At the moment, when asking a question, users are confronted with a relatively complex UI, full of relatively unimportant details but completely lacking features that benefit Skeptics.SE.

This impacts newbies and, by making it complex for them to do the right thing, contributes to creating situations where users write bad questions in good faith that will need to be closed.

That is not fun for anybody.

Analysis of the current UI

Current UI

Let's see what is not working as it should:

  1. The list of related questions on top. First of all, it's on top! It's in the way of doing what one needs to do which is ask a question. To preempt objections - yes I know that we want people to check whether a question exists. Except, it doesn't work.

  2. How to format. Probably not the most important feature for a newbie. Definitely pointless for someone familiar with markdown.

  3. Formatting bar. Again, we really don't care that much about it (it could be less intrusive and something else could use the space).

  4. Non wysiwyg editor. Not cool for non-programmers.

  5. Tags. How is a newbie supposed to be able to tag if he is not familiar with our tags?

Also: can you spot the problem in the figure below? Where is my form?

Too many rows!

Improved UI

Improved UI

These are the changes I propose:

  1. The pointless Questions that may already... block is gone forever, only the block on the right remains.

  2. Compulsory fields for origin and citation make it crystal clear what we are looking for (there could be a bit more explanation, but this is just a version 1 wireframe!)

  3. There's a WYSIWYG editor! Good for newbs, can be change as a user preference with the current one (possibly without the bar in that case!)

  4. Tags are autofilled from the content. "Join" the list of tags with the tokenized version of the question to find possible tag candidates. Tag candidates are never new tags.


3 Answers 3


The list of questions that might already answer the question is important to find duplicates, I would not want to remove that one. It is certainly not perfect, but it works reasonably well in my experience. The huge number of questions you see in your screenshot is a known bug that was reported a while ago, that one obviously wasn't fixed here on Skeptics.

I think the idea to add more Skeptics-specific parts is good, but I would not make it as formal as your sketch. We should make it clearer that we expect a source for notability, but I wouldn't put in an extra field for that. Notability doesn't absolutely have to be some URL, we lose some flexibility if we hardcore it that way.

The WYSIWYG editor would probably be a good idea for the non-programming sites, but that is likely a huge feature request that deserves a post of its own. I would not want to replace the current editor with a WYSIWYG one if it would compromise functionality, and I'm not sure how difficult it would be to create an equivalent WYSIWYG editor to the current Markdown one.

Out tagging is a mess, and I don't see any easy way out of it. We're different from all other sites in this aspect as our topic is everything. We would need a tagging system that can fit the whole world into neat drawers, and that is just extremely difficult. I don't think any automatic system is going to be useful, tagging is a too hard problem for that.

  • We certainly don't need 2 "possible duplicate" lists though (there's one in the right bar as well, which I left).. Also, I think that you need to see this with the eyes of a newbie... For example, our tagging system is a mess, yet the UI expects newbies to be able to choose the right tags...
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 10, 2012 at 22:28
  • @Sklivvz The reason for the second one is AFAIK that the first one can't take tags into account as they haven't been entered yet. And I don't think the sidebar is obvious enough to be useful.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Sep 11, 2012 at 5:53

I agree with most, if not all, of that. In particular, one feature of Stack Exchange that has annoyed me since day 1 is the unchanging edit bar. Its content is relevant on Stack Overflow and other programming-related SEs. But nowhere else. In fact, people routinely abuse the `code` feature for quotation or emphasis. The UI shouldn’t encourage that. Rather, sites should have relevant editing entries, such as a LaTeX button on sites where it applies etc.


Would it be possible to automatically fill the text box with a template for asking a question? I'm imagining something like a checklist, where the user can just delete the item once he has addressed it in his question.

Something like this:

  • Has anyone else asked the same question?
  • Does your question address a notable claim? Please provide a source.
  • Tag the question. Look at the "common tags"
  • Yada, yada

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