We have been working for some time now researching ways to improve the new user onboarding process while also addressing issues with question quality from new question askers. Based on our user research, planning, and testing, we have recently concluded an experiment on Stack Overflow testing a new wizard for asking questions and have introduced a new proposed area of the site called the Staging Ground which we plan on releasing as a limited test in a few months.
You can read more about how the Staging Ground will work in the following posts (if you have limited time and only want to read about the details of how it will work, you can get by with just the first two posts):
A summary of the section (amended from the first workflow post):
The Staging Ground will be a new limited-access area on the site where first-time question Authors can interact with experienced users and receive guidance towards improving the quality of their questions before they go live.
The inspiration for the name is that of a staging environment, commonly used in developer parlance to denote a limited-access area where code can be reviewed and tested before it goes public.
The general goals of the Staging Ground will be to:
Address quality issues that exist with first questions by lowering the close/deletion rates and improve their overall quality
Take the pressure off of the First questions queue
Improve the question-asking experience for new users by creating a lower-pressure environment where users can get more guidance related to asking questions. Encouraging new users to iterate on their questions in a more collaborative way should improve their overall experience and increase the likelihood and quality of future contributions to the site.
Our initial plan is to build out an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and release it in a controlled A/B test on Stack Overflow, after which we will evaluate feedback and results, and make a determination for future iterations and whether it will graduate. Our exact test criteria will be discussed more in a post immediately before the test goes live.
We do not yet have a date for when this test will begin, though based on planning, it will probably be some time during Summer (June–August) 2022.
For questions: same qualifications as the First questions review queue (the Author’s first question on the site, or their second/third question if their first question(s) didn’t do well).
For Reviewers (this is how we are referring now to the experienced users who will be able to review questions and provide guidance in the Staging Ground): same qualifications as review queues (at least 500 rep).
We haven't yet decided what percentage of eligible First question Authors and Reviewers will be included in the initial A/B test. We may start small and increase participation as the test proceeds, with the goal of trying to ensure a good experience for both new Authors and Reviewers.
Comments and questions will be "private" (only open to those who have access to the Staging Ground as Reviewers). There will not be any votes or answering. Search engine indexing will be blocked.
While closing (for off-topic and duplicates) and flagging will be offered, Reviewers will be encouraged to use the new structured review workflow to more efficiently assist users in improving their question when necessary.
Questions can be published on the site from the Staging Ground right away if they are approved by Reviewers. Questions that are not approved by Reviewers will be auto-published after a defined period of inactivity, except for questions that have received a close vote or flag, or where a Reviewer has asked for major changes that were not made.
While it will bear similarities to the First questions queue (and will of course overlap in purpose), the Staging Ground is not another review queue. It will function differently in a number of key ways (as detailed in the posts linked above).
The initial test of the new Ask Question Wizard was on Stack Overflow, as will be the initial test release for the Staging Ground. SO is the place that has the biggest volume (by far) of new askers – and along with it, a very large need for improvements in the new user onboarding experience as well as initiatives to help affect question quality from new users in a positive way.
That said, if the test is successful and these features graduate on Stack Overflow, we hope to also be able to release them on other sites around the Stack Exchange network that would like to take advantage of these new workflows for helping new question askers onboard more successfully. (It is not yet decided whether these would be enabled or disabled by default for sites on the network, though individual sites would be able to change from the default either way.)
That is where you come in. Please take a look at the posts above (especially the intro to the new Ask Question Wizard and the two workflow posts for the Staging Ground) and think about the needs of your site in this area. If what we are presenting here is relevant to your site, but there are some things or workflow modifications that are missing that would make it much more useful, please let us know in an answer below.
Important disclaimer: There may be some requests that we will have to decline, even if they are relevant for many sites – and it is unlikely that we will be able to make substantial modifications to the tools to accommodate the particulars of individual sites.
If there are feature needs or areas of extra flexibility that are shared by a number of sites, it will make it much more likely that we will be able to address these. And right now, we are at a relatively early stage in developing this section of code, so this is an opportune time to talk about the ways in which these new features can help you out.
We’d appreciate it if you could share your ideas on how these features could be applied to the Stack Exchange network in an answer below. If you have questions about the plans shared in the linked MSO posts, please post an answer on the relevant post instead. If there are general questions that are more relevant to how these will work across the network, or if you want to have a discussion about this on your own meta site and reference it here, that is also fine.
There is no absolute deadline for feedback here. That said, the sooner we get feedback, the better (especially if there are areas of consensus).