Many questions boil down to some fundamental usability concepts which are commonly defined around the web, but not necessarily here. For example, "What is affordance?"

Simple enough, but Google isn't hitting UX.SE when someone searches for it. Such questions would certainly pull in traffic -- legit traffic that could bring in newer practitioners looking to grow their knowledge.

How appropriate would "Usability 101" type questions be, and how could they best be phrased to be the most useful in the SE format?

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I sometimes go back and forth on whether or not I think these questions are useful for the site. However, I fear that covering off such basics could lead the site to be thought of as quite simplistic - comparable to Yahoo Answers / Quora in just allowing all sorts of questions.

Stack Exchange sites expect users to have done some research into their problem before posting a question. Taking the help centre article on how to ask a good question:

Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

There are plenty of Usability 101 sites out there already, Stack Exchange shouldn't be 'one of those sites with lots of UX stuff' it should be a repository for specific, unique, useful UX questions and solutions. It's a site for experts, not for early education.

The same way that Stack Overflow isn't thought of as a site for educating people on the basics of programming, or physics.stackexchange isn't for beginners in physics, they are sites for the professional - in a sense, they are professional tools. That means the quality of questions posed are generally high, and as a result they are highly respected sites.

Quality of users, questions and answers is more important that volume. Sure, 101 questions may bring more people to the site, but that doesn't necessarily equate to higher quality (and may even be detrimental in the long run).

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  • "Stack Overflow isn't thought of as a site for educating people on the basics of programming, or physics.stackexchange isn't for beginners in physics, they are sites for the professional" - good point, that's one I didn't have in my original "con" column. – Evil Closet Monkey May 6 '15 at 15:14
  • I agree with this--it would be nice to be in the minds of more people, but most people googling "what is affordance" probably aren't at the level we'd expect to make good questions/answers themselves, so I'm not sure how useful the added traffic would be. – Ben Brocka May 6 '15 at 15:45

I agree to Jon’s answer here in almost every sentence. But even if the question at hand can look trivial to experts, imagine what kind of qualitative answer an expert could give. The one asking could have been searching for a User Experience term, and find various of good and bad answers and really need to verify what this term means, not only in an academic view, but also from and industrial professional view.

So on one hand I think we should be the last line of reference even for those learning User Experience and who aren’t skilled enough yet. On the other hand, I totally agree to Jon’s answer, since we should only allow high quality answers.

We already have a high answering percentage, and adding a few term-explaining questions, would expand the UX community usefulness for those on their way of becoming experts.

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    "imagine what kind of qualitative answer an expert could give" - this point is exactly my line of thinking. Though I do get the concerns expressed by both @JonW and here, hence the question. – Evil Closet Monkey May 6 '15 at 15:13

I'm more interested in drawing people into awareness of UX than in building a towering edifice of deep and narrow questions.

I know that's a minority view but I think a little contrarianism and some dialectic is healthy for any community.

UX is a discipline that is (IMHO) incredibly powerful and can be life changing for people who become aware of it. So while I like the role that SE plays in answering deep and specific questions, I am happy to conflate that with another role it can play in drawing people into the ideas and principles of UX.

As a result I tend to pick questions like the ones you mention because they lend themselves to didactic answers which can accomplish both goals.

I deeply respect those in the community who are willing to answer very narrowly scoped questions, but I'm more selfish than that I guess: I don't fancy being someone's free helpdesk provider... So when I pick questions I try to pick ones where an answer can provide convey broader concepts, even if they are basic ones like affordance.

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