UI/UX — Discovery flow in the new commenting feature at Dropbox

Dropbox emailed a few days ago announcing that they’ve added commenting, in support of better collaboration. I first came across this feature today, when accessing a file someone sent me.

Taking a look at how this works, we’ll discover some UI flow problems:

As this is my first experience with the commenting feature in Dropbox, I need to figure out how it works. My path to understanding will naturally flow from top to bottom, and will be influenced by the relative prominence of its elements in the UI.

Below the hero icon, I land on the most prominent text in the UI—that text which explains what I need to do to ensure my comment reaches a recipient via notification. According to the text, I would need to @mention the intended recipient.

Post a comment to start a discussion. @Mention someone to notify them.

The most likely intended recipient is the person who sent me the file. I know his name is “George”, but I have no idea what his @dropbox handle is. So I try @George, and nothing appears. I click the person icon to the right, type in “George” there, and again, no hits. At this point, I’m confused; I know I need to @mention George, but I don’t know how.

I then notice some very small text below the comment field. I don’t actually read it, though, because my attention is drawn to the linked “1 person” words. Hovering over those words, the name “George” appears, but in long-form and not actionable.

At this point, I still have no idea how to mention George in my comment, and I’m about ready to give up. But then I finally take the time to read the entirety of the small text:

Comments will notify 1 person.

Ah-ha, so that’s how it works—you don’t need to explicitly mention the sender; The @mention feature is only relevant for notifying people other than the sender!

All of this confusion could have been avoided, if the UI designer at Dropbox had anticipated the new-user discovery flow, and would have considered the prominence of text as relates to the communication of the relative importance of the functionality.

In this case, the prominent text above needs to indicate that the @mention feature isn’t required to notify the sender.