Has StackOverflow done any user interaction design studies targetting new users?

I've noticed that, quite frequently, new users don't appear to notice that they can accept answers by clicking the checkmark.

Here is the latest example: html footer don't seemed to stick at the bottom in Print Preview

Note the user is getting comments on the fact that he has asked 10 question but accepted none. Then he replies that he was not aware of this feature.

I, myself, was not aware of the feature until someone pointed it out to me in a comment on the first question I asked.

Everyone who sticks with the forum SO eventually (& fairly quickly) gets this, but I suspect most do not realize it at first, and that a non-trivial number of users pose legitimate questions that get answered legitimately but never get accepted because the user does not stay engaged with SO for more than the first few questions asked.

UPDATE (in response to comments, and for clarification)

The issue may not be the position of the checkmark per se.

If there is an issue (and my primary suggestion would be to conduct a usability study focussed on new users to see if there is) it may be that there needs to be more communication about the process to new users, e.g., a prominent note provided the first time a question is asked, or an important process overview page provided at account set-up. There currently is no official process overview presented anywhere, officially, on StackExchange web sites (as far as I have been able to find, and I just did a new account setup with my wordpress account just to see what's presented during that sequence.)

As one commenter pointed out, SO is not a "forum". However, I would conjecture that it is prior experiences with forums that most users hold as a frame of reference when first approaching SO, and this feature, though it is out there (e.g. Yahoo Answers), is not particularly common on forum web sites.

Perhaps Yahoo Answers is a good model to look at. I would suggest they do a better job at making this feature obvious to new users by being more explicit with the "Best Answer - Chosen by Asker" label placed promenently on such answers. I should note that I am aware of this feature on Yahoo Answers even though I have never asked or answered a question there -- it's because I've come across these pages in my Google searches and the text makes it so obvious. SO/StackExchange sites could consider, as one possible option, being similarly more explicit.

I do not believe that accepting answers is a common interaction model across the world-wide web. StackExchange sites ought to put more into educating new/potential users about such features. The green checkbox is a bit subtle for someone who might otherwise be completely unaware that answers are "accepted".

But consider all this just yakety-yack until a usability study is done.

  • 2
    See - ux.stackexchange.com/questions/6211/… – ChrisF May 2 '12 at 9:51
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    Please don't refer to Stack Overflow as a forum... It is not a forum – Lix May 2 '12 at 9:53
  • In my opinion it's in ideal position. Do you have any better suggestion? – Shadow Keeps Social Distance May 2 '12 at 9:56
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    As a side note, whenever one has trouble finding it give him/her this link it contains screenshot and really can't be any more clear than that. – Shadow Keeps Social Distance May 2 '12 at 9:57
  • Regarding your new update: Stack Overflow already shows the accepted answers first, always - even when it got less votes than other answers. Example - I think anything more than that (e.g. flashing signs or colors) will clutter the site too much and harm its professional look and feel. Yahoo Answers is a great example for highly non professional community, something Stack Overflow tries its best not to be.. – Shadow Keeps Social Distance May 2 '12 at 12:00
  • @Sha Dow Wiz Ard: it's not that users know about this feature and cannot find it -- it's that they do not know about it at all. You've highlighted and important mistake in my post: the issue is one of discoverability (not findability) – Faust May 2 '12 at 12:03
  • In this case, there is already pending request to improve this discoverability :) – Shadow Keeps Social Distance May 2 '12 at 12:06
  • @Sha professional?? How in the world are unicorns and waffles and ponies professional? Oh, that's meta. ;-) – Manishearth May 2 '12 at 12:07
  • Also @Faust - there are some good points about cases where OP won't accept an answer in this answer on other question. (disregard the question itself) – Shadow Keeps Social Distance May 2 '12 at 12:08
  • @Sha Dow Wiz Ard: Perhaps the Yahoo Answers soln doesn't fit -- but your concern can be accommodated while still doing a better job of educating new users (e.g.: providing a simple process overview at registration). – Faust May 2 '12 at 12:09
  • This is in the FAQ. What else do we need to do? Wrap it in a <blink> tag? – Cody Gray May 3 '12 at 3:31
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    @The Estabilishment: It is burried in the faq toward the bottom of a section that must be clicked to open, under a heading that reads "How do I ask questions". Out of over 860,000 registrations on SO, only 18,303 -- just over 2% -- have earned the "Analytical" badge, meanging they have read every section of the faq. – Faust May 3 '12 at 7:27
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    @The Establishment: As for "What else do we need to do?" I've made a couple of suggestions already in my question. But I'm not suggesting we just pick up and go with one. SO has some preliminary/anecdotal evidence of a probable usability issue here. A professional approach would be to 1) conduct some usability analysis focused on new users, 2) determine more objectively whether there is an issue that is worth addressing, 3) design some alternatives 4) test them, and 5) implement the most effective soln. – Faust May 3 '12 at 7:35
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    @The Establishment: "... In a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory behind a door that said 'Beware of the tiger'" – Faust May 3 '12 at 7:39

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