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This has been bugging me for a while, but I'm not sure where the line should be drawn. A question recently got me thinking about this. While I'm not suggesting that this is a good question, I do think that a better form of the question would be relevant for UX practitioners.

So although it may not be UX, it is relevant for working in UX. So what litmus test do we use to determine what exactly is within the scope of this site?

  • Personally I like the way programmers.se handle things. They're quite similar in a 'slightly subjective, opinion based site' rather than the 'black and white, only one correct answer' style of StackOverflow / Physics. Their 'What can I ask' page is very useful: programmers.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic – JonW Feb 2 '15 at 10:04
  • The litmus test is that inherent to "user experience" is the fact that the definition is always shifting and shouldn't be fixed. So there is no answer to this question. We just keep looking at trends and shifting as the trends change. – Rahul Feb 3 '15 at 21:16
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    There are loads of questions that are valid in other fields as well. For example, a UX question that also applies to SO. The optimal solution would be a cross-over question that is posted on both community websites. This would also support unique perspectives for the question. – Vince Caregnato Feb 9 '15 at 13:53
  • @JonW Programmers is better than SO but its unintuitively named. They have a lot of on-hold questions from new users because the sight permits questions about software development, not programmers. (people whom program) – Andrew Hoffman Feb 13 '15 at 1:47
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I posit that the practice of UX should be on topic:

  • how to conduct a usability study using paper prototypes
  • how to insert UX into an agile dev project
  • how to communicate the value of usability testing to business users
  • how to communicate with a usability study subject that is struggling without invalidating the result of the study

In the past how to do things that are part of UX have been discouraged. Whether it is how to use software or how to create paper prototypes, the argument has been that these types of questions aren't about UX itself.

But these are things that could only really be answered by someone in the UX field, and would be generally useful to others if asked correctly. For those who have been in the field for a while and already know these things, these questions may not be of value.

Yet many new users to this site are also new to the field. And part of growing a vibrant UX community is mentoring and bringing up junior professionals.

By encouraging the veterans to answer questions about how to practice UX in addition to how to think UX we can increase the number of questions, increase the number of users, and create an environment that is not quite so unwelcoming to new practitioners.

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    +1 More than simply being on-topic, I find these questions to be the most useful ones on the site. One challenge these questions present, though, is how to ensure that the answers remain grounded in evidence. This potential for subjectivity may be why such questions are sometimes closed as off-topic. I prefer to leave them open as long as they're scoped narrowly enough to be answerable. Rather than close such questions, I'd rather downvote unsubstantiated answers instead. – Graham Herrli Feb 3 '15 at 20:22
  • Very well put--I think that it is well within the capability of the community to help to grow these questions in the correct way. Intentional closing and down voting of questions will shape norms constructively – Charles Wesley Feb 3 '15 at 20:28
  • Relevant and timely example: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/19878000#19878000 – Charles Wesley Feb 3 '15 at 20:29
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    Yes totally agree with this. And then you get questions like "why do elevator doors close" getting so many up votes. That's not very useful for me as a UX practitioner. Also it feels like people are asking vague questions like this to get more points frankly. – Wander Feb 9 '15 at 10:34
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For me, the biggest thing for on-topicness is "who would best answer this question?" That's why I find "what word do I use for..." generally falls to the English stack more than here, and the "how do I...in Javascript" falls to Stack Overflow. If the question is uniquely, primarily or best answered by someone in the field of UX, it's probably on topic.

So, hard to draw a clear line. Instead I think it's better to ask when a specific thing is off topic--code implementation, phrasing (to a degree) and icon requests are all things that have come up in the past as being off-topic. If there's a specific area of question that seems common and on the edge of UX expertise, we should have a specific discussion about it.

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In one way, that's the beauty of our community. It's very soft and blurry on the edges, which my UX-me loves and my programmer-me hates. Community members can get away with a well-formulated, slightly off-topic question, just because it's interesting. We lose ourselves in interesting things, rather than determining if its on- or off-topic.

Some say this is bad. Others say it's good. But the majority doesn't really care.

Every action a user performs has a property named User Experience. This is the core of the community. The further away from that core you get, the more likely it should be rated off-topic. Career, Why did X design Y, History, Graphical Representation, and Implementation are in that blurry zone where questions can be either on-topic or off-topic.

Personally I think it's good, and I keep coming back to the blog post Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. It is very close to the issues we face here.

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    +1 very well put. I love this site. – JonH Feb 10 '15 at 13:43
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Where do we draw the line on what is UX?

The UX field is quite fluid in terms of what exactly falls under its banner and it is still evolving. That being said there are some core diciplines that have shaped, continue to shape and contribute to the definition of UX.

Direct contributors:

Design, Interaction design, information architecture.

Indirect contributors:

Psychology, ethnography, sociology...

It seems to me that drawing a clear line of what is UX without actually looking at the scope of the question and its potential ramification and overlap with other disciplines is simply not achievable.

So rather than having a litmus test we could have a more flexible checklist which challenges the questions from different angles as well as from UX skill set point of view ( for example : Design, Interaction design, information architecture) to determine if it falls within the scope of this site.

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