The on-topic help page and corresponding off-topic help page are pretty vague, lacking a lot of specific things that would cause their question to be closed as off-topic.

That's in direct contrast to the actual "close as off-topic" dialog we get actual, specific reasons that users never get to see:

The close issue as off-topic dialog in UX Stack Exchange

If a user had an implementation question and they weren't sure if it was on-topic for this site, they wouldn't find anything nearly as explicit in the help as the text we see (the word "implementation" doesn't appear anywhere in the help pages), so there's a good chance the first time they find out that it's explicitly off-topic is when their issue gets closed as such.

Similarly, site reviews are called out specifically here, but they're not really listed on the off-topic page.

Ideally, the entire content of each of these points would be copied to the off-topic help page at least.

In theory, yes I would agree that the Off-Topic help page isn't as useful in a specific sense for new users. However, the On-Topic help page is the only one that we can edit - the Off-Topic page you linked to uses global copy. It's exactly the same on all Stack Exchange sites (such as on https://physics.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask or on https://bicycles.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask) and is uneditable by mods. Which does kind of make it difficult to inform users up-front what is specifically off topic here.

  • It seems crazy to me that we can set custom off-topic close reasons but not explain them to users ahead of time (to be honest, I can’t see the point in having a page for on-topic and a separate page for off-topic), but given we have added a section on the on-topic page for the icon suggestions issue, I can’t see why the other two wouldn’t deserve to be listed too. – Kit Grose Oct 9 at 9:44
  • Yeah, it's not ideal. We added the Icon Suggestion part to that page a long time ago specifically because it was the only place we could detail it and we were getting quite a lot of those type of questions at that point. However, since then the TOUR page was introduced that does offer us the ability to detail what IS and ISN'T suitable (albeit only as bullet points) so we can amend those ones. ux.stackexchange.com/tour – JonW Oct 9 at 9:48
  • I would probably suggest that users from other SE sites are unlikely to click to the tour page, even if they’re especially conscientious, but the help section is linked directly beside the add question form, so I think its search needs to pick up any of the things that are likely to get their issue closed if we want to avoid a bad first experience on the site. It would also give us a place to link to from within the close message to make it seem less arbitrary. – Kit Grose Oct 9 at 9:51

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