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On new private beta sites, you can't ask a question without first going through an interstitial screen that gives you advice on how to ask during the private beta.

I recently did a micro-study into usability issues for first-time users on Stack Exchange, and one of the most common problems they had was a lack of guidance about what is and isn't on-topic. The main aim of that study was to find ways in which we could reduce the number of tech support questions coming in.

The last attempt we made at doing that was to alter the guidance on the ask a question page itself. My study revealed that doing that was almost certainly entirely useless, as new users didn't read that guidance until after they typed in their question, by which point it was too late.

So here's a new idea. What if we had one of those interstitials that every first-time user had to go through before getting to ask a question? On that page, we could put guidance about what types of questions we can answer, that tech support is off-topic, etc etc. We could also potentially add links to other places where people can get tech support, so that we're not just saying "no thanks, go away" but rather "no thanks, but you can look here".

How about it?

  • Not to be obnoxious and request updates frequently, but is there any movement on seeing if this would be possible? – Andy Jun 5 '16 at 19:17
  • @Andy I haven't asked, actually. I'll do that soonish when I get time. – ArtOfCode Jun 5 '16 at 19:23
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The TL;DR of this answer is: I question how much value it will add. However, I'm not opposed to it - mostly because I wouldn't be hit with it. Selfish? Yes. Potentially quality improving? Also yes.


Let's use the Stack Overflow interstitial as a discussion point (because we, apparently, don't have one for new users which I didn't realize). If it can be customized, we can come up with wording that is helpful for the users that don't skip through though.


Stack Overflow interstitial (SO interstitial)


Current guidelines

(Hardware Recommendations current guidelines)


Above we have the guidelines that Stack Overflow presents to all new users and the guidelines we present to all users when asking a question.

I see a few problems when comparing these two. First, that interstitial is long. There are a lot of words and really not a lot of value, in my opinion. There are five guidelines and we already cover the important ones in far fewer words:

  • Search and Research
  • Be on topic
  • Be specific
  • Make it relevant to others
  • Keep an open mind

Search and Research

We already provide this guideline in our box. The interstitial provides a text box to type into, but I suspect it doesn't do a whole lot to stop posts that are ultimately closed. I haven't found a relevant meta post about that but I did create one.

Be on topic

This seems obvious. We also provide links to our guidelines and hardware we are able to recommend in our box already.

Be specific

Not only do we give this guideline already, this is the only bullet point we have that contains bold formatting.

Make it relevant to others

This is good advice. Our good questions have already managed to do this. The ones we end up closing don't seem to fall foul to this particular bullet though.

Keep an open mind

Again, this is decent advice. We don't seem to have a lot of users going around constantly bumping their question because it wasn't answered though. Instead, the questions are just left unanswered and forgotten.


The current interstitial on SO is shown for users with less than 10 rep. I've taken a look at the closes we've had in the last month.

Question                                            |   Rep     |   Reason
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2661/57     |   141     |   Off Topic
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2736/57     |   95      |   Opinion
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2744/57     |   124     |   Off Topic->Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2743/57     |   124     |   Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2745/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2748/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2749/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2767/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2768/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2763/57     |   131     |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2772/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2770/57     |   6       |   Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2776/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2777/57     |   1       |   Off Topic
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2779/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2783/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2784/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2787/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2785/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2788/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2751/57     |   181     |   Off Topic->Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2793/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2645/57     |   1       |   Unclear
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2654/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2663/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2649/57     |   1       |   Opinion
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2665/57     |   101     |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2666/57     |   101     |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2668/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2673/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2678/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2679/57     |   101     |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2682/57     |   101     |   Off Topic->Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2697/57     |   101     |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2695/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2692/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2701/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2700/57     |   1       |   Off Topic
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2709/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2723/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2722/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2719/57     |   1       |   Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2730/57     |   176     |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2729/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Technical Support
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2728/57     |   101     |   Off Topic->Too Broad
http://hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/2727/57     |   1       |   Off Topic->Too Broad

A vast majority of the closes are from new users (the single rep users and 101 rep users). An interstitial for the brand new users could at least present a more comprehensive explanation of

...avoid asking for technical support

I am still interested in the results of my stats request to see how quickly most users are going through this page, though. Do many users read this, or are they just treating it as a Terms of Service page and clicking "yup, I agree" and moving on to fill out a larger text box.

  • 3
    I'm thinking something not as long as the one on SO; that's too long. We want something that people have to read (or at least see, unlike the current guideline box), with a little more explanation of the various points in the current guidelines – ArtOfCode May 27 '16 at 14:09

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