This site (and others) some time has a little bit of inconsistency on how they display the same funcionality. Take a look at this. Main menu inconsistency

The down-arrow on the left opens a box with information, and it is position on the right of the word. And the other arrow icon switches the position of the arrow. Do you guys believe that this is the right approach or is this an inconsistent use or the icon and there for an error.

What do you think?

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migrated from ux.stackexchange.com May 23 '11 at 21:41

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Good catch!

You could say that it's an inconsistency, but that depends on the dimension on which you compare the two. Yes, it's inconsistent in terms of left/right, but it's consistent in terms of the arrow always being on the edge of a block of text, and not in the middle of it, so that it can be clicked with ease.

What's really inconsistent about them is that the one on the logo is a standard drop-down (along with the logo itself), working on click, and the one on the username works on mouseover, and clicking it has no other effect. The one on the logo is one element with the logo, but the one on the username is a separate element (the username navigates on click, the arrow does nothing).

They're playing the same part - both are meant to provide visual affordance for their labels, and to encourage the user to interact with the labels. If the one on the username were placed on its right side, it would break the block of username-rep-badges, separating the username from the rep. That's bad, because this association is important. It would also be lost in the clutter there, only making it worse and failing to do its job.

So yes, it's an inconsistent use of the icon, but IMHO no, it's not an error.

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I agree. And they are both away from the other icon paired with the text as to not add confusion. –  jonshariat May 23 '11 at 21:06
    
To add to your good answer: the down arrow is placed on the right of the StackExchange logo so it's not confusing with the pictorial part of the logo. It'd be visually busy too. As for the click vs onhover: the SE logo is often placed right above the site header logo. It gets more accidental mouseover than the user profile one. Popups are annoying in general, and should be avoided unless the user intends to see it. –  Jin May 24 '11 at 7:51
    
You are right, it's not an error :) Now, what do you think about context?. Are the two option that different to justify a different alignment?. –  Emiliano Horcada May 24 '11 at 12:28
    
we originally had the username one behaving the same way as the stackexchange one -- but there were many, many EXTREMELY LOUD complaints that people wanted to click their username to go to their user page, not drop down a menu. Therefore you see what we have now. You can read meta.so if you want hours of background on that.. –  Jeff Atwood May 27 '11 at 3:23
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I agree with @Vitaly on the real inconcistency here, and I just want to add a point that is often forgotten when we talk about concistency (and other guidelines):

Expected behavior superiors consistency.

If you drag a file to the trash bin, it is removed from its original position and moved to the trash. If you drag a file to another folder, it is removed from its original position and moved to the folder. If you drag a file to the printer icon, the file remains on the original position, it is not moved to the printer...

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I do agree with @Jorn E. Angeltveit. Definitley "context superiors consistency". We should always keep an eye on the context first to see what the user will expect and what will be better for the user. Now, do you guys think that the user will be expecting a different functionality on both the arrows?. Are the two options that different to justify a different alignment?. –  Emiliano Horcada May 24 '11 at 12:26
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