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New/"extra" UI starting to feel a little cluttered

First… Observable is wonderful, amazing, powerful, and super-cool. I love it.

I’m on new or “labs” or whatever… there are a number of additions to the cell UI and, I dunno… it’s just starting to feel like a lot. I think it’s a good goal to bring features to the forefront for those who aren’t familiar with Observable, but for me (I’ve been monkeying with it for a while), it is feeling kind of cluttered and (somehow) slower. Here’s the area I’m talking about.

Screen Shot 2021-05-18 at 10.48.09 AM

Anyway, I don’t have any particular recommendation… I just know that making UI/UX is hard so I wanted to give some feedback.


Thanks for the feedback! We’re constantly working on trying to achieve that perfect balance for everyone so it’s great to hear when we swing too far in one direction. We have been looking at this very issue and hopeful our future tweaks will help out!

Yes, the option to add file on every cell seems a bit of an overkill considering the number of files added to a document.


@shancarter How/from whom did you gather feedback prior to publishing this feature?


I have to agree – Next definitely feels more cramped.

I think it’s a combination of the tighter margins/spacing between the editor and its results, together with the larger gray bar. It feels like the code editor got de-emphasized and, together with the additional colors and interactions, there’s more visual focus on the non-code elements of the page. This feels off to me since all editing happens in the editors and a lot of my time in Observable is spent focusing on code.

There are some other changes that also make things worse for expert users in an attempt to improve the experience for novices. Configuration options are one way to resolve the tension (eg. allowing customization of the code formatting rules; in addition to my previous reservations in this area the new formatting changes make additional decisions that are personally worse for me), though this obviously comes with its own set of trade-offs. I don’t have a full view of the problem and as such hesitate to offer any concrete solutions, but wanted to add my voice here as someone relatively on the more “advanced user” side. I’m glad the team is aware of the challenges and appreciate the effort being put in to consider them.


Maybe if there was an icon on the left, that when hovered over it could show this menu. It is useful but not useful all the time.

Yeah… I’ve spent a lot of time in Oberservable lately… I’m just not digging the “toolbar” at all. It does nothing that I need and it feels “cramped”. I kind of wish it was off by default and only on in some kind of “easy mode” or something.

I hope we don’t lose the first impression’s delightful simplicity we’ve had to date. The default UI was alluring in its simplicity, and the “more” I needed to learn was minimal and worth it.

For now for me…

.toolbar { display: none !important; }