Recently, I answered a question very simply and I received lots of upvotes. I was puzzled, however, by why my answer garnered more than twice the amount of upvotes as the other, similar answer. My question to the community is what makes an answer "great" instead of good. I want to know this so I can further improve my answers to the site.
Short answers that demand no thinking from the reader, and which can be read in a single breath, often attract higher votes than longer, more detailed answers that take more work and provide more quality to the site.
If you want to maximize your reputation, there are very different approaches to take than if you want to maximize the site’s actual value.
Upvotes are cast for different reasons. Some cast upvotes on long answers just because of the in-depth research that may have been done. But some very basic answers also get a lot of upvotes, too, as if the voters were saying, in essence, "That's what I would've said, too."
In cases where two answers are similar, another cause for a vote disparity might be when the two similar answers were submitted. On the question you're asking about, you answered first. Answering first will sometimes garner more votes, for a couple reasons:
Some people will vote for one answer before any follow-on answers are posted. Many of those people won't go back to that question to vote for other answers. It's a simple matter of how many people see each answer.
In cases where two people submit very similar answers at close to the same time, some might vote for the older of the two only, and not the other, out of fear that the second contributor might have merely copied the first answer, instead of indepently arriving at the same conclusion.
(I'm not saying either of those are good reasons for voting or not voting, I'm just saying I think those factors sometimes influence the voting patterns.)
If you try to correlate the quality of an answer with the number of upvotes it ultimately gets, you'll drive yourself batty. As an example, you might want to check out the famous umbrella question.