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The homepage for all Stack Exchange sites is intentionally simple: it's a list of the last (n) questions by activity date.

Activity date means new questions, or questions with new answers or new edits.

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This has worked reasonably well for the last two years, but it is breaking down on Stack Overflow due to the sheer volume of questions per day. Right now we get about 2,000 questions per day -- more than one new question per minute.

Roughly a year ago I doubled the default number of questions on the homepage from 48 to 96. This was no longer sufficient. Now we attempt to display a thirty minute span on the homepage -- up to a maximum of 192 questions. At peak times this is not enough, either.

In the face of massive incoming question volume, the Stack Overflow homepage needs to change:

  • If you are an avid user, we don't expect you to use the homepage. You should be browsing by tag or tag combinations that interest you. However, users don't seem to discover browsing by tag very easily, even though we have literally hundreds of tag links on the home page. We need a better way to drive users off the generic all-you-can-eat-on-any-topic homepage towards their tags of interest.

  • We need a way to aggregate questions by tag on the homepage, without sacrificing the core "every question gets featured on the homepage for a little while" mechanic.

  • The homepage should still be, fundamentally, a list of questions that reflect what the site is about. New users who stumble upon the site for the first time should see "ah, so this is what this website is all about". It should be obvious.

How would you propose redesigning the Stack Overflow homepage to meet these needs? Please provide mockup screenshots if possible.

(Any change would, of course, be specific to the Stack Overflow homepage only; none of the other network homepages would change. Stack Overflow the only site that has anything even close to this volume of questions.)

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"If you are an avid user, we don't expect you to use the homepage." - I get no sense of this at present. – AakashM Oct 31 '10 at 18:21
I actually do use the homepage (and the most recent questions). They're useful once I've filtered out the many high-volume tags I'm not interested in. My topics are slow enough that these things are still somewhat useful. – Paul McMillan Oct 31 '10 at 18:36
@AakashM, I never use the homepage, I always use the Newest Questions page, or a Tag Search Page, though I dream of a Interesting Tags page. – Lance Roberts Oct 31 '10 at 21:47
Just a thought: A solution to the problem can only be found by hiding questions the user is not interested in or moving them further down. Any algorithm that increases the time a question is shown to all users (e.g. hot tab) decreases the time of other questions. To increase the time all questions remeain visible, you have to decide which questions not to show to certain users. – Georg Schölly Oct 31 '10 at 22:11
@Jeff Also note my answer to a similar question here… – Matt Hamilton Oct 31 '10 at 23:10
Wow, they're actually doing this. After seeing all the SE 2.0 designs, I was surprised the main site still looked the same. I figured "that was the way the like it", so I didn't say anything. It's good to know that was not the case! – Mark C Nov 1 '10 at 1:34
I'm very glad to see this question asked. I only wish you'd left out the paragraph asserting that the main reason for disuse of tag searches is a lack of awareness. I don't speak for everyone but I just don't find it all that useful; maybe that's just because the C#/.NET tags have the largest volume of lousy questions. – Aarobot Nov 1 '10 at 2:40
Could you clarify the intended audience for the homepage? Currently most answers seem to target advanced users (people give solutions for their own problems), which should skip the homepage and use tag pages. We also know most site visits are from Google to question pages. Do we want them to visit the homepage too? Not to do some buzzword-dropping, but could you give some user stories so we can focus the discussion? – Jan Fabry Nov 1 '10 at 12:27
Unless you build better tag searching (like OR-filtering on tags), I'm not going to use tag-searches instead of the front-page. Unless, of course, you make the front-page useless. – Lasse V. Karlsen Nov 1 '10 at 16:24
@lasse you can already use or to combine tags. see – Jeff Atwood Nov 1 '10 at 16:39
@Jeff Atwood, I think the problem is that the only way of combining tags today is to either explicitly click (which doesn't allow for multiple different combinations at the same time, and which also doesn't support saving your perferred combinations), or to type in an url, which I think you'd agree does not really fit very well in the whole "quick and obvious"-scheme-of-things. Since you seem to have all the wiring set up, why not add a more nifty way of joining tags together from the ui? – Mia Clarke Nov 2 '10 at 7:11
@MarkC: FYI, this question isn't talking about a graphical redesign like Jin has done with the SE sites. This question (if I'm reading it correctly) is more talking about layout changes in the same theme to emphasize browsing by tag. Of course, it's possible we'll get a theme change at the same time. See here for discussion of SO getting the Jin treatment: – Kip Nov 2 '10 at 19:59
@Kip I didn't say merely "graphic design", but that is certainly on my mind. Thanks for the link. – Mark C Nov 4 '10 at 20:15
I don't normally browse by tags, mostly because I spend time on the [SQL*] tags, and wildcarded tags have bugs (the ACTIVE tab doesn't work, for example) – BradC Nov 4 '10 at 22:35
I don't know what of this you guys ended up implementing for the "Interesting" tab (tl;dr) but I like it! – Pëkka Nov 9 '10 at 15:22

33 Answers 33

I think adding filters to the page would be fantastic! My idea is would be to add a common and custom filter section. Something like this:

Stack Overflow filters

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I think being able to ask an Extend Question (or Sub Question) would help with clutter. I often find a question which is a duplicate but hasn't been answered, answered well, or answered to my satisfaction. I'd like to be able to Extend the question with extra details and my own take in order to get an answer I'm satisfied with but without asking another question and risk getting closed as duplicate.

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1) Hide closed questions which are voted less than 0 [and do not have answers] these are worthless.

2)Ask Super-Quick questions, almost like a bounty but kind of the opposite as well. The question only lasts like a day, and the accepted answer gets slightly more rep than a standard questions. These questions would be designed for quick one line answers, such as "What does Programming-related-word mean?" The answer can be given in 2 lines or a link to another website. These don't appear on the homepage, but appear in a seperate tab (the increase in accepted bounty gives answers the motivation to check this tab) this removes this type of question from the main list, keeps the quality of questions at the current standard but also gives a quick and easy way to get small answers.

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