Proposed For Group Consideration:

That A&E SE post a Feature Request on Meta Stack Exchange to (1) have links to our “Help Center” and “Asking Help” pages placed in additional high profile locations on A&C SE; (2) change the wording of the “Asking Help” link button; (3) increase the noticability / visibility of the “Help” link in the SE Banner.



An identified problem at A&E is the high frequency of off-topic posts, such as questions about art in general, art history, or art theory, or questions not limited to applied technique or the solving of a specific practical problem. In response, members are discussing 2 main possible solutions: 1) a name change to make the exact scope of the forum clear to new questioners from the outset, or 2) formally broadening the range of topics within the forum’s scope so that these sorts of questions can be allowed.

This proposal dovetails well with the stated need to increase new questioners’ understanding of the scope of questions A&C allows. By improving new questioners’ awareness of and access to the “How to Ask” help topics, we hope to improve the appropriateness and quality of questions.

Currently the “How to Ask” help topics are accessed two ways: 1) through the “Ask a Question” Link, which is prominent at the top of the Main Content column on the Home page, the Questions page, and the Unanswered Questions page; 2) through the Help Link (a small grey circle with a question mark in it) in the SE Banner.

It is obvious that the noticeability / visibility / accessibility of these two link locations is inadequate. This is born out in our statistics which demonstrate that we have a high amount of inappropriate and poorly constructed questions [insert data categories here including closed and held questions, ], showing that new questioners are not accessing the “How to Ask” information. We believe this is at least partly due to the links not being sufficiently noticeable / visible / accessible, and the link wording of “Asking Help” being unclear.

[Insert here: above mentioned data.]

Decision Points

1) Suggested Locations:

  • Left Hand “Local Navigation” List (which is visible wherever you navigate within A&C SE.) Given that there is so much room in this location, and that it is high profile and ubiquitously visible, this would be an ideal solution to the noticeability / visibility / accessibility problem.

  • Remain in “Help” Link in SE Banner, but make the Help Link more visible / noticeable.

  • Remain on the “Ask a Question” form page.

2) “Asking Help” Link Wording

3) “Help” Link Noticeability / Visibility

  • The small grey circle with a question mark in it is not noticeable, and hard to find. We propose that the icon be a fluorescent color and a larger size.

Thank you for taking our proposal into serious consideration.

~Arts and Crafts Stack Exchange Membership


General thoughts:

  1. The change in the SE UI is pretty recent, and the company invested a lot in the redesign. They were mildly receptive to requests that were consistent with their concept. Requests that were basically inconsistent with the design were summarily dismissed. It would be better strategy to focus on things that SE might actually consider than dilute the request with stuff they will dismiss out-of-hand.

  2. To be realistic, almost nobody reads the Help section, especially new users. Maybe the biggest use is in site curation; people check there when deciding or discussing whether to VTC. We want to make the information as accessible as possible for the few new posters who will check it, but a cynical person might say it's more so they don't have the excuse that the information wasn't available. :-)

    Even if the actual guidance was included on the Ask Question page, it probably wouldn't affect much behavior. For example, the system suggests existing questions that might already answer the question, and posters rarely bother looking at them.

    That said, it doesn't hurt to make it as good as we can.

Decision Points:

1) Suggested Locations

This item doesn't seem to add much. Most locations are locked in by the UI. It is probably better to just suggest specific changes.

As far as the left side navigation panel, there's logic for adding a "Help Center" link to that list. I'd be really surprised, though, if they were willing to make any change to the left panel; they seem to have their reasons for what they included in the list, and they weren't receptive to changing it. They also won't allow other kinds of content in that panel, even though there's tons of space (that's fundamental to SE's UI).

2) “Asking Help” Link Wording

I agree with renaming "Asking help" to "How to ask".

This box would be the logical place to make changes, it's already customized for each site (the contents aren't locked into the UI design).

I'd suggest also adding direct links to "What topics can I ask about here?" and " What types of questions should I avoid asking?". Maybe the logical sequence would be those two links, then "How to ask", then "visit the help center".

3) “Help” Link Noticeability / Visibility

As they say in New Jersey, fuhgeddaboudit. I agree that the little question mark icon is unnoticeable for users who aren't familiar with the page layout. But there isn't potential improvement in that location that SE would consider compatible with the UI. We should focus on making the help center more visible and accessible in other locations.

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