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I've seen that some sites have customized content on their Ask Question page.

For example, here's some custom content on the English Language & Usage ask Question page. They have extra information in the first time asker modal and in their right information panel on the ask page.

Screenshot of the "Asking a good question" modal on English Language & Usage Screenshot of the "Draft your question" box on the Ask Question page on English Language & Usage

I assume that moderators or other community members can request that these be customized.

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3 Answers 3

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There are sections of each of these page elements that can be customized, either by Community Managers or Developers. While we can't change them completely, the answer below will give you an overview of what we can change. The other answer details how to propose a change and then request it be made.

What exactly is customizable?

There are two main parts of the page that can be customized, the "Asking a good question" modal and the "Step 1: Draft your question" pane in the right sidebar. Within the "Asking a good question" modal, there are three customizations possible - two places where text can be added and the option of hiding the third bullet point.

"Asking a good question" modal

This modal is targeted at first-time askers and gives them a general overview of how to ask a question on our platform. Some sites have asked to adjust the content here for a few reasons, usually to give additional information and guidance to help askers with their first question or (particularly in the case of sites like Code Golf) to explain how the Q&A process works and point new users to their sandbox.

If you'd like to see what this modal looks like on a site, you'll probably need to open the Ask Question page in an incognito browser window. Note, if your site doesn't allow anonymous asking, you won't be able to preview this pane unless you use a sock puppet that hasn't dismissed it already.

Here's what the default looks like:

The default uncustomized "Asking a good question" modal.

And here's a drawing representing the changes that can be made on this page:

Screenshot of default "Asking a good question" modal with freehand red drawing to indicate where things can be changed. The first paragraph has a box around it and a 1 next to it. There is a line between the second paragraph and the three bullet points with a 2 next to it. There is a red x next to the third bullet point.

There are two sections that are editable in this pane. Generally, we'll add content to one or the other but we can also do both. Additionally, we can omit the third bullet "When appropriate, describe what you've tried".

1. Replacing the "You're ready to ask ..." text

For cases where more formatting is needed, such as what exists in the English Language and Usage modal, we can override the first paragraph with full HTML. We usually do this when communities want to make a list, as list formatting can't be done in mini-markdown. This option is a bit more complex because we need to have a developer make the changes.

As a note, you can preview the custom text in this section of the modal (if any) by looking at an unlinked help page /questions/ask/advice - it's in the first section of the page. Here's the one for ELU, to compare to the screenshot in the question.

2. Adding text before the bullets

The simpler change that a CM can make themselves is to have us add a paragraph with community-specific instructions immediately before the bullet points (indicated in the image above with the number 2), as we have in this example on Role-Playing Games.

Screenshot of modal on the Ask page on Role-Playing Games Stack Exchange

The formatting options in this section are limited, though - we can only use "mini-markdown", which is essentially the markdown limited to comments - so bold, italics, and links. For many sites it's probably all that you need.

3. Hiding the "describe what you've tried" bullet

The final change you can make to the modal is hiding the third list item, "When appropriate, describe what you’ve tried". For some sites, this step doesn't make a lot of sense - think Code Golf (shown here).

Screenshot of Code Golf "Asking a good question" modal. They've replaced the default text with "Welcome to Code Golf & Coding Challenges! We host recreational coding challenges & related questions including code golf, fastest code and code golfing tips. All challenges must have an objective scoring criterion, and should avoid these listed points. Questions about help with general programming-related issues are off-topic here and will be closed. Please post your challenge as a draft to our Sandbox for Proposed Challenges for a few days first for feedback. Doing so allows you to correct issues you might otherwise miss before posting to the main site." and they've also added text before the bullet points that reads "The following bullet points only apply to non-challenge questions" and, finally, they've removed the third bullet point, leaving only two.

Code Golf actually customized all three sections of their modal. You can see how they requested and got this modal updated by visiting their meta discussion about it but this is covered in more detail in the other answer to this question, as it focuses on how to request these changes.

What should go in this Modal?

The examples above all show a variety of uses for this. The focus is usually on helping people understand the scope of the site so that new users can avoid making simple mistakes. I've included some specifics in the list below along with screenshots of the modals on some sites behind links.

  • Links to the Tour or /help/on-topic page for the site. (see Science Fiction & Fantasy)
  • Links to meta posts that give more detailed guidance on how to ask a question well or that explain the site scope. (see Code Golf above)
  • A brief overview of what is in or out of scope or how to write a good question. (see Math Overflow)
  • Links to related sites that are common migration targets. (see English Language & Usage)
  • Reminders to include often-forgotten details. (see Role-Playing Games, above)

The goal here should be to pick the most important things to mention and keep the content short and easy-to-read, as that will mean people are more likely to read it rather than just clicking the "Start writing" button to make the modal go away. If things are starting to get too wordy, you'll want to link to a guide on meta or the Help Center rather than putting it in the modal - and if that guide doesn't exist, make one!

"Step 1: Draft your question" pane

The second customization that can be made to the Ask question page is to customize the "Step 1: Draft your question" pane in the right sidebar. This section is visible to anyone asking a question, though when using mobile, it may be less visible since it's below the question box rather than next to it.

Screenshot of the default "Draft your question" pane. The text reads "Step 1. Draft your question - The community is here to help you with questions about traditional artwork and handmade items. Provide details and share research with your question."

This is the example from Arts & Crafts and each site's subject is injected into the statement. It doesn't have any links to the help center or meta by default and, as such, can often benefit from customization.

This pane must be customized by the developers and can include HTML - so things like lists are common in addition to bold, italics, and links to important resources.

What should go in this pane?

Different sites use this pane for a variety of things. The list below outlines some of them and links to an example of it being used.

One important consideration, as with the modal, is to keep the text brief and to-the-point. It's common for people to ignore large blocks of text. You want this to be easy-to-consume and helpful and focus on pointing people to secondary resources rather than trying to shove everything they might need to know into this box.

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What is the process involved in getting the text customized?

As with many change requests, this should start with a meta discussion.

The process is as follows:

  1. Community members create a meta post to discuss changing one or both elements on this page
    • This post should have the tag so that it appears on the front page for community visibility.
    • It may be better to have one meta post for each element (modal and pane).
  2. Once the community has reached some sort of agreement on the content (after a week or two minimum), add the tag to the question to get the attention of the CMs.
  3. The CMs will triage the request and assign it to a CM, who will review the request.
    • The CM may leave comments or an additional answer making recommendations or asking clarifying questions. The goal of this process is to ensure that the messaging for the UI is clear and concise.
  4. For changes that can be made by a CM, they will do so once the copy is finalized.
    For changes that require a developer, a ticket will be created by the CM for the Public Platform team with the copy and a link to the meta post. In general, these requests are quick and shouldn't take more than a week to be completed.

Important note: please do not add the status-review tag on the same day the post is created. CMs need to see community engagement in the form of comments, edits, answers, and/or votes, and this will take some time. Tagging too early could put your question in a state where it gets missed. As such, to avoid this, we will remove the status-review tag and leave a note reminding the community to wait for at least a week before tagging the post.

What should we include in our discussion/request to customize?

The goal of the discussion is two-fold.

  1. Determine if there's community support for the change.
  2. Determine the content of the change.

As such, the things that should be in each request include the following:

  • What do you think should change and why? - Make sure to introduce the concept to your community with a link to this post and a brief TL;DR so they know what's going on. Screenshots of the current version are helpful here!
    • Be specific about which of these elements you want to change so that it's clear to both the community members and the CMs reviewing the request.
    • As noted previously, consider using more than one meta post if you want to change both the modal and the right side info pane.
  • Discuss what you think should be included in the new text - This could be by listing some things that you think should be included in the question or proposing text for the element in an answer.
    • When thinking about what to include, keep in mind: common reasons for closure, elements that are often omitted from questions, special instructions or guides the community has created... anything in the other answer's list of stuff for each of the elements.
  • Invite community participation in drafting the text for the element/s by encouraging them to propose their ideas in answers.
    • While it's good to open the discussion with an initial proposal with an opening suggestion (rather than waiting on community members to propose something), post this as an answer rather than including it in the question as it allows people to vote separately on the idea of customizing the site vs. the proposed text for the elements.
  • Give a general timeframe for discussion - While a hard deadline isn't necessary, being clear that the post is going to be escalated based on community feedback by [date] lets community members know what the schedule is.
    • Keep your community activity levels in mind here. Lower-activity communities may want to wait a bit longer than more active ones.

Once you've finalized the text you want to use, be certain to indicate that clearly so that the community and the Community Manager looking at the request know which text is the final choice.

Resource renewal & creation (Bonus points!)

There's also a secondary part to this process that I find really useful in many cases - reviewing existing help guidance for current accuracy and checking whether there's any additional content that would help users more effectively. This could mean any number of things:

  • Reviewing/updating your /help/on-topic page (mods can edit this page)
  • Reviewing/updating any existing meta guidance
  • Creating new meta guidance for common issues people run into when asking first questions that you might want to link to from either this page or the Help Center

It's not uncommon for these pages to get slightly out of date over time or to benefit from an upgrade with new examples or links, so be certain the resources you need for this feature are available, even if it means waiting another week or two before adding the tag.

Short version for only removing the third bullet point

If your request is just to remove the third bullet point from the "Asking a new question" modal (i.e. "When appropriate, describe what you’ve tried"), the process is a bit simpler but the steps are largely the same.

  1. Post a request to remove the third bullet point with an explanation of why.
  2. Give time for community feedback/agreement.
  3. If the community agrees, add the tag for CM review.
  4. A CM will review the request and make the change. If they have questions or concerns they may voice them but, generally, we trust your expertise on this.
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Are there any other examples of how sites have customized these pages (like the ELU example shown in the question)?

If your site has customized these elements and you'd like to share them here so that others can reference them and get ideas for what to change, feel free to add them below!

Code Review

On Code Review it has been updated so the modal appears like this:

Asking a good question modal

And the right information panel:

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