It's rare that there is a single right answer for almost anything in UX, but about one in ten questions asks for the "best," e.g.:

  • What's the best way to implement product comparison on a mobile web site?
  • Best colour scheme to complement Windows no anti-aliasing
  • best methodology to create a war room like environment when the design team is spread across oceans?

Does this bug anyone else? Can we somehow shade people toward asking for "good" answers, rather than thinking that their problems have a single optimal solution?

  • 2
    Is someone getting THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST of Uuuuuuu...X?
    – Ben Brocka
    Jan 11 '12 at 21:01
  • 2
    "What's the best way to discourage users asking for the best..." :)
    – msanford
    Jan 13 '12 at 20:38
  • I guess promoting these best questions on @stackux is not the way to go :P
    – Jeroen
    Jan 15 '12 at 17:37
  • @Jeroen Tell me about it... Jan 15 '12 at 21:10
  • Ah that's a good meta question. Too bad the answers indicate that SE's Twitter setup is not going to help in removing BEST from question titles.
    – Jeroen
    Jan 15 '12 at 21:32
  • 2
    What's wrong with asking for the "best practice"? Feb 21 '12 at 17:29
  • @firedrawndagger, it's very rare that there is a single best practice. UX is inherently context-dependent, and rarely do the questions contain the entire context. It's like asking, "what's the best food to eat?" Feb 21 '12 at 19:33

The most important thing to remember about a question is that it needs to be written in a way that it will be useful to other people in the future. What do people search for on Google and within the UX site when they're looking for a solution to their problem? What do experts who are looking to answer questions in their field of expertise look for in questions? Does it include the word "best" or is that word just fluff?

If it's just fluff, we can edit the word out of the question:

  • How should I implement product comparisons on a mobile web site?
  • Which colour scheme complements Windows without anti-aliasing? (this one needs more work)
  • How do I create a war room-like environment when the design team is spread out?

In these cases the question is still communicating the stated problem but without the qualifier. I think it works, but I'm wary of just going around changing question titles like that because I don't know what impact it might have. Instead I tend to duck into the question and lay down a comment to the OP asking for clarification where necessary. Sometimes, they're not actually looking for "the best", but it's just the way they phrased the question when it came to them and they didn't bother thinking about all the things we tend to think about because we spend far too much time on this website as it is.

So ultimately, here's what you can do:

  • Ask people to clarify the nature of their question
  • Reword the question to remove the qualifier if it isn't necessary or doesn't add anything
  • Keep the usability of the question phrasing to future users in mind
  • I'm wondering if there is something we can do at the time the question is asked. Similar to the "possible duplicates" logic, which slants people away from asking previously-asked questions. Jan 10 '12 at 16:33
  • @Alex Good thought, but I think it's a case of using software to solve a people problem. Use of the word "best" is a red flag that indicates the question will need some polishing by people who know how to draw out a good question, as Roger mentioned. Jan 10 '12 at 19:11

What does best mean? - From the OP's point of view it typically means the most practical solution that can be determined by anyone answering the question and which considers lots of associated factors that I hadn't thought of, while being within the scope of possible implementation given all my unmentioned constraints and is compatible with the skills of myself and my team, as well as taking into account cost/benefit, ROI, business rules, and a very hands-on boss.

And that's why we can't provide the best answer. Our definition of best isn't the same as the OP's definition of best. We don't have the same objectives and we definitely don't have the same environment, conditions, and constraints.

We can't extract a great ux.se compatible question out of every OP's question, but where there's a really good question hidden under the surface, definitely we should expose it, massage it and give it an answer such that the next reader that comes along can see that the question's meaning of best aligns with the answer's meaning of best.

We have to choose our battles and polish the nuggets we find in the dirt, not to mention mixing up our metaphors where needed.

  • I agree with your statements, but it's not an answer to the question. Sep 28 '12 at 15:57

You can edit the phrasing of questions or their titles. I think it's especially a problem with question titles and I think it's in part driving our surge of "It Depends" answers. If something can be reworded but still makes logical sense (and is searchable) feel free to edit/suggest an edit.

Questions should focus on something answerable; we can answer "how do I know what to do here?" by explaining what's important and how you determine what the best thing to do might be. If you just say "What's the best thing to do here" well we don't really know.

As a side note, please don't reply "It Depends" even if a title is begging for it. We know it depends, tell us what it depends on and why.


"Can we somehow shade people" - I dont think this should ever be the attitude.

The person asking this question almost certainly smart enuf to know that there is no single best answer. They are using the word best as a short hand for:

"I acknowledged that there are a complex interplay of forces on this desine please can a verity of people with differing view points and experiences describe some possible good solutions and explain why they would chose a particular resolution of those forces would be in this particular case"

Im not convinced it would improve the readability of the question to write this in stead!

I can see that its very annoying if you reed a lot of questions on a stack exchange to keep hearing the same repetitive phrases.

As others have stated you can edit the question if you feel you can make the question read better. Perhaps we could make the site highlight repetertive phrases in question titles at the point the user creates the question and suggest that they may like to reword the text to miss out certain fluff words.

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