I really like the idea of the (probable) future introduction of "General reference" flag. Especially the last note is gold:

Allow your Q&A community to fill itself with enough “General Reference” type questions and you’ll soon find no experts there at all.

I think the issue needs some clarifications before it can be used in our FAQ. The flowchart in the blog post is useful and good tool to quickly decide if a question is too simple or not. However, I don't think a flowchart is really new-user-friendly and would be more effective with some examples or at least different wording to make it seem like it is targeted at the (Graphic) Design SE rather than at any Stack Exchange site.

Side note:

Furthermore the issue is not only having "too simple" questions but also "too simple" answers. I have seen many quite fundamental and 101–style questions been asked in Photography SE, but the quality of the answers have made the whole Q & A more interesting.

For example: What does f-stop mean?—see the interstellar difference between the most–voted and least–voted answer. If the possible "General reference" questions are populated with LMGTFY-answers and quick link storms, the answers make the question too simple. If a wandering expert visits the site and sees simple questions but expert answers, heshe would find the community interesting.

Do we have enough expertise to answer these general reference questions in an interesting manner? Or should we wait the community to grow?

Some questions still are too simple. And this meta-question is about them.

How we should indicate that "How can I add drop shadow to my logo" is too simple but still courage people to ask a wide range of questions? Try not to ask anything that could be in your product's manual or Ask anything that wouldn't fit an introductory course of graphic design?

What about "What exactly are ligatures?" Most probably any designer has seen the term and has at least shallow knowledge of what it means. It is the same kind of a question like "What does f-stop mean?" at Photo.SE—it can be answered interestingly if the answerer sees it as a wider question than just a request for googling the term. The last point in the flowchart would either close this question as "General reference" or be answered with a high-rep answer.

Should we also discourage too simple answers? And how should we address that?

Sane answer is "let the community decide", but the FAQ is for new users who necessarily haven't got the grasp of the ethos in the community. And it would lead to a better user experience if the new user understands that hishers question might be too simple for this community than it would be to see the question to just float around without any answers or to see the question be closed completely.

5 Answers 5


There is some guidance at



the interesting question decision tree flowchart

  • I tried to ask how should we word out the flowchart for the FAQ inclusion and whether we should implement it in the first place. I also tried to point out that answers can be "too simple" as well. However, it is good to have the flowchart visible on this very Q&A page—for general reference. Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 13:51
  • Commenting to promote this answer as it seems VERY fitting lately. Can "General References" be added to closing reasons at GD.SE???
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 6:44

Now that I have a few weeks experience with the site, I can offer my two cents on this point as a contributor and as an instructor.

The problem with "too simple" is that, to someone who doesn't know the answer, almost anything may seem utterly baffling and complex. Many people can't navigate a Help system, not because they're lazy or stupid, but because the don't know what to search for. In professional design applications, even experience users can have problems. If you don't know that a morph in Flash is called a Shape Tween, you can search the Help all week and never find your answer, and don't get me started on ActionScript. InDesign's terminology isn't the same as Quark's, so an old Quark hand in the throes of converting to ID can have a hard time. I've bailed out enough of them to know just how hard.

On the other hand, if a very new user is trying to use the forum as a substitute for learning the basics, and we should gently but firmly direct them to the right learning resources. This happens in listservs, too, where once in a while some new user pops up who asks every question of the list first, never bothering to look at the menus or the application help. It's annoying, and would annoy our potential contributors, too. Perhaps the faq could include something to the effect that "The idea is not to replace or replicate the many excellent learning resources that already exist for design applications."

Seemingly over-simple questions quite often have behind them some kind of misconception or failure to grasp a more basic concept. When you discover what that missing element is, you can change the course of a career or a life, an incredibly fulfilling experience for a teacher.

  • "Seemingly over-simple questions quite often have behind them some kind of misconception or failure to grasp a more basic concept." BINGO. Likewise, I find that those closing questions often have "some kind of misconception or failure to grasp a more basic concept."
    – user179700
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 7:14

We should allow all questions as long as they are within our scope. It is up to us as individuals to decide whether or not we'll answer a question. Besides "simple" is a relative term.

For instance, on stackoverflow I've asked some pretty basic questions from an "elite programmer's" point of view. But from my point of view it was really difficult. But because I asked, I know how to do it now, and if anyone else ever has the same question, they may find it there.

With that said, I think we should not allow us to have multiple questions about the same thing. As long as a question is fresh and related to this site, we should give it a chance.


Should we also discourage too simple answers? And how should we address that?


Some questions still are too simple.

And, as long as the question is within the scope of the stack site, I disagree with your statement.

For two reasons:

  1. The answer would affect the scope of all graphic designers, from beginner to expert.
  2. The question can be contributed to by most users.

This is a win-win situation. Since many users are contributing, you get a wide array of answers with supplementary reasoning behind each of them. Due to the nature of stackexchange sites, the most agreed upon, detailed answer will be chosen. This is beneficial to people of all levels. "Why?" You may be asking. Because of the following reasons:

  • Beginner's will learn something, obviously
  • More advanced people within the craft may know how, but not the "best how" way of doing the thing outlined in the question/answer. Now, if stackexchange works how it is supposed to (and usually does), they have a communtiy-agreed-upon best way of doing something with the reasoning behind it.
  • The answer will provide a clear, detailed way for those who read it to explain to those who have not, either verbally by recollecting what they have learned or by simply forwarding the link to their colleagues.

The main thing about stackexchange sites is that they are a compendium of knowledge. In fact, it almost would not make sense if I could not find how to bake a chicken in cooking.stackexchange and how to get a counter in an xsl foreach loop in stackoverflow. Both useful, within the scope, but arguably simple to those who have a small amount of experience in each of those skill sets.

What must be done in order to keep these simple questions useful and unspammy is make sure to delete duplicate questions and "thanks!"-type answers from occasional/guest users - a form of administration that stackexchange excels at and we all enjoy participating in.

...the quality of the answers have made the whole Q & A more interesting.

And that's the best part!

  • There are a few questions which are just too simple, stuff like "What is Graphic Design?", etc... We should allow for simple questions, yes, but there is a point at which we should just not allow it... Commented Mar 2, 2011 at 20:02
  • It can be argued that "What is Graphic Design?" is out of scope. This is a place for questions on creating and completing tasks within graphic design. For example "What is programming?" would be closed in Stackoverflow for being out of scope, as would "How do I use an oven?" in baking.stackexchange (to keep up with my example sites). Trust me... simple questions that are out of scope (or duplicates) get weeded out quickly.
    – AndrewKS
    Commented Mar 2, 2011 at 22:48
  • 1
    Asking "What is Graphic Design?" would not be out of scope, but it would be too open-ended and subjective to be reasonably answered. @Jaips question about graphic design trends still remains unanswered after being on the site for over a month. @Pearsonartphoto: I wouldn't consider either of those questions to be simple except in sentence structure. They are very hard to answer and tend to go unanswered. I think "simple questions" in this context is more like "How I do I add a drop shadow to this piece of text in Photoshop?", stuff that would be easily answered in the app's docs. Commented Mar 9, 2011 at 14:15
  • @Philip Why shouldn't 'What is Graphic Design' not be a community Wiki with a few paragraphs and external links?
    – user179700
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 7:17
  • @user179700: Community wiki really isn't a way to get around the "overly broad" question issue; the question would still be too broad for SE. Even if it did, I don't think making a question like "What it Graphic Design?" community wiki is going to increase its chances of a actually getting an answer either. Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 13:01

I wasn't sure if this should be a separate question or an answer to this discussion-question. So it's duplicated here. I won't cry if one or the other gets closed/deleted...

It had never occurred to me until reading this question that a question could be considered too simple. The arguments for weeding out overly simplistic questions are compelling, but how simple is too simple for this site?


This question: Illustrator - 5 cm bleeds somehow?

My gut reaction was to answer the question (and I did). After being reading about the types of questions that don't attract experts, this seems to fit the criteria.


Is it too simple?

  1. Questioner asks about a specific feature of a specific computer program.
  2. Questioner acknowledges that they are aware of the program's limitation.
  3. Questioner does not indicate interest in the relevant design concept.

How should it be handled?

  1. Should the question be given a detailed answer as-is?
  2. Should the question be edited to make it about the design concept instead of an arbitrary shortcoming of an application? (And, consequently, be given detailed answers pertaining to the overarching concept.)
  3. Should the question be flagged for closing as off-topic?

So... where do we draw the line?

  • Here's another one: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/1774/… The question is essentially "how do I make my graphic have a darker color". That's not even about graphic design, really, it's about "how do I click a different paint in the palette in Photoshop". Definitely not the type of question to attract "experts" (if that's the goal of this site).
    – Farray
    Commented Apr 23, 2011 at 19:55
  • I would suggest that skills which overlaps occupations (graphic arts and pre-press are likely to always be advanced topics). The question was not even so much, ‘what is a bleed’ as it was more, ‘how do I meet this outside requirement’.
    – user179700
    Commented Aug 13, 2011 at 7:25

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