One of Stack Overflow questions has a self-answer inside the question and I wanted to add a comment about ability to self-answer and tried to find relevant links by searching within Stack Overflow. The search results returned were obviously about software, not what I wanted to get. Then I did the Google search “stackoverflow.com self answer help” and found the links that I wanted.

Why should Stack Overflow users have to use external search to find answers within Stack Exchange?

It will be nice to have an ability to include in search results help topics and FAQ questions from the site’s meta and global Stack Exchange meta (with help or meta FAQ tags respectively). (Additionally, it will help to increase new users awareness about SE rules and etiquette.) I want to highlight, that I am suggesting to include in the site search results not all meta content, but only FAQ articles FAQ Index for Stack Overflow and FAQ for Stack Exchange sites

It can be done by default, have an additional checkbox in search or may be suggested how to do it in ‘Advanced search tips’.

My suggestion may be considered as a duplicate of the old Include meta in search results and related questions? feature request, but 11 years later SE may have different opinion how it could be addressed.

Jeff Atwood in 2009 said that “cross-site related queries is far beyond the scope of anything we'll be able to do anytime soon.”

As pointed by Rubén in the comment, cross-site search is already available on stackexchange.com, so there isn't any technical limitation to do it.

To include topics about a site in the site search will make the sites more new user friendly, which is a priority of the current Stack Exchange network.


I'm not a big fan of throwing several search indexes together (main, meta and help) and then hope or expect the results get any better.

And you already found that search form which does a better job at combining several indexes. It is called Google (I hear a rumor that Bing does similar things) and that is because Google core feature is search and indexing. Stack Exchange tries to do Q/A well enough.

The SE search is pretty good at finding stuff if you know what you're looking for and mastered some of the special search features like tags, data ranges, type.

I'm not an expert on UX but I believe it is important that users don't have to switch context. It does matter if you're searching something on Main with the intent to link to it from a question or answer that you don't end up with links to a help center or meta post. Those don't go well as duplicate target.

Also if a user visits a post from that result they might have ended up on the wrong site for their next action. When they click "Ask Question" they are now on Meta and their question won't go well there.

I personally don't find it much of a problem to first switch to meta and start a search there, specially if I know I'm looking for Meta stuff. Same goes for Help which is own separate search. I do recognize that not finding any results there needs a better UX and I asked for stats to support my still to be posted feature request. Give it 6 to 8 weeks.

But let me offer an option that might be worth considering. If you're part of a Stack Overflow Team, your search bar gets an extra option:

search bar with at the left showing a dropdown selector with Charcoal (an SO team) selected

I can start typing a search term and then decide to run that search on a team site instead. When I press enter I'm redirected to the search result page of the team I selected.

A feature request I could support is showing that selector to everyone with two new options: Meta and Help. Selecting Meta would post that search term to the search result page of Meta, selecting Help would do search and lands you on the search result of Help.

Not a super important feature but by implementing it this way you can leverage what is already there without having to improve search results from one combined index.

  • As Stack Exchanged implemented its own search, that should consider it to match user expectations. Otherwise they can just redirect to google with query “site:stackoverflow.com search phrase”. If you're putting on Main site search box programming terms, you will have technical questions returned. If you have the terms that are relevant to help center or meta FAQ, you will appreciate the links to a help center or meta post. Nov 16 '20 at 18:45
  • I understand that people with your reputation “don't find it much of a problem to first switch to meta and start a search there, specially if I know I'm looking for Meta stuff”. I am very aware about the meta site, however I made the mistake, using SO search for trying to find an answer, how site is operated. Majority of users are not aware about separating information between actual Q&A, help and meta and will expect that single search box will answers not only questions “how to write c# hello world program”, but also “how to write good question on SO”. Nov 16 '20 at 18:45
  • I world not too worry about switching context, as if the users could distinguish questions in different programming languages, they would distinguish programming topics from topics about the site rules and etiquette. I also do not think that redirecting to different site is a big problem for good UI design, the search results should have clear tags ‘Help’ or ‘Site FAQ’ and can have some warning “you will be redirected to the different site”. Nov 16 '20 at 18:46

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