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In April, we shared that we had been conducting sign-up experiments on Stack Overflow and found positive results. These were centered around simplifying the typical sign-up flow and experience. Our team is continuing to explore ways to improve the experience for new users on the platform, and we are now exploring iterating on the tags experience for new and registered users.

Why focus on tags?

Tags provide a way to filter and help users focus on their interests and help make it easier to find answers to their questions. One of the recent sign-up experiments centered around watching tags showed a promising increase in account creation. This encouraging result has motivated us to conduct additional lightweight experiments to raise awareness of tags and also make signing up on these pages easier.

Our hypothesis is that simplifying the current sign-up experience from the tags page will provide value for anonymous users. We'll measure the initial experiments by evaluating whether users are more likely to sign up in order to watch a tag. If we see that more users are watching tags, we'll consider continuing to improve the tags experience. We also have a few changes for registered users outlined here to see how it impacts their behavior as well.

Tag Experiments

We will be operating the following experiments on the tag page for Stack Overflow. Depending on how that goes, we will have a conversation about expanding them to the rest of the network.

Experiment 1: Understanding the reason users “Ignore tags”

We have a significant number of anonymous users who are clicking the ignore button on hover for questions. However, this action does nothing for that page, so we want to better understand why they are using it. So, we have this temporary prompt coming up for unregistered users who click the button to ask them their reasoning for selecting this option. Depending on what we learn here, we might make some changes.

A image of a why did you click "ignore tags" popup for unregistered users

Experiment 2: Updating the tag hover

We will be running an A/B/C test when users hover over tags. We intend to test whether simplifying the hover and making the call-to-action more evident will encourage more users to watch tags.

There will be three variants that both anonymous and registered users will see:

Examples of the various tag variants for users to watch a tag with shorter tag descriptions

As you may notice, variants B and C show slightly shorter tag descriptions. For the purposes of this experiment, we’ll be grabbing the first line from the full tag wiki and using it in this context, but should the experiment prove successful, we’ll need to think of a better long-term solution. In the context of tagging questions (either when asking a question, or editing it), the current excerpt, along with the usage guidance present in it, will still be used even during the experiment.

Additionally, you’ll notice that we are testing copy changes with the call to action with “Watch tag” and “Follow tag.”

Experiment 3: Recent Tags entry point

On the left side of the navigation toolbar, both registered and unregistered users will see a “RECENT TAGS” section, showing tags they have looked at during their sessions. Clicking on those tags will work just like clicking a tag anywhere else on the site. An image of a regular question page with the recent tags addition in the left side bar showing the tags: C#, Javascript, and SQL

We will also be simplifying the tagged questions page for both registered and anonymous users as part of this experiment:

Anonymous Users: Tagged question list showing the new top modal for users to follow a tag with a new button to the tag wiki page

Registered Users: Tagged question list showing the new top modal for users to follow a tag with a new button to the tag wiki page

For registered users, all the links that were on the tagged questions page will be accessible from the tag wiki page.

Experiment 4: Tags on Homepage

Unregistered users will be prompted with a modal to set up their homepage based on a set of suggested tags. When they have made their selection, they will be prompted to sign up and create an account. This modal comes up when they click the “Home” tab. Our plan is to create a proper personalized homepage experience for all users. When we get closer to starting that project you can expect more communication on that to provide feedback on what you think would be useful to see on that page.

We plan to do A/B tests on unregistered users for this test later this month to see which of these options encourages more watched tags and evaluate whether this is something that newer users are interested in. Please consider that these are only experiments, if we see positive signs that encourage us to make other changes, we will bring those to you for feedback – especially if they affect the registered user experience. If you have any suggestions or feedback regarding this, please let us know in an answer below.

Depending on how these experiments go, we may decide to improve the tag feature further. If you have any feedback on the experiments or have ideas on how to improve the tag experience for newer users, let us know.

We will be keeping an eye on this post for feedback till June 26th, 2024.

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    Instead of wasting so much time and resources on things you don't even know if they're useful or not, based on dunno what, maybe give us back things you took away from the tags popup, that were really useful, like the option to subscribe to a tag right there, from that popup? Not going through 100 steps and faqs, just from there. And poof, it was gone on a whim of a designer. That was annoying, still annoying, and most annoying is that you make zero efforts in the places where it really matters. Commented Jun 12 at 20:16
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    Context: @ShadowWizard refers to the email subscription feature.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Jun 12 at 20:27
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    @mbomb007 no, I don't want to use RSS reader, and that's also not the point. My point is that it was a very useful feature, that was removed on a whim without asking those affected by it: the users. I don't care personally as I hardly used it myself. Commented Jun 12 at 20:40
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    @wizzwizz4 Thank you. This was before my time here. So this is helpful. We have actually talked about that feature semi-recently, while not a piece of this set of experiments, I will bring it up again.
    – SpencerG StaffMod
    Commented Jun 12 at 20:41
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    Also, to beat what appears to be a dead horse - how is it we can have temporary experiments on the left sidebar space, and long standing requests to have accessible meta and chat links on the left get ignored? :/ Commented Jun 12 at 21:36
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    Re experiment 2: options B and C lack "Ignore tag" capability entirely. And you intend to show this to all users, including registered, right? I was going to write a "wow, thank you for tags CSS update, they look better now" post a while ago, but now don't feel happy about that anymore, since your designers are exploring options of removing important content again. I have a whole bunch of ignored tags like "windows", and often add more when I encounter some product-related tags I definitely never want to see again. Why are you trying to make preferred posts filtering more complicated?.. Commented Jun 13 at 0:46
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    "Tags provide a way to filter and help users focus on their interests and help make it easier to find answers to their questions" - I am very confused. How do tags in any way factor into what search results you get when doing a Google/Bing/DuckDuckGo search? No tags at best help people to filter questions to find ones they can answer.
    – Gimby
    Commented Jun 13 at 10:08
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    @JourneymanGeek Honestly, I have been a part of enough conversations around freeform vs. selectable vs. both. I no longer have much of an opinion on what is best, other than the best option is one people will reply to.
    – SpencerG StaffMod
    Commented Jun 13 at 13:08
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    @JourneymanGeek Fair enough, though the recent tags experiment was not born out of wondering what we could do with the left-hand sidebar; rather, it started around tags in general. But I am a fan of using it as some of those have suggested, just not really part of this what this project was aiming to accomplish.
    – SpencerG StaffMod
    Commented Jun 13 at 13:10
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    @AJM Definitely something we can keep in mind for a full rollout if we get that far.
    – SpencerG StaffMod
    Commented Jun 13 at 13:10
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    "...provide value for anonymous users..." The value of being not an anonymous user anymore. Commented Jun 13 at 13:47
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    The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians
    – MT1
    Commented Jun 16 at 21:15
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    It's nice to see that the money from AI is being spent on nothing-burgers, instead of actually improving parts of the site that need improvements. Commented Jun 16 at 23:29
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    Sites that seems to promise something and then require extensive personal data or registration at the end I usually run away as quickly as possible and make sure I never come back. I think that the right way should be to explain to users what registration may offer them and then ask them to register. Any other workflow is a bit dishonest and a waste of time for visitors not wanting to register. It also seems that company staff finds it acceptable. That's not good. Commented Jun 19 at 8:44
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    "...a promising increase in account creation." Why exactly is this promising? Creating a larger number of new accounts doesn't really improve anything on the site, at least that I'm aware of... I feel like I'm repeating something that's been said a dozen times already, but SE's goal is very clearly quantity, not quality. Commented Jun 19 at 11:00

16 Answers 16

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Our team is continuing to explore ways to improve the experience for new users on the platform,

What's your goal: maximising the number of new user accounts? Stack Exchange's design needs to serve the needs of several, quite different groups, and it seems like everything you're proposing these days is geared around this same target: "the experience for new users". I'm not convinced this is sensible.

You have identified some problems:

  • We have a significant number of anonymous users who are clicking the ignore button on hover for questions.

  • For the purposes of this experiment, we’ll be grabbing the first line from the full tag wiki and using it in this context, but should the experiment prove successful, we’ll need to think of a better long-term solution.

Well done for identifying these: I hadn't thought about this! Maybe a solution to the tag wiki excerpt problem could look like the close notice system… but I'm not thrilled about any of the proposals in this experiment.

We plan to do A/B tests on unregistered users for this test later this month to see which of these options encourages more watched tags

I know an even better way to encourage more watched tags: make the watched tags button automatically follow the mouse, and remove the "unwatch tag" button! That is to say: this is an absurd thing to optimise for. What are you actually trying to achieve? Let's start there, then we can work out how you can get there. Don't just immediately try to A/B test on the first proxy metric you find.

Hiding the RSS feeds will probably increase the use of the Watch feature, but RSS feeds will keep people returning to Stack Exchange (whereas the Watch feature only helps while you're on the site). If anything, you should be pushing RSS!

For registered users, all the links that were on the tagged questions page will be accessible from the tag wiki page.

Please don't login-wall functionality. That's the first step towards needing a hyphen. (And it will interfere with my workflow, which I doubt you'd have any way of knowing if I didn't say.)

If you have any feedback on the experiments or have ideas on how to improve the tag experience for newer users, let us know.

Those things people have been asking for for years, but have always been rejected because the devs couldn't immediately see how to do it? The designers could be really good at figuring out how to do that! Give them something worthwhile to do, rather than the incremental A/B-powered destruction that every large tech company seems to love.

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    New users mean more money. That is the one and only thing that matters to the current SE management. Commented Jun 12 at 20:19
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    @ShadowWizard If we're talking ad money, the average user makes less money for SE than the average visitor. RSS or email subscription are the way to go, from that perspective. (Don't assume malice when you can assume incompetence instead.)
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Jun 12 at 20:25
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    @ShadowWizard I think you likely meant "more short-term money". Corporate short-term money grabs inevitably lead to long-term losses. Treating people well and compensating them fairly leads to sustainable long-term gains. Commented Jun 16 at 2:25
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    I agree with all, except the solutions. Tags should be flat. That's the whole folksonomy theory that I was bashed with. That theory still works, if we accept some basic tenets: Having a single tag on a question is not only OK, it's desired! Ambiguity is resolved by none of potential topics using the ambiguous term. A tag should describe a topic that is on topic for the site.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 17 at 17:34
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    Presumably user count is a KPI for their annual reports, so of course they optimise for it, even if doing so does not really achieve much. Commented Jun 19 at 6:24
  • More users means more people that will write content on the SE websites instead of elsewhere, which in turns brings more traffic.
    – bfontaine
    Commented Jun 24 at 14:39
  • @bfontaine Only if what they write is worth reading.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Jun 24 at 15:26
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    I agree with pretty much everything in this answer, except the statement that focusing on "the experience for new users" is bad. Focusing on that is absolutely good! We've been begging SE to fix onboarding and other parts of the new-user experience for years (Staging Ground is a great example of this being done right). Doing so at the cost of breaking the experience for other users is bad, though.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Jul 11 at 8:58
  • @RyanM I also agree that we need to make improvements to the new user experience – but I think we should do that by reducing the cognitive load of Stack Exchange, rather than by focusing on new user metrics. The Staging Ground is a perfect example: the process of building a good question is made separate from the process of maintaining an answerable question, with different affordances for each, making it more obvious that the process exists at all.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Jul 11 at 14:55
  • Trying to make tags easier to use for new users is just completely backwards. New users don't want to use tags: they want to [get that function working / share their knowledge / not poison their dog / etc]. Most of them don't want to use Stack Exchange, so improving their ability to use tags on Stack Exchange doesn't help.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Jul 11 at 14:58
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For experiment 4, it seems like you're effectively planning to have a user go through the whole process of personalizing the home page, then prevent any of their choices from mattering unless they create an account. Isn't this a bit manipulative?

It's similar to how there's voting buttons for not logged in users, but in this case you'd be having them do far more than just click a button.

That said... does this mean we're getting the old unregistered home page back on stackoverflow.com? Or will this only be a thing on other stacks.

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    I don't agree that it's manipulative, but the intention is to get them to sign up, and I think it's reasonable for a new user to think they need to create an account to keep any personalization they just made. That said, we are not returning the old unregistered home page. We will have more communication about registered user home pages in the coming weeks.
    – SpencerG StaffMod
    Commented Jun 12 at 20:44
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    @SpencerG is this just a unfortunate timely coincidence or is this part of a strategy to "kick" unregistered users into needing an account by making their experience worse and worse? I'll have to ask because recently the company started pushing log-in prompts in the users face at every new opened site and that actually made me think that the company may be trying to end "anon users support" in which case I would have to agree on the "manipulative" part. Commented Jun 13 at 9:55
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    I don't see anything wrong with the rest of the experiments, this one just seemed odd to me. I find it incredibly annoying when sites constantly pester me to login, i'd find it doubly so if one actively invited me to customize my experience and then dropped a login barrier at the end after i've already opted to not login via the other obvious popup at the beginning. 🤷‍♂️
    – Kevin B
    Commented Jun 13 at 14:34
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    Inviting users to customize their experience only to then inform them that they need to sign up to keep those changes is nothing short of hostile.
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 17 at 12:10
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Maybe it's just me, but if I clicked "Ignore tag" and was asked why I clicked that, I would just dismiss the annoying dialog and assume the design was made by an idiot. Duh, if there is an "ignore tag" entry, I expect it to somehow allow me to ignore that tag. As in, probably don't display questions from this tag after the next refresh.

(Idle speculation: maybe there is a cookie or something it can save to keep this preference active on the browser side without requiring me to sign up?)

A menu item which doesn't do what I want is annoying on its own, and asking me what I thought it would do seems like a really bad practical joke.

In terms of practical actions, either hide the option for anonymous visitors if it doesn't do anything useful, or implement it so that it does.

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    If the popup said "what should this button do?", would you be more likely to answer it?
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Jun 17 at 17:52
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    That would be slightly less offensive I guess, but not really pass the laugh/cry test. People come here to find answers to questions, not subject themselves to surrealist UI experiments.
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 17 at 19:02
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    Right. I clicked "ignore tag" because I want to ignore the tag. It just makes the site author look like an idiot. Commented Jun 19 at 14:05
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    @wizzwizz4 if you want more feedback, you should give users the least amount of effort to give it. A free text field is probably one of the highest possible efforts you could ask from a user. I doubt that changing the question would have a significant impact on who chooses to answer. Most users would instinctively avoid the text field.
    – VLAZ
    Commented Jun 19 at 15:26
  • How I understood it is that SE Inc realized the button doesn't do anything for unregistered users, so went to remove it, but then noticed that people were still clicking it even though it doesn't seem to make sense for them to click it. Now they want to know why people were clicking the button — like, what they thought the button would do.
    – wjandrea
    Commented Jul 10 at 19:40
  • And I maintain that it's hare-brained to think anything else than the obvious: They want to ignore the tag.
    – tripleee
    Commented Jul 11 at 4:08
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Kevin's answer made me realize a thing.

Unregistered users will be prompted with a modal to set up their homepage based on a set of suggested tags. When they have made their selection, they will be prompted to sign up and create an account. This modal comes up when they click the “Home” tab.

Would this modal go ON TOP of Doofenshmirtz's "Google Login-Inator" that is being shown on each new site an user navigate to? Do we now have to expect that users will get TWO prompts asking them to "Pwetty Pwease, j...just create an account, you baka!"??

I really hope that this is just a misunderstanding and I am missing part of the picture but... hopefully you folks at the company also realize that users already didn't like ONE prompt being pushed in their face and even committed to block it like it was another bad ads. Showing another one after they already dismissed the first one... may not be a good idea.

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Regarding Experiment 2: Updating the tag hover,

  1. For B and C, please, please consider adding back the "Ignore tag" button, even if the width may be reduced to lower its prominence. It's a convenient way to ignore tags when seen.
  2. For B and C, I noticed the capitalization of the first letter, e.g. "Javascript". Is this done automatically, or taken from somewhere else? Might be careful with some quirk like Ios.
  3. For B and C, if the text is grabbed from the first line of the full tag wiki, what about those tags that don't have their wiki, or the first line is not optimal to be shown as a description? (Meanwhile, perhaps this might be a good nudge to give some more love to tag wiki)
  4. Regarding the "Watch" vs "Follow", this may be interesting because currently we have different wording for similar features, "Watched tags" and "Followed posts".
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    Regarding 2, if it's still available somewhere, the "Friendly Name" feature from Documentation should have a lot of this already stored in the DB. That said, that data is old and likely won't include all products. Big +1 on your third point, particularly on non-SO sites. While I do see Wikis on SO consistently, most of the network sites only manage to have them on a subset of tags.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 13 at 4:31
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Regarding experiment #3, how are anonymous users supposed to sort tag questions by score/age/etc?

I'm guessing the URL can be edited to point to /tagged/?tab=frequent, but that's not very ergonomic for people who know SE, but frequently browse it while not logged (I certainly do, notably at work). Or people who are just curious.

no sorting buttons on tag page

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For the purposes of this experiment, we’ll be grabbing the first line from the full tag wiki and using it in this context

Why are you doing this in the first place? I can think of no reason why you would want to show a random amount of text from the full description in place of the excerpt. The tag wiki excerpt is specifically designed to be shown in places like this modal and has specific rules on what its content must contain for that express reason.

The full description body does not. This experiment has led to bugs like this: New tag watch redesign uses the full wiki (without formatting) in the modal instead of using the tag wiki excerpt

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  • Agreed, but I think I see the reasoning: new users don't need to see usage guidance when they're just reading a tag and not, say, editing the question and needing to confirm that a tag is the right fit. Some tags have big headlines like "ONLY USE THIS IF [X], [Y], AND [Z]. DO NOT USE IN PLACE OF [FOOBAR]", which isn't really relevant for someone just wanting to know what a tag means.
    – wjandrea
    Commented Jul 10 at 18:49
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    @wjandrea Tags aren't for "new users", they are just for users. It's not just new users who view tags on questions or on the question list pages; old users do too.
    – TylerH
    Commented Jul 10 at 19:37
  • Yes, but this experiment is focused on how to "improve the experience for new users"
    – wjandrea
    Commented Jul 10 at 19:47
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    @wjandrea "which isn't really relevant for someone just wanting to know what a tag means" just yesterday I encountered the tag [bruno] on Stack Overflow]. I was curious what it means. The tag wiki (that I saw on cover) said "More information about the Bruno API Client at usebruno.com. The official documentation can be found here." which didn't clarify anything. I had to go to the tag, to see the excerpt which did have a useful description: "Questions concerning Bruno, the fast and git-Friendly Opensource API client"
    – VLAZ
    Commented Jul 11 at 8:51
  • @VLAZ That's a good point, but that's not what I'm talking about. Check out the [ubuntu] tag on SO. The usage guidance takes up 3/4 of the excerpt: "GENERAL UBUNTU SUPPORT IS OFF-TOPIC. Support questions may be asked at https://askubuntu.com/. [...] This tag is for programming questions specific to Ubuntu." The actual description is "Ubuntu is a free desktop and server operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux", which is copied into the body and shows in the popup. And ofc, it works for this tag, but not all.
    – wjandrea
    Commented Jul 11 at 13:57
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    @wjandrea which means that no one choice for where the relevant information should be taken from. If anything, the excerpt is better since we 1. know what the limitations are with it (in terms of showing the information) 2. it can be changed with more relevant information. 3. It's more likely to have relevant information. By comparison the tag wiki has no guarantee that it'd show correctly in the popup, nor is there a guarantee that the information for what a tag means is exactly at the beginning.
    – VLAZ
    Commented Jul 11 at 14:02
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    [apparmor] on Stack Overflow now has no description at all in the popup
    – wjandrea
    Commented Jul 14 at 19:10
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    Another one with no description on SO: [cc]
    – wjandrea
    Commented Jul 15 at 10:31
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There may be some factors here that you haven't considered yet (or some potentially-invalid assumptions about the user's knowledge that you don't realize you're making).

All three variants of your popup are lacking the same basic thing: an explanation of what the "watch/follow" and "ignore" buttons actually do. These are not standard terms and mean very different things on different websites. Does watching a tag mean that search results featuring that tag will get highlighted? Or that I'm signing myself up for a deluge of emails every time someone thinks about that tag? A new user won't have any idea what that button does. There are far too many scummy sites out there that like to bombard you with "updates" and "notifications", so people's instinct is not to click buttons like that unless you're really sure what they do. None of your proposed UI changes help the user understand what happens when they click that button. Trying to increase the number of users that click on a mystery button sounds like a futile exercise.

Along a similar vein, it's not clear what the "ignore" button does either. The site's help documents its function, but a new user wouldn't have that information at the point where the UI in question is shown. It's another "mystery button".

Taking a step farther back, how are users supposed to know what a "tag" even is? A quick perusal through various UI screens on the site yields zero instances where those little colored blocks with a word in them are explicitly labeled "tags". Even your help article about tags neglects to show what a tag actually looks like. It would not be unreasonable for a new user - particularly one whose native language is not English - to think that "tag" refers to the little popup window, and that the button with the circle-slash icon is a "close" button for the popup. That could be the reason you see so many clicks on that button.

These aren't terribly difficult problems to solve, but none of your three options addresses them. I'll propose an option 'D'. I have no art skills so the best I can do is a description:

  • Give the tag description popup an explicit, obvious 'close' button
  • Reword the watch/follow button to something like "Follow questions tagged '<%TAGNAME%>'"
  • Reword the ignore button to something like "Ignore questions tagged '<%TAGNAME%>'"
  • Change the "ignore" icon to something that can't be mis-interpreted to mean cancel or close, or remove the icon completely
  • Instead of only having the "View Tag" link, have two separate links: "About Tags" and "About This Tag" or "Browse Tag". The former would lead to a help page with a beginner's overview of tags and this popup UI (a combination of the existing "What are tags" and "How do I use tags" pages), and the latter would link to the same "list of questions tagged 'X'" page as the current link.
  • Consider adding a tooltip to the follow and ignore buttons that explains what they do

The tradeoff between providing enough info for new users and being annoyingly verbose for established users is a careful dance. You may be better off having a "default" version of the site that shows a UI geared towards new/anonymous users, and give logged-in users an option to enable a more streamlined "expert" mode if desired.

Based on the information in your help pages, the functionality of the follow and ignore buttons primarily influences the results shown when searching on the site. I don't think either of these gives much real value to anonymous users since - lets be honest - the overwhelming majority of them come here through search engines and not by searching directly on the site. Instead of baiting the users with functionality and then surprising them with a login dialog, a more user-friendly (and IMO, more honest) approach would be to have both the "follow" and "ignore" buttons greyed out and disabled for anonymous users, and below them add a line that says something like "Log into a Stack Exchange account to follow or ignore questions by tag". That way you're clearly indicating that additional functionality is available when logged in, without misleading users into thinking that they can use something when they can't.

6

i kinda get why you would want to remove ignore tag from question pages, even though i disagree, but why are we removing it from question list pages as well? Ignoring a tag on that page does in fact have an impact/purpose, why are we making it harder to access this functionality on pages where it has an impact?

i don't care

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    I actually don't at all get why we removed ignore tag from question pages, "following" a tag similarly has no use on that page. This whole project seems entirely misguided.
    – Kevin B
    Commented Jul 10 at 18:38
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Tag improvement is a great endeavor to pursue.

While these A/B tests are interesting, I hope that more can be done with the tag feature itself as it hosts a wealth of information.

Aside from tags actually demarking questions or being a signpost, the tag "more info" section provides a very lucrative section to target for improvement. The testing you show labels it as a wiki which I think is definitely appropriate. Not only is this area a great place to use for content and connections, it is also a very easily targeted space for advertising.

While there was the idea of selling logos on tags for ads some time back, this space would allow the possibility for a relevant company to sponsor the tag wiki.

Regardless of monetization, there is a lot of opportunity for improvement in this feature. I would like to see some sort of sectioning that all tags get. Perhaps just an introduction and a table of contents that in-page navs to different areas.

With regards to the "ignore tag" options, I have used those in the past as well. Usually I will do it if I keep getting a technology overlap in my search results or followed lists. For example, if I am working in C#, I really am not interested in VB.NET, yet without the ignore those solutions will at times show up.

5

"Follow", as a replacement for "Watch", is unclear.

We already "Follow" questions which leads to receiving notifications and the questions being listed in the "Following" tab. Calling tag watching "Following" mixes the two features even though they're entirely unrelated and don't function similarly. This may lead to people not using it because they don't wish to be bombarded with notifications the same way the other "Follow" tools do. (Or they may use it specifically for that purpose and be disappointed)

4

Is there now no button anywhere to ignore a tag? I thought you would have moved it to the tag page or tag wiki page, but no. The only options I found were to input the name of the tag into the ignore list.

References:

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With the change to "Follow" from "Watch", we lost clarity in the "Unwatch" option.

Currently in the new dialog the "Unfollow" button has a label of "Following" instead of "Unfollow". It's unclear that clicking it will unfollow the tag and clicking it has fairly unsatisfying feedback. The dialog simply closes, you don't see any effect from your click until you reload the page.

2

I was just served with the version B of this experiment, and I started typing out a Bug question about it - thankfully the search was able to point me to here.

So there is the change compared to the old layout:

New design Old design
New flyout design screenshot Old flyout design screenshot

The new design was not based on knowledge of why these tag flyouts are actually used, and instead appears to be inspired by various subscription mechanisms found on social networks.

What these tags flyouts were actually used for is to quickly verify that the use of the tag was justified. That is not obvious in some cases, and then the tag description would specifically indicate when this tag should not be used.

This information can be found on the tag's page (e.g. https://stackoverflow.com/tags/excel/info), at the very top of the page, in the important box with the border:

Tag wiki screenshot

The text from that important box is exactly what was presented in the old flyout - so by hovering your mouse over the tag, you could immediately see if the tag was used appropriately. You could also quickly visit the tag page by clicking View tag.

The new design instead displays the first paragraph of the tag's wiki - which is often a pointless truism for any practical purpose, thus providing no way to verify that the tag was used appropriately. Many tags don't even have a wiki, in which case the flyout does not display anything of use at all.

To verify the use of the tag, one now needs to visit the tag's page itself - which has also been made more difficult because the link to the tag's page is gone from the new flyout. To get to the tag page, you now need to back off from the flyout, click the tag itself, which brings you to the search page of the questions tagged with that tag, and from there click Learn more....


Out of the three offered options, only A satisfies the functionality requirements - shows the useful part of the tag's wiki page (when the tag should be used) and provides a link to the tag's wiki.

I understand Option Zero (do not change anything at all) is not being offered.

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The tag hover tag description change in Experiment 2 seems very harmful (for Stack Overflow at least) because importantant guidance for mostly off-topic tags is no longer being conveyed upfront. I believe this will result in more off-topic questions being asked and subsequently closed. This could result in a worse experience for new users and more work for reviewers and moderators.

Examples:

  • seo. Guidance:

    Note: General SEO questions are off-topic. Only programming-related SEO questions are acceptable on Stack Overflow. Non-programming SEO questions should be asked on Webmasters.SE at https://webmasters.stackexchange.com.

    Hover:
    Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a methodology for helping websites to improve search engine rankings.

  • licensing. Guidance:

    THIS TAG IS ONLY FOR PROGRAMMING LICENSING SERVICES. Questions about using software licenses are off-topic, but may be asked at opensource.stackexchange.com or law.stackexchange.com

    Hover:
    A license defines the terms under which the copyright owner permits others to use their work.

The guidance is there for a reason: to help prevent new users from having their questions closed and, as a result, having a negative experience with their first contributions to the site. Please don't undo this unless you have specific evidence that guidance is ineffective and ignored by all users.

Update There are in fact 121 tags on Stack Overflow that have "off-topic" in their Usage Guidance, as shown by the query from this answer by Glorfindel. I don't think that's a number that can reasonably be fixed manually.

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    "There are in fact 121 tags on Stack Overflow that have "off-topic" in their Usage Guidance" and there are probably more tags that have some other guidance like "DO NOT USE" or otherwise don't mention "off-topic" but do mean it. There are also tags that might have the relevant information for hovering in the excerpt but not the tag wiki. Overall, it's a mess. the bruno tag, for example. And some have an excerpt but not a wiki like this and this
    – VLAZ
    Commented 21 hours ago
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Updated as of 16 July 2024

We have a significant number of anonymous users who are clicking the ignore button on hover for questions. However, this action does nothing for that page, so we want to better understand why they are using it. So, we have this temporary prompt coming up for unregistered users who click the button to ask them their reasoning for selecting this option. Depending on what we learn here, we might make some changes.

OK. I ignore tags because I am not familiar with those topics. Ignoring tags makes it easier to focus on what I do know and better respond to those seeking help.

Having just tried to ignore a tag and find the option was not there was frustrating. Now I have to search thru all the clutter which will do nothing but discourage me from participating on this site.

If you are checking for anonymous/unregistered users, why are you subjecting the regular participants to this?

Please bring back the ignore option.

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