SiegeX Jan 6 '12 at 7:11
  • @JeffAtwood it's finally time to take a look at this feature request we have 30+ combined votes. – Knu Oct 23 '12 at 22:40

The tooltips for the vote arrows are pretty clear:

This answer is useful (click again to undo)


This answer note is useful (click again to undo)

For questions:

This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear (click again to undo)


This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful (click again to undo)

The important bit in this context being the "click again to undo".

However, I will admit that it is a problem as this question keeps coming up on Meta Stack Overflow as well, but it's a small problem as it doesn't come up very often.

I don't know what the solution is. Changing it now would cause problems for experienced Stack Exchange users who are used to the current workflow. Also once it's explained to people - like in this question - they understand it and don't tend to have a problem adapting their behaviour.

  • Check the 2nd and 3rd comment on Patrick's answer. – Knu Jun 8 '11 at 11:37
  • @Knu - Ah - I missed those. However, the first part - about the "click to undo" on the tooltip still stands. Of course that does rely on people reading stuff (which I've clearly failed to do as well) ;) – ChrisF Jun 8 '11 at 11:40
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    Another strike against tooltips is they don't work on touch devices, like this iPhone, on which I often tap buttons by mistake. :-) – Patrick McElhaney Jun 8 '11 at 13:00

I think it's a good idea. Changing an upvote by clicking down twice (with the first click reverting the upvote) is probably more discoverable than canceling the vote by clicking up again.

Let's say you've downvoted a question. The way the system works now:

  1. If you want to change to an upvote, and your mental model is toggle, you click upvote, and it just works.

  2. If you want to change to an upvote, and your mental model is spinner, you click upvote, and it just works.

  3. If you want to undo your downvote, and your mental model is toggle, you click downvote, and it just works.

  4. If you want to undo your downvote, and your mental model is spinner, you click upvote, and the vote is changed to up. It seems the buttons work like radio buttons. There's no indication that the system will even allow you to remove a vote.

Here's how it should work:

  1. If you want to change to an upvote, and your mental model is toggle, you click upvote, and the system is reset to its original, voteless state. You know how to upvote from this state. Just click the button again.

  2. If you want to change to an upvote, and your mental model is spinner, you click upvote (twice, as expected), and it just works.

  3. If you want to undo your downvote, and your mental model is toggle, you click downvote, and it just works.

  4. If you want to undo your downvote, and your mental model is spinner, you click upvote, and it just works.

  • It seems obvious to me but I think the only place where you could enforce such change is on UX. Even if undoing a vote is a rare task (metrics?) the previous method should probably be kept on SO because we are probably favouring regulars over new users there. – Knu Jun 8 '11 at 8:36
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    @Knu There's no reason to remove the functionality of clicking the selected arrow to undo a vote. Only those who are actually trying to switch from upvote to downvote (or vice versa) would be affected. I doubt many people do that regularly. – Patrick McElhaney Jun 8 '11 at 9:58
  • Yes you are right well then it could be implemented on all stack exchange websites this way: if you have already voted (let's say an up vote) the down arrow becomes an undo vote button instead of a down vote button. – Knu Jun 8 '11 at 10:08
  • I hope someone will add the status-planned tag. – Knu Jun 8 '11 at 10:15
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    @Knu - There are people that do switch their vote from up to down (and vice versa) so these people would then have an issue in that they'd have to click twice. At least with the current situation (once you've learned the behaviour) undoing your vote and switching your vote are a single click. – ChrisF Jun 8 '11 at 11:42
  • @ChrisF from a new user perspective the way I am describing makes more sense: you don't reach -1 from a +1 vote directly (effectively doing a -2 in only one click) clicking once must result in a +1 or a -1 (not a +2 or -2). This is what's expected from up/down controls. – Knu Jun 8 '11 at 11:51
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    @Knu - Don't get me wrong, I do see your point. It's just that I'm not convinced (at the moment) that a change is going to make it good for everybody. – ChrisF Jun 8 '11 at 11:52
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    @ChrisF You are right but the fact that it's popping on meta frequently support my case. I think that at least on UX we should have the discoverable method. To make such a (minor?) change on all SE websites they would have to acknowledge the fact that it was a bad UI decision. I am sure they are a lot of downvotes which were meant to be undo votes. – Knu Jun 8 '11 at 12:02
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    @ChrisF Those who intend to go from up to down should have no trouble figuring out what to do. It will help the ones it helps much more than it harms the ones it harms. – Patrick McElhaney Jun 8 '11 at 12:41
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    @knu if you can generate a usability study with data to support that, I'm willing to look at the data you generate. Otherwise it is sunny side up vs sunny side down. I would not describe three weak posts on meta.so, out of 24,198 -- with a vote total of 2, 2, and 6 -- as a particularly compelling case. The lowest voted feature request we look at has thirty upvotes: meta.stackoverflow.com/?tab=requests – Jeff Atwood Jun 14 '11 at 11:17
  • @Jeff I hope you will reconsider when we will reach 30+ upvotes. Even if it's obvious to me that undoing a UP vote ends up doing a downvote in the process is probably hurting the rep of users. Just try monitoring double ▼▼ when a ▲ has already been set. – Knu Jun 14 '11 at 12:31
  • Supporting the "spinner" mental model in addition to the current "toggle" model, would also fix another usability issue: the misconception that -1 to +1 counts as two votes. – Patrick McElhaney Sep 26 '11 at 12:55

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