Welcome to UX.StackExchange! You may have found your way to this question from a comment on the main site -- maybe a question you asked was recently put [On Hold], or maybe we're just having trouble figuring out what you're asking and how to help you.

If you've come to this question you are probably wondering:

How can I get my question reopened/answered?

The answer to that question is almost always:

Write a Good Question.

which naturally leads to what you're probably wondering now:

How do I ask a good question on UX.StackExchange?


This post (and most of the content too) was shamelessly stolen from a post on Server Fault Meta.


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2 Answers

Introduction

There are a few key things to remember when asking question on User Experience StackExchange:

  1. First and foremost is that we really DO want to help you solve your problem.
  2. Second is that nobody on this site knows your environment as well as you do.
  3. Lastly there is a Stack Exchange axiom:

    Good questions get good answers. Crap questions get crap answers.


So what makes a good question?

Good questions are clear, concise, and complete.

There is no true "one size fits all" question formula because all questions are different, however when our users look at questions we are ourselves asking some key questions - things we need to know in order to help you.

A good question generally will tell us the things we are looking for right away so we can get right to giving you an answer.

The things we are looking for are:

  • What is the problem you are trying to solve?
  • What have you tried in order to make it happen?
  • Why was your solution not appropriate?

Let's take each of these elements one at a time:


What is the problem you are trying to solve?

What is your end goal -- This is the most fundamental thing we need to know in order to help you.

If we can't figure out what you're trying to accomplish our users will gather around your question like a bunch of confused apes and try to figure it out. We may prod you with questions, but if we are ultimately left stumped your question will be bludgeoned with an antelope's thigh bone (or close votes - whichever we find first).


What have you tried in order to make it happen?

This may seem silly, but User Experience - Stack Exchange is for User Experience Designers, Information Architects, and Human Computer Interaction researchers (and a lot more professions besides!) -- as such we have certain professional expectations when people ask a question here, and one of those expectations is that you will have done some research and/or tried a solution before asking the internet for help.

This doesn't mean we expect you to have found the answer (though if you did find an answer and you want to ask and answer your own question that's encouraged!), but we expect some effort on your part.

For example:

“What is the best dropdown control to use?”

...is a terrible question. ‘Best’ for what purpose?

The missing nugget of information?

“I am trying to display a list of vehicle manufactures in a dropdown for multi-selection but due to the number of options shown it means that whenever I scroll around in the dropdown I can’t see which options I’ve already selected. Is there an alternative to a dropdown control to use?”

Now we know your problem (you have used a standard HTML control and found it not compatible with the volume of data it is to display) and we can give you a good answer (why not apply an initial filter before displaying the dropdown so you can reduce the number of choices? Why not opt for a multi-select list box instead?).

ux.se also has a useful feature whereby Balsamiq mockups can be created and added to questions and answers directly through the website to aid in the descriptions of problems and to help provide possible solutions. These can be added to your question by using the Wireframe icon in the question toolbar

enter image description here

(although as with posting standard images you will still need to have acquired a reputation of 10 points to be able to post such items).

The benefit of using such a wireframing option is that people responding to your post can take the wireframe you have created and edit it themselves to provide you with alternative layouts to help solve your problem.

If using a Balsamiq mockup isn’t appropriate then you can still add other images or screenshots to illustrate your problem. UX is a very visual field and an image is worth 1000 words.


Why was your solution not appropriate?

Going back to our dropdown example for the third (and last, I promise) time -- If you have tried a solution letting us know why it was not appropriate is important.

If our hypothetical questioner had simply said "I tried a dropdown but it looks wrong" there's nothing we can glean from that. We are left with a situation akin to the mystery of the dead cat: A bunch of possible causes, and insufficient information to know which to pursue.

Knowing that the purpose of the dropdown is to be able to select multiple options and to keep visible the choices that have already been made means that there is enough information provided to allow us to give you a useful and relevant solution.


There is a final thing we need in any good question which I haven't yet mentioned:

Enough relevant information about your environment to offer solutions.

This is a bit more nebulous than the other items -- the definition of "enough" is hard to pin down, but like Justice Potter Stewart, We'll know it when we see it.

This all comes back to the second thing I said in this answer: Nobody on this site knows your environment as well as than you do.

When you ask us a question we are getting a small peephole into your environment. Every answer we offer you will be based on what we can see through that peephole, so it is important that you tell us enough about your environment that we can give you helpful answers.

When asking questions, please bear in mind that the folks answering questions here are all volunteers -- this isn't a primary (or even paying) job for us. We are here because we want to help our colleagues out, but remember that much like you our primary paying job often requires us to interpret client requirements and build suitable website homepages or control panels so it is unlikely we would want to do this work for you for free for you to get all the credit.

We can help you find solutions to problems we have come across before, or ones that suggest we take an alternative look at a ‘solved’ problem, but we’re not here to do your whole work for you.

If you don't know what's relevant that's OK

ux.StackExchange is not just a site for the moustachioed hipsters with their Macbooks and piles of jQuery books on their desks. If you’re unsure you can always:

  • Post what you think is unusual, and let us know that there's more available.
  • If you have the reputation points, pop into chat after you post your question and ask us if there's anything else you should add.
  • Edit your question to include additional information when asked.

(Please edit your question logically: There is no need to say "Edited to add xxxx" -- This isn't LiveJournal. Your edits should make the question flow logically according to the 4 big items highlighted earlier).


Some final general tips/comments:

  • If you're familiar with other Stack Exchange sites, questions on UX tend to be a little more subjective than usual.

That's okay, as long as the question follows the guidelines outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective.

As this is a site for professionals part and parcel of this is that:

  • We don't encourage people to do things that will lead to problems later.
  • If we tell you something is a bad idea, think about why we're saying that.
  • If you know you are heading down the path of endless agony into the pit of eternal suffering, and you know you have to travel that road for some reason, tell us.

People here may disagree with you.

Many people have "left ux.se forever" because they were told that something they asked how to do was a bad idea, or because an answer they were proposing was wrong/dangerous, or some variation on these situations.

UX.SE is a place to learn

if something you are talking about seems like a bad idea we will point out the problems we see. This is an opportunity for you to improve or clarify your question/answer, or to spot a problem you missed and backtrack before you wind up in the aforementioned Pit of Eternal Suffering.

No is sometimes the answer.

Many people have also "left ux.se forever" because they didn't like that the answer to their question was "No".

Bluntly: Sometimes "No" is the answer. -- This may be unfortunate if you have encountered a situation where No is the best answer we can offer, but in the words of Montgomery Scott Ye cannae change the laws o' physics!

Sometimes we answer incomprehensibly

If you can't figure out what we mean in an answer, ask for clarification with a (polite) comment.

Sometimes we get the answer wrong!

Sometimes despite your best efforts to write a superlative question and our best efforts to provide a stellar answer.... we screw it up. We're human - it happens.

When it happens:

  • Leave a polite comment and tell us why the answer doesn't work.
  • If the answer given is egregiously wrong or outright dangerous, downvote it. (Really, go ahead. we don't mind).

In case my last two points didn't make it clear: BE. POLITE. Starting arguments in comments, name calling, etc. are not tolerated anywhere on the Stack Exchange network.

This applies equally to askers, answerers, and commentators. If someone is being rude, offensive or abusive in comments please flag them, and a moderator will deal with the situation as necessary.

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Good questions are composed of 3 things.

Clear Purpose (Do you know why you are asking the question?)

  • Is your question specific enough that you can actually expect an answer?

Clear statements (Is it clear what you are asking?)

  • Are you actually asking what you want to ask?

Clear intentions (Are you serious?)

  • Are you genuinely interested in the response?

If you can answer yes to the questions above, then you've on your way to writing a good question.

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