Two years ago the link to a site's Meta was moved from an always-visible position in the top bar to subitems in the help and Site Switcher menus, as part of the top bar redesign progressively rolled out in November and December 2013.
Shog9 quite fairly noted at the time:
The bigger concern here is that folks who aren't already used to going to meta won't find it. That would be bad. […]
But there's no way to know ahead of time if that concern is warranted. We're now linking to meta from three different locations on every page: the Site Switcher, the Help menu, and the footer. […] This could actually end up improving the ability of folks to find their way in...
The only way to know is to try it and see...
Robert Cartaino echoed these concerns and the focus on data-driven design in a comment:
My main concern of removing the "support forum" from the main menu was one of discoverability. I'm still a bit nervous that, if incoming users don't know the feature exists, meta will become a fading legacy system used only by the old-timers who still know its there. I'm sure we'll be watching for such behavior changes closely, fingers crossed.
Now that two years have passed, what does the data look like? Has moving the link to Meta positively or negatively (or “other”) affected sites' Meta traffic and usage patterns?
- Do we have more or fewer users per capita visiting sites' Metas now?
- Volume aside, is the kind of traffic driven to Meta different — say, a change in the ratio of new and old users?
- Has the Help menu entry driven more new users to visit Meta for support issues?
- Which of the three paths (switcher, help, footer*) get used most, by which kinds of users?
- Do the numbers vary by site at all?
- Other metrics that I don't even know to ask about for lack of UX knowledge? :)
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding! How has it turned out?
Hm, there does not appear to be a link to a site's Meta in the footer anymore. Ah, it's the feedback link.