A significant part of traffic on any SE site consists of people (often newbies) asking questions which are outside the scope of the site, which are then closed for being "off-topic". Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find out exactly what is "on topic" for a specific site. Most well-designed websites have an up-front "About This Site" link, but SE sites seem to bury that information.

The following expected methods don't work:

  • Clicking on the name of the site to go "home"
  • Looking for an "About This Site" link
  • Clicking on any link in the boilerplate "put on hold as off-topic" block added to a question that has been closed for being off-topic
  • Looking for a link at the bottom of the page (the links are all SE-generic)
  • The "Tour" link in the Help menu brings you to a page that includes a one-sentence overview, but no details, and no way to find the details.

I finally found that <siteDomain>/help/on-topic is a page with lots of details about what the site is for. This is great information, and should be MUCH easier to find (I've been on SE for 2 1/2 years and only just found them). It's especially galling that the standard notice for "You're off-topic" doesn't include a link to explain just what on-topic is.

Could a link to this page be added to the standard primary SE navigation?

Edit: It's been pointed out that each site's tour page actually DOES include some bullet points about what should and should not be asked on the site. I hadn't noticed that before, and after some review I figured out why: the presentation is confusing and misleading.

There are three groups of cards on the tour page which slide in from the right, styled as to imply this is content from the active site being discussed. The first and third group are indeed from the site; they're example questions showing users what to expect when they visit, and the card with drop shadow and slide-in effect tell the user that these are windows into the actual site (they look like parts cut from a separate page). In fact, except for the actual questions, the whole presentation is canned, shared across all SE sites, and presented as such; the content of the cards is irrelevant to the message being presented.

The second group is identically styled, so users will also understand the card sliding in as extracted from the actual site and not specifically relevant. However, the content on the card is not from the actual site: it is new tour information, specific to the site, but misleadingly presented. Experienced SE users looking for site-specific guidance are likely to scan right past the content and miss it (as I did a dozen or so times).

This is important information that every site user should read, so it should be integrated into the body of the tour. Yes, the sliding card effect is sexy, but it also gives context to the content on the card, and in this case the context is exactly the opposite of the truth. I understand that you want to sell Stack Exchange to new users by keeping the tour streamlined, and that's great. However, users that are familiar with Stack Exchange, but may not be familiar with a specific site, also need to be served. Finding a better place to put this critical content would help with that.

  • As soon as you hit ask question the link to How to Ask is shown in the right-hand panel. From How to Ask you can find what is on-topic.
    – rene
    Oct 17, 2015 at 13:51
  • There is also the tour that part way down has a set of checkmarks and x's. It is the first link in the help drop down and on the left at the bottom of the page.
    – user213963
    Oct 17, 2015 at 15:02


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .