Background: This question originated here as a genuine point of confusion from a UX message.

The confusion was cleared up and the problem solved, but then a UX discussion came up and included possibly needing an employee to make a decision about the UX. Hence, this question for community input.

What happened / duplicating the situation: An "answer" was deleted by a moderator who correctly commented to flag the answer to be undeleted after it was fixed. When the user clicked "undelete", a message read that the answer...

"cannot be undeleted because it was deleted by a moderator"

But, that is actually not true. It "can" be undeleted, just not by clicking "undelete...".

Yes, "flag [for moderator attention in order to have it undeleted]" is the proper workflow for this. This is not about workflow itself, just about understanding the workflow.

UX Philosophy: The main question behind this feature request

The problem comes back to the fact that the UX message really wasn't fully true. In UX theory (ask the UX.SE high-reps) UX should be as self-explanatory as possible and certainly not confusing. This UX seemed to have two problems:

  1. Clicking "undelete..." (not 'vote to undelete...') would seem the most self-explanatory way to have a post undeleted. But, that isn't the actual [best/current] workflow.

  2. Bigger problem: The resulting message said that the post "cannot" be undeleted. Actually, it can, just a different way, but there was no message to that effect.

So, on the surface, it genuinely seems like a bug in the software, but it isn't; perhaps we can say it is a "poorly clarified workflow"—or something.

Concession: New users do need to do their homework and learn to use the site correctly. We can't dumb-down everything so new people don't need to learn. This feature request is NOT anything like that. This is just about proper UX done best, that's all.

What should the solution to this be?

If the current UX is correct, I would like to know why this does not go against UX philosophy. If a change is needed (to clickable labels, to messages, something else), what is the simplest change that goes along with good UX philosophy?


2 Answers 2


Yes this should be changed.

Per this answer every deleted answer contains a link to the help center:

Courtesies to Tinkeringbell for testing this with this answer. This message is still existing and looks like this:

deleted by Moderator 2 mins ago
Why was your post deleted? See the help center.

In the case of a moderator deletion this notice could be extended to something like this:

deleted by Moderator 2 mins ago
Why was your post deleted? See the faq.
If you believe you have fixed your answer, click on the flag button and ask for this answer to be undeleted.

Additionally the undelete button could be hidden for these users. Alternatively this link could open the flag dialog with a prewritten flag message:

Flag dialog with the text "Please undelete this post. I have fixed the problems outlined in the help center."

If this is also not possible I would propose to change the error message text to something like this:

This answer was deleted by a moderator and cannot be undeleted without moderator intervention. Please flag this post and ask for it to be undeleted. Also read How to Answer

  • 1
    Hide the "undelete" button that doesn't/shouldn't work. That's why I marked this "correct", as a "UX applied" question. Actions that can't be taken shouldn't be actionable in proper UX philosophy. ...Everything else, sounds good to me, I think we all welcome more useful ideas that the employees might agree with. The other thing I "UX-" agree with is that you have instructions before the error messages, not "in" the error messages.
    – Jesse
    Dec 26, 2018 at 14:17
  • 3
    @JesseSteele yes, but your question is a feature-request and marking an answer as accepted implies that the issue/request is resolved. Therefore you should unaccept my answer if you want SE to look at this.
    – MEE
    Dec 26, 2018 at 14:19
  • Yes, already done. Thanks for this here also.
    – Jesse
    Dec 26, 2018 at 14:20
  • 2
    I'm not a fan of adding blocks of text below the post. It'd make more sense to just include a "What do I do now?" section in the already-linked help center article.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Dec 26, 2018 at 16:41
  • 1
    @animuson Yes that is also a possibility, but I think that "flag this" should only be shown for moderator deleted posts. Otherwise it might cause confusion. Or maybe change the message to Why was your post deleted and how can you undelete it?
    – MEE
    Dec 26, 2018 at 16:44
  • I finally "accepted" this, only because it has a concise "yes/no" and it shows concept pictures, which facilitate discussion. I also upvoted and welcomed the other main answer by the mod "animuson", which indeed brings a lot more insight to what needs to happen. I hope this is okay, if not please tell me why, upvote the mod's answer, and I'll accept that instead.
    – Jesse
    Jan 20, 2019 at 3:19

As a tangent before starting in here, most of the staff here support allowing regular users to undelete moderator-deleted posts and one of the major things blocking that is all the manual work to go through some of those posts which definitely should not be undeleted and making sure they're all locked.

Because past posts were all deleted with the expectation that only a moderator could undelete them in the future, there was never any delineation between a post being deleted just because a moderator thought it was delete-worthy at the time and a post being deleted because it should not exist on the site and definitely shouldn't ever be undeleted.

I mention that request because completing it would effectively make the error message in your question obsolete, since it is tied specifically to not allowing undelete votes on posts deleted by a moderator, which would no longer be true. Instead, posts would default back to requiring three votes to undelete by ordinary users.

So let's focus on the broader issue here, and another path that leaves users wondering "what do I do now?" Users also can't instantly undelete a post if the community deleted it. As in, three users with sufficient reputation voted to delete the post (or if the feature above is implemented, a moderator deleted it). But we still allow them to cast a vote to undelete, and still leave them in that weird state of "ok, nothing happened" and no idea what they should do next to finish the undeletion process.

Despite being able to cast one of the three undelete votes yourself, it's fairly unlikely that you're going to have two other users just stumble across the question, notice that the answer has been edited, and vote to undelete it. And let's be honest, there aren't a ton of users sitting around in the 10k tools looking at every single answer that pops up with an undelete vote to check if it's been edited into shape or not.

We do already link to a help center article under a deleted answer, and that article does a good job of identifying a variety of reasons why answers get deleted and linking to further assistance for improving it. But that article doesn't just fall short on guidance for what to do after making improvements, it just flat-out excludes it. Adding information there about the undeletion process after improvements have been made is probably a good idea. It allows more expansive knowledge than a one-liner that tries to over-summarize and would be available in a place where users already need to look in order to learn about the deletion in the first place.

So, tl;dr

The absolute most we should bother doing with the specific error message you mention is rewording the error message interim. This is already something we've been working on as we update various parts of the site - making sure that error messages are descriptive complete sentences and not these short blurbs that probably got typed on a whim and nobody ever really considered how clear they were. But expanding features to accommodate the "no undelete votes on moderator-deleted posts" scenario really isn't worthwhile given we want to make that feature obsolete.

The better, more efficient solution that covers the more general use case would simply be adding information to the already-linked help center article about avenues to pursue in order to either get help on how to improve the answer or request that it be undeleted after making improvements. The more complicated solution is a better reviewing system of posts that might warrant undeletion (an edit + undelete vote from the author as a trigger) but that, if it happens, would be quite far off in the future.

  • This is a question about UX practice: Should statements lie? You have a feature that will be made obsolete, I think you mean the "[vote to] undelete" link? If that's the feature, no other UX tweak is needed and that solves everything the best way, even interim. Thanks for your inside baseball report. I'm editing to put your answer clearly at the top, presuming that's what you mean.
    – Jesse
    Dec 26, 2018 at 22:34
  • 2
    @Jesse I encourage you to actually reread the entire answer. It is much more complex than that, and you're vastly oversimplifying what I said. I do suggest rewording the specific error message for the time being, but I do not come anywhere close to saying that the entire vote to undelete system would become obsolete, only the part that disallows users voting to undelete a post deleted by a moderator.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Dec 26, 2018 at 22:40
  • I've read it three times. I could only guess which feature you mean because you don't state explicitly. I thought you meant the "undelete [vote]" feature, but my edit was rejected, so the to-become-obsolete feature must be something else. I'm sure that you know what you're talking about, but I can't understand it as written. Please edit to at least state which feature will be made obsolete so I can understand what "that feature" is and I will change my downvote to an upvote.
    – Jesse
    Dec 26, 2018 at 22:53
  • 3
    @Jesse You do understand the full vote to undelete system? Normally, a post requires three users to delete it, and requires three users to undelete it. We make an exception to that (and allow a single vote from the author) if it was deleted directly from review. We also make an exception that disallows voting at all if a diamond moderator deleted it. Only that last part (preventing votes on moderator deletions) would become obsolete, and would return to requiring three users to undelete as the default behavior. Similar to how a moderator closing a question still requires five reopen votes.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Dec 26, 2018 at 22:59
  • Yes, I am familiar with all that. Your last comment clears everything up because you state which feature you mean. I would like it in the answer somewhere. How about "Preventing votes on moderator deletions is a feature that may become obsolete anyway." before the first "With that feature gone" ...then I would understand. Knowing that—and everything else you wrote—is VERY helpful, I just want to understand your good answer for what it is. ty, honestly.
    – Jesse
    Dec 26, 2018 at 23:06
  • 1
    @Jesse Does this edit make it a bit more clear?
    – animuson StaffMod
    Dec 26, 2018 at 23:21
  • 1
    How many posts actually got undeleted after their author voted to undelete it? I suspect nearly zero. So the only effective way would still be to flag, even if users will be able to vote to undelete a mod deleted post. Dec 27, 2018 at 0:12
  • 1
    @animuson Yeah, I really understand what you're trying to say now. And, I also get the feeling that you expressed, that it really is an involved, complex discussion, but also that too many changes now would simply be undone in the distant future... It all makes sense what you want to say, ty, really!
    – Jesse
    Dec 27, 2018 at 2:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .