We’ve been running the site satisfaction survey on Stack Overflow since 2019. Since its creation, the Stack Overflow audience has told us that Stack Overflow’s design is a pain point—stating that the design is outdated, cluttered, messy, and unintuitive.
It’s clear that many users aren’t happy with some aspects of our design. We acknowledge we have made some missteps in recent design changes, and that our power user experience is very different from the reader experience.
So starting this month, we are going to kick off research to learn more. This research is to better understand those differences from a design standpoint so that we can try to better meet user (including power user) expectations.
Research Thread One: Navigation
We will run a mixed-method research study to capture the pain points of navigating our sites and products, and then work toward creating an improved navigation model.
The main goals of the study are to:
- Assess the current navigation experience: Find out how users currently navigate Stack Overflow, Stack Exchange, and Collectives.
- Discover different user intent: understand users' goals, needs, and pain points or challenges.
- Understand our users' mental models (users’ ideas of how the navigation is supposed to work): Determine whether our websites’ grouping, naming, and iconography conventions make sense to users.
- Optimize the current navigation experience: Determine the best navigation experience for our various segments and platforms (mobile and desktop).
We plan to talk to readers, active users, and site moderators during this study.
This in-depth study will include:
Card sorting is a technique in user experience design in which a person tests a group of subject experts or users to generate a dendrogram (category tree) or folksonomy.
Tree testing is a usability technique for evaluating the findability of topics in a website.
This study will look primarily at global navigation and how Stack Overflow, Stack Exchange, and Collectives connect.
Research Thread Two: Interface Design
As designers and researchers, we have an idea of what we dislike about Stack Overflow’s user interface, but what is most important to us is to learn what our users don’t like.
Questions we are asking during this study
- We want to know what our users mean when they say that our design is “outdated” or “messy”
- We want to know what you like or dislike about products you use so that we can better align with your expectations of good design (or a great user experience)
We want to gather data to inform future attempts to modernize the design in a way that takes into account user feedback.
How can I participate?
We know words like “modernization” or “redesign” may make people uncomfortable, but the goal of this research is to gather data regarding what is not working in the UI design so that we can make the site easier to use for all.
If you are interested in participating in this research, please sign up to be a part of our research pool. To better represent the developer landscape – according to our 2022 developer survey – we are hoping to get participants who identify as neurodiverse to sign up for research, but all are welcome!
In addition, we will be running a similar survey across the network some time in December. We hope you will find the time to participate.