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I've noticed a good amount of our downvoted, closed and migrated questions tend to be of the "Please suggest an icon/color/ect" variety (such as this recent example), where people don't have an explicit question, but rather want some ideas on what to do.

They're not all bad questions, and some of them can be rewritten to be on topic of a specific but not personal UX issue, but I see them fairly often and almost always with a downvote or [closed] tag. Should we include a blurb about "Suggest" questions in the FAQ? I noticed there's nothing explicit about them in the "What Makes a Good Question" section.

I think it's inevitable that a UX site would get a lot of these so I think formally addressing them would be ideal; a lot of people designing products tend to be thinking "How should I do this" when our answers are really "Why should you do this," and the question should be formed in that frame of mind.

  • FYI, I migrated the icon question because it would be better served by graphic designers, not because the person wanted ideas. – Rahul Sep 6 '11 at 13:30
  • I know, but I've seen a lot of questions like this and they always tend to be of this sort; "suggest icons" is a pretty common one – Ben Brocka Sep 6 '11 at 13:34
  • can you cite a few more examples? Only one is hard to get a handle on. – Jeff Atwood Sep 9 '11 at 19:28
  • I searched for "closed:1 suggest" any only found two, I could have sworn I've seen half a dozen in a weeks time, maybe the questions' titles were changed. Either way it doesn't look to be as big an issue as I thought at the time. – Ben Brocka Sep 9 '11 at 19:37
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I would agree that a comment in the FAQ should be made to discourage them. I think I would rather see questions that were asking "How can I know when I have the correct icon/colour/shape/whatever" rather than "Please save me looking up possibilities and point me to the right places". I think there are better places for specific advice, and the responses from a UX community are liable to be "It depends on your precise environment".

More general advice on how to know when you have it right is, I think, a better approach, and will make the questions a better resource longer term. And it means that those involved will be able to make better decisions, knowing their specific environment. The more I work on HCI topics, the more I think that understanding principles is far more important than getting specific answers to certain questions, becasue they are rarely transferreable.

  • I think they are discouraged in the FAQ with "avoid asking subjective questions". But people seem to disagree. – Phil Sep 7 '11 at 6:11
  • I am not sure that they are strictly "subjective" - they are but then a lot of UX is. The problem is that they are very specialist - you need too much information about the situation to give proper answers. – Schroedingers Cat Sep 7 '11 at 18:23
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I don't think these questions belong here. From an UX standpoint it's pretty clear that icons don't really help (except in some rare cases). I tried to explain how such a questions could be asked to meet the requirements my comment here, but it doesn't seem to have worked. In addition these questions don't meet the "avoid asking subjective questions" rule because there isn't any research on how good a specific icon works (again, with exceptions) so it comes down to getting design ideas for something that has very little to none impact on UX. The honest answer to all those questions would be: Make it look nice and be sure to have a label next to it so people actually understand it.

In addition I think it's strange that the questions are treated differently: Some get closed, some get migrated, some just stay here.

  • On the contrary, there's a whole field of study on icons en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semiotics . There's usually nothing as very specific as people tend to want though. I meant more about the "Suggest X" topics, not just the "give me an icon" question, though they tend to be the same questions admittantly. – Ben Brocka Sep 7 '11 at 13:07

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