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I asked a question earlier today that I was half-expecting to be closed, largely because I wanted to test out whether it would be. That is was closed within only two hours indicates something highly problematic about our site: by the rules we're currently following, there's no good way to ask certain types of questions.

So let's suppose that I'm a new UX designer looking to buy some new wireframing software. A practical, concrete, real-world need, that most UX designers face at some point or another.

Obviously, I can't just ask "what's a good wireframing application?" because opinions would be too subjective, because people's attachment to their own products would likely spark extended debate, and because the most popular answers would grow out-dated over time. This is too narrow a way of phrasing the question.

However, if I instead broaden the question and ask "how should I evaluate wireframing software?" or the slightly more concrete "what features should I value most when choosing wireframing software?" the question is still closed. Instead of being too narrow, it becomes a request for subjective responses.

Between the two extrema, I could ask other questions, such as "what are the best practices for converting wireframes to prototypes?" or "should the styles of a wireframe look intentionally unpolished?" but such questions would fail to address my underlying information need because there might be important features of wireframing software that I would completely overlook (and thus not know to ask about). Such questions could be useful follow-ups to my first question, but don't stand as well on their own.

Questions asking how to evaluate UX software are a good fit for this site and address a common, answerable information need. Considering the good subjective, bad subjective test, such questions fall under the category of good subjective. Yes, let's remove bad (overly subjective) answers, but let's not close the questions just because it's possible to give a bad answer.

Good answers to such questions will come from "experts," which is to say people who have already used wireframing software and know what makes it good or bad. These answers can be supported by concrete evidence, stating why particular features are essential to have in whatever product you use. Such answers will be highly useful to anyone who comes to the site wanting to know how to pick wireframing software: a practical, concrete, real-world answer for their practical concrete real-world need.

There may be a few different viewpoints, but that's the beauty of this site's structure, isn't it? We vote the best answer to the top. As long as it doesn't turn into a flamewar, having two or three different good answers harms no one. Even for the most objective of questions, there can be multiple, subjective answers, each providing value to the asker.

We have plenty of expert users on this site. Why not use their expertise to do something more than just look at trivial details of interface design ("should I lay out the form Way A or Way B?") and ask some bigger questions about the issues that UX designers face?

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    My problem with that question in particular is wireframing what? You can't answer many of those questions without knowing what you're wireframing. If I'm wireframing a UI for a smartTV of fixed size and resolution, why would I care about responsive wireframes or different sizes? – Ben Brocka Apr 8 '13 at 14:50
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    make sure you've seen blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/08/gorilla-vs-shark on scoping. – Jeff Atwood Apr 19 '13 at 20:02
  • @JeffAtwood Thank you. That essay answers my question, especially bullet #4. It seems it can be useful to block certain types of questions in order to attract a more expert demographic. As users of this site, we're expected to know a fair bit about wireframing software already, so any questions asked should be focused on particular features (based on our existing knowledge of what makes wireframing software good). – Graham Herrli Apr 19 '13 at 21:35
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This is a common complaint with the whole Stack Exchange platform. These are sites populated with experts in the particular field, so it is an assumption that anything to do with that field that these experts are versed in is suitable for the site.

This is not the case.

Stack Exchange sites have a very niche purpose - Questions and Answers. The whole Stack Exchange platform is built around asking questions and voting for the answers that best solve that question. (In this case 'voting' means - "I confirm that this answer is a suitable solution to the question"). The 'Answers' is the crucial point here.

  • It does not work for questions that trigger discussions.
  • It does not work for questions that request lists of examples of something.
  • It does not work for questions that poll for suggestions.

It only works for questions that have either actual or theoretical answers.

I am personally interested in different wireframing applications. I use such applications daily, and am always curious about new ones that hit the market, improvements to them or version updates to them. However to find out about these applications I consult Twitter, I read blogs, I even discuss them in the chat room on this very site. But asking such questions about them just doesn't work on the site.

It's not that we don't want to discuss them here, but the whole structure and purpose of Stack Exchange sites revolves around Questions being asked and then being able to provide an actual answer to that question that solves the question as best as possible.

The limited niche of the site(s) is what works so well. We're not Quora where anyone can ask anything and hope that an expert happens to see it, we're not a forum where discussions can start as one thing and end as another with the actual useful information buried on page 6 of 45. We're not Yahoo Answers that is filled with trolls. We have a specific focus, and that focus keeps the site useful. If we broaden that focus to include opinion questions, discussion questions, polling questions etc then the usefulness of the site would reduce. Yes, we may get more questions, answers and visitors, but we wouldn't be providing the useful content that Stack Exchange is known for.

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    Although I agree that the format does not work for questions that trigger discussions or for questions that poll for suggestions, I disagree about it not working for questions that request examples. The best answers use concrete examples to demonstrate their points. In an answer, a concrete example is an indicator that the answerer actually knows what (s)he's talking about. All good answers should either have an example from one's own professional experience or else a citation of a formal study (which is also an example of sorts) to demonstrate their expertise. – Graham Herrli Apr 8 '13 at 15:25
  • @3nafish Yes agreed. By 'requests for examples' I refer to requests for lists of 'examples of X', not for an example / citation that is used to support an answer. I'll edit my answer accordingly. – JonW Apr 8 '13 at 15:32
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    Wow. I didn't expect to find an explanation about StackExchange on UX which I really understand and can agree with. +1 – nalply Apr 11 '13 at 19:07
  • I agree on bullet #1, but I never understood #2 and #3. What exactly is wrong with lists or polls? There are often several good answers to a question, and the best float to the top. Imagine I'd ask what widget to use to display a bunch of certain items in a concrete situation. Someone will say list view, someone will say icon view, someone cover flow, and the best answer (most fitting, according to the users) will be voted up most. I also don't see how such questions degrade the usefullness of the site, as they won't somehow 'displace' the other questions. Could someone please elaborate? – jdm Apr 19 '13 at 19:13
  • also very relevant for scoping: blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/08/gorilla-vs-shark – Jeff Atwood Apr 19 '13 at 20:01
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The problem is that "What makes a good wireframing app" is kind of a meta question about UX design, which feels out of scope for our site (besides being a very subjective question, regardless of whether or not experts are involved).

I liken this kind of question to questions like "What makes a good coding IDE" on Stack Overflow. Those questions get closed too, or sometimes moved to Programmers.SE which was created specifically to exist as a place for meta-like questions like these. Since we don't have such a place, the only thing we can do to keep UX.SE on topic is to close the questions that are either out of scope or too subjective.

Should UX be a place for "bigger questions"? Sure. But bigger questions, to me, deal with our work directly - how to solve some problem in user experience design. We've had lots of good ones that teach quite broadly in the areas of labeling, forms, copywriting, etc. I disagree that a question about wireframing software is necessarily a "big question".

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    I do think we narrow ourselves artificially however by not including "meta" UX questions. That Programmers.SE exists validates that such questions do fit within the SE Q&A format. The only reason that SO doesn't allow them is because of volume. UX.SE on the other hand is a relatively small site by comparison, and we have had drives in the recent past in an attempt to increase questions/users on this site. Since we don't have enough users to justify a separate site, why not make them in scope? – Charles Wesley Apr 9 '13 at 15:31

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