In the answer to this question, I was told that Staging Area vs Discussion Zone in Area51 is much like the way Main vs Meta sites are for the rest of SE.

First, this makes no sense because meta Area 51 questions are asked on Meta SO. Yes questions about the proposals happen in discussion, but questions about the site itself happen here.

Second, if this is the case, then the two should be visibly different sites (in appearance) and it should not be so easy to accidentally switch between the two sites. For example, going from SO to Meta SO is done only by clicking "meta" in the top tool bar. However, in Area51, if you click on a discussion question, BAM, you're in the Discussion Zone with no visual cue that you're on a different site besides the Discussion Zone image, which only (to me) indicates you're in a different part of Area51, not a different site entirely.

So the point of this discussion is two-fold. (1) Is the Main/Meta to Staging/Discussion comparison accurate? If so, (2) can something be done to make the modal change between Staging and Discussion more visible and harder to accidentally do?

  • Could whoever downvoted please explain their reason? – elemjay19 Aug 11 '11 at 3:38
  • 1
    Yes, the whole Area 51 experience is extremely confusing. It doesn't help that a handful of the community liaisons seem to prefer blaming users for misunderstanding how the system is supposed to work, rather than taking time to listen to the complaints, figure out the confusing parts of the UI, and actually fix them. I've observed several times before that many elements of Area 51 look suspiciously similar to elements users are already familiar with on other Stack Exchange sites, but in reality, they're not analogous in their uses. If that doesn't scream 'UI problem', I'm not sure what will. – Cody Gray Aug 11 '11 at 12:54
  • (And by the way, downvotes here on Meta mean something different than they do on the main site. I don't agree with the downvote personally, but it's best not to worry too much about such things here. You'll drive yourself crazy trying to read people's minds!) – Cody Gray Aug 11 '11 at 12:55
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/99003/… – Cody Gray Aug 11 '11 at 12:56

Yes questions about the proposals happen in discussion, but questions about the site itself happen here.

That used to be true, but it's no longer the case. If you have a question about Area 51 itself (like, say, this one), it can be asked on the Discussion Zone—just give it a tag of .

As to how to tell the two sites apart, here's some options:

Staging Zone

  • Top left corner logo:

  • The New Site Staging Zone home page looks very different from anything on other SE sites. Instead of questions with vote tallies, there's a list of proposals with their follower/committer count.

  • A set of tabs across the top of the list lets you choose between hot/progress/beta/launched or newest proposals.

  • A set of tabs on the left lets you choose between All Proposals, or Arts/Business/Culture/Life/Professional/Recreation/Science/Technology proposals.

  • Clicking on a proposal gives you its follower/committer count and description, a list of announcements, and a list of active discussions that concern that proposal. After that, what's on the page differs depending on which phase the proposal is in.

  • Only the list of proposals pages have a search box, and it's centered and directly above the proposals.

Discussion Zone

  • Top left corner logo:

  • The Discussion Zone home page is a list of questions.

    In many ways, the Discussion Zone acts much like most SE sites:

    • If you click a question name, you see the question + any answers it's received so far.

    • On the righthand side of the home page, there's favorite and ignored tags, a link to chat, a selection of recently used tags, and some recently won badges.

    • In the main area, questions can be sorted by active/hot/week/month, or you can go to the tags, users, badges, or unanswered tabs.

    • Every page in the Discussion Zone has a search box in the top right.

    • On question pages, you see the applicable tags, followed by a list of linked/related questions. You can also upvote and downvote questions and answers.

  • Ok, I didn't know about the area51-meta tag, so thank you for that. – elemjay19 Aug 11 '11 at 14:30
  • Sorry, didn't realize "enter" meant "submit". I don't think that just the logo differentiates the two sites enough. With most other Main/Meta sites at the very least the color scheme is different, which makes it painfully obvious that you're in a new place. I understand that the two sections do have different functionality, that's not the point. The point is that it is not obvious that the two sites are, in fact, two separate sites. – elemjay19 Aug 11 '11 at 14:37

The SO Main/Meta comparison is close, but not exact. SO and SO Meta are, in fact, two explicitly different sites, whereas for the rest of the SE universe, the Meta site is a child of the Main site.

However, it is the case that on the other SE Main/Meta sites, there is a visual difference between the two sites. Whether just the background color is different or all the font colors (and some styles) are different, it is easy to tell, visually, which you are one. This is not the case on Area51.

This answer to my similar question on Area51 answers the question of whether or not this will be addressed. It's a "yes, but no" kind of answer. Basically, it will/should not be an issue in the new Area51 but until then we just have to deal with it.


It's always very apparent which section you're on. The Staging Zone has proposals. The Discussion Zone has discussions. The format of the listed proposals is significantly different from the format of the listed discussions, and proposal pages themselves are like nothing on the discussion side.

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    I'm not so sure. There's a lot of cross-linking between proposals and discussions and the proposal side of Area 51 already has a whole bunch of different styles depending on what page you're on. Every other meta site at least has a different color scheme. Plus, I've seen people use announcements when they should've used discussions because they couldn't find where to go, which muddles it up for newer visitors. – Troyen Aug 11 '11 at 3:00
  • @Troyen There are definitely other usability concerns. I guess to me distinguishing between Discuss and Staging doesn't really matter -- there are separate badges, but so what? I treat it like having one set of badges with half for discussing and one half for proposing, it's effectively the same as having two separate sets. – user154510 Aug 11 '11 at 3:11
  • Though this stemmed from my confusion about badges, it is more about the usability of the site in general. I don't really care that there are badges for each, but what I do care about is if they are supposed to be distinct, they should be, but if they are supposed to crossover in the manner they do, the modal change should be more apparent to beginner users. – elemjay19 Aug 11 '11 at 3:32

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