Related, please read as well: Are we so experts to not accept new naive questions? and Are we closing too many questions?

Maybe it's just me, but I get the distinct impression that lately, the amount of questions that go 'how do I do this extremely basic task in program X?' is staggering. I am all for welcoming new users, but the sheer amount and basic-ness of these questions is overwhelming.

Even if these questions were of good quality (most of them aren't), then I agree with the consensus on Are we so experts to not accept new naive questions? that they reflect badly on the site, especially if the front page is loaded with them.

So, I tihnk it's time for the big, unpopular question that we haven't really asked out loud: Is it time to declare these very basic, naïve questions off-topic? If so, how should we handle them, both before and after closing? And: once they are off-topic, how should we prevent the close reason from being overused?

Please note that I'm not sure of my stance myself, yet: I'd really like y'all to chip in with your $0.02, €0,02 or two hundreths of your currency of preference.

  • 6
    If my currency is stronger, am I allowed to chip in 0,01 instead?
    – Yisela
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 15:09
  • I've started a proposal for a Graphic Design Software Support stack, which may solve some of this problem. If you like the idea, please follow it and suggest some questions. area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/86994/… Commented May 4, 2015 at 21:47

10 Answers 10


The biggest problem I see with forbidding extremely basic questions is that "basic" is very subjective. I won't defend these types of low quality questions, but my fear is that forbidding them will cause lots of frustration between both new users and veterans. What one person might consider basic, another might see as not so much.

What I would prefer to be done to handle these type of low effort questions is to close them if they have not shown what they have tried. I am perfectly fine with a "basic" question if they show some reasonable effort towards solving the problem themselves.


In general, I agree with Dom's answer. It is the best example I've seen of an extensive, well researched, well thought-through answer. Thumbs up!

That said, I would like to offer an alternative: an idea that I blattantly stole from Jon Skeet over at stackoverflow.com

Jon is a guru (literally) in C#, and a most valuable member of SO. What he has done in the 6 years on SO is the following:

  • ask a basic question about C#
  • answer it himself and mark it as a 'community wiki'

That way, when new users ask the same question, mods can just use the existing duplicate marker to close the question (instead of broadening the off-topic marker, which I don't really like).

This method can be leveraged to create a kind of 'encyclopedia' of basic knowledge, tips, hints, tricks, how-to's, etc. Other users can contribute to the answers with their own ideas and methods. I think this could make GDSE the go-to, reference site for all things graphic design, much like SO is for coding.

On the other hand, it feels like recreating a lot of great tutorials already out there (as already pointed out by Scott), so is it worth the trouble?

On a related note, whenever I give an answer to a 'basic' question, I try to be elaborate and describe not just the steps, but also the process behind it and why this works. I try to add protip's, alternative ways of doing things and generally elaborate on how it's done.

  • 2
    Great answer, and lots of thanks for chiming in!
    – Vincent
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 9:28
  • 1
    Don't be afraid... Post more. We don't bite around here. :)
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 13:31

Original answer March 13th, 2015.....

I've been giving this some thought.

HomeImprovement.Se doesn't allow "how do I use a hammer?" questions. StackOverflow.com doesn't allow "How do I make an anchor tag?" questions. and so on. We need to elevate the level of questions to maintain the site's usefulness. These basic questions have been answered, for the most part for 20 years on the internet and there's already a plethora of resources to answer these. If GD.SE is simply another corn flake in the bowl there's little value in the site.


Mods need to crack down on this. I know you all are great and generous people and do a good job of letting the community vote or speak out first before taking action most of the time. But we are being overrun, especially overnight in the US, by these utterly basic, help file, 101, software questions. The more they appear on the main page the more users think they are okay to post.

The regulars here aren't in enough numbers to quickly handle any issues like this. So, while most of these poor question do eventually get several close votes it still often takes a Mod to actually close a question. With a small number of non-mod regulars I think the Mods need to "shape the site" in the direction it should be heading rather than the direction it is heading.

This also gives you three more power to decide what is "too basic" and eliminates some of the "decision by committee" aspect, which is a good thing at times.

As for actually dealing with them, well, I'd suggest closing quickly if not just deleting entirely with a comment.

Welcome [user]! Thanks for posting your question. Unfortunately, GraphicDesign.StackExchange.com is not designed to handle issues regarding technical support or basic software education. If you are seeking technical assistance with an application, please try the application manufacture's web site. If you are seeking to learn how to accomplish something within an application, please review the application help files or try an internet search with your question or an internet search for a tutorial. We are confident you will find answers.

(or something like that.)

Even users with 1 rep still see their deleted question and its comments, right? if not, then maybe not delete.

I'd be all for migration as well, but 95% of these aren't even migration-worthy so I think deletion is better.

I listed several recent question in the Are we so experts to not accept new naive questions? thread which I'd be all for simple deletion. Its these types of questions, when asked of Google and immediately hundreds of answers appear that don't really do any good here and may, in fact, do more to degrade GD.SE into a "basic software training ground" site.

It's too bad we can't have something like an in page pop-up on the "Ask Question" page for users with rep less than 10 or 20. (No one reads that right side "how to ask" or "how to format" section.)

This popup would explain that a user should a try to find an answer for software-related questions elsewhere first and warn them that technical support or software training questions of a basic nature may be deleted.

Another thought. What about specific tags used to root out these questions then tag alerts. Like a technical-support tag with an alert that the question may be deleted? Kind of a back-handed way of getting users to self-moderate perhaps?

  • I agree, and will gladly do it. If we agree on it, that is. Because I imagine a considerable number of users coming to the meta to ask why their question was deleted / closed. I know the mods are on board, what about the rest?
    – Yisela
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 19:13
  • In your meta post here, you state that you think this and this question should not belong on our site. Yet, yours is the accepted answer.
    – JohnB
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 22:06
  • 1
    You ask the mods to crack down on questions like this, but I must counter and insist that you do your part as well. Answering questions like that will encourage more to come. If you think a question sucks, downvote and leave a constructive comment. Vote to close if necessary. But you should not be leaving answers for questions that to dot belong on the site and should never be leaving answers on questions you have cast a close vote on. Leaving an answer almost guarantees that the question will remain indefinitely.
    – JohnB
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 22:06
  • Fair point :) ..
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 22:31

Basic questions have been discussed if they should be closed for being too broad. That would take some editing on that particular close reason but I think we should also address the lack of effort shown. By effort I am referring to the difference of someone asking how do I do this and showing a picture should be closed but someone that posts I tried this but my results are not what I imagined might need an edit but shouldn't warrant a close reason.

The other day I closed a question because it had several issues in my mind:

  1. The OP showed no effort and asked how do I replicate X.
  2. The OP asked how to reproduce a known logo.
  3. The OP was unclear if he needed help with a gradient or creating the shape.
  4. After the OP was encouraged to show effort the question was deleted by the OP.

Please dont think this isnt being addressed by your mod team, trust me, we have been discussing it but we are working on coming to an agreement and discussing all outcomes before we brought it to Meta. Since Vincent has brought the topic to light I would like to push, as a community, we discuss possibly editing the too broad close reason to include very introductory and basic questions.

I believe we should close questions that show no effort and are very basic until the OP can make an edit showing effort. We are a professional site, and by professional I mean a level of knowledge is to be expected. We can simply keep pushing to read our FAQs but then if we start addressing the issue it should go away because people are watching, case in point, look at the font questions. We used to get at least, to my mind, ten a day but after we came, addressed and executed the issue went away.

Migration to SuperUser text example:

AI files need to be sent to Corel Draw, but they come out funny on the other end


TL;DR I think we should only close extremely basic questions, and we need to define the meaning of extremely basic as a community.

The four existing answers each address important points.

First off, JohnB's answer highlights the difficulty of drawing a line between what's too basic and what isn't. It is quite difficult, but not impossible.

1. Where do we draw the line for too basic?

Second, Matt's answer highlights the issues with users not even describing what they've tried, which definitely makes the questions even more basic.

Matt suggests closing them until the OP describes what they've tried. I mostly agree with this, except that some questions would be "too basic" to reopen regardless of an included description.

2. Would requiring a description of what's been tried improve the questions enough to stay on our site?

Third, Yisela's answer highlights the fact that actually, these questions aren't strictly about graphic design. This is the most significant point I think.

It ties back in with John's answer, in that it's very difficult to draw the line between what is about design, and what isn't.

3. When is a graphic software question about design, and when is it not?

Fourth, Scott's answer shows that it is affecting the user experience for high rep users, and he is clearly less satisfied with the site due to this.

4. Do we risk losing valuable users if we don't do something about it?

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Too basic to me, is a question that asks how to do something that can be achieved with a single action, or very few simple steps.

    I'd prefer to see a close reason along the lines of:

    GDSE exists to provide assistance for all aspects of the process of designing graphics, but not to document individual actions or describe basic software processes. High quality resources exist across the internet to serve content about software fundamentals and help with localised software issues.

    Perhaps we can create a collection of questions specifically for referring ultra basic questions to. Then with each close someone can add a comment like:

    Hi user, welcome to GDSE! Unfortunately your question has been placed on hold because our format isn't well suited to questions about software fundamentals. There is a plethora of resources on the internet designed for, and dedicated to, serving content about software fundamentals. Our QA format is better suited to questions about more significant graphic design topics, with specific software advice being a secondary benefit volunteered by the experts that use our site. Please check out Where can I learn the basics of [software]? to see external resources recommended by our users.

  2. Encouraging users to include a description of what they've tried, or just elaborating on their question, sometimes reveals that the question is more complex than they originally explained. Other times it leads the OP to keywords they hadn't even tried previously. In most cases, this should help, and may be a better option than just outright closing basic questions immediately.

  3. The software questions that currently exist on the site, and the amazing answers volunteered for them, have transformed my personal technical knowledge. Much of it is invaluable, because there are often bits of answers and comments that explain things that tutorials and official documentation doesn't. I'd be sad to see software questions go in general.

    However, I completely agree that some questions are extremely basic. I'm still tentative towards being against them, for the only reason that sometimes as little as a screenshot alone can save someone 5 minutes of searching (who's unfamiliar with the software interface). But I would advocate closing questions that are asking how to do something that takes a single step/menu option/tool selection.

    On a different note though, perhaps we can encourage more design focused questions by phrasing the software questions less technically.

    For example, How to stroke a path in Adobe Illustrator? could be phrased as How to draw an outline around a shape?

    We could even go a step further, and drop software names from question titles, only focusing on the task. It would still have the software name as a tag, but the title would not be focusing on the software at all. I think the number of software questions would slowly decrease if we did so. At the very least, the perceived volume of basic software questions would decrease.

  4. I think there's a possibility that we've already failed to retain some valuable users due to this. Not directly due to this, but due to not having enough regular interesting/stimulating content.

    However, a lack of regular interesting content is not caused by having too much basic content. I personally think we need to continue to make efforts to grow the regular user base, and should encourage questions on topics identified to be interesting and about design. Critique in particular seems to be quite successful for attracting and retaining new users. I think some other unrelated good questions have been posed from points made in critiques.

Please remember:

  • This entire website is designed to encourage Question Asking

  • The only obvious call to action on the page is Ask Question

  • The new users that ask these kinds of questions are likely to have been searching the internet for an answer. They come across GDSE and see 'Ask Question'. I think we should always try to remember to forgive them for asking a question that doesn't quite fit here. Any one of those users that leaves disgruntled by an unfriendly question close could have become the greatest user/contributor we've ever had here.

    We can still help these people by commenting with a link to the resource they require, which we may be able to find with a simple Google search using keywords they were unaware of. We don't have to be actively hostile towards them just because they're off-topic, we can just encourage these potential users to bring more significant design questions to us in future.


It would seem weird to me to adapt the 'too broad' closing reason for this, because it is somewhat the opposite. Too broad generally describes questions that either have too many possible answers, or a decent answer would be extremely long. Instead, these questions tend to have a single, short answer.

Just my 0.00000002 BTC

  • You might want to put that tl;dr at the top, I almost skipped reading :)
    – Vincent
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 18:51
  • 4
    I would entirely disagree that "new users have likely been searching...". That is clearly not true when Google would present 5-10 immediately answers if they typed their question there. The users that have searched customarily apply more effort to their question and are asking for more than a basic step. I, for one, think SE sites are meant for expert answers to common questions. Many of these basic questions are nowhere near common. They are only asked by users to do not want to learn themselves and are seeking shortcuts.
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 0:15
  • 4
    And yes, I'm completely disenchanted with a site fill of basic Adobe how to questions that are answered int eh first semester of a local high school, local college, or online course. Or even questions answered by using the help files of the application. If that's all this site is going to be, well... I'll be here far less (which may be a benefit to some).
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 0:17
  • @Scott "Expert answers to common questions" sounds like the kind of site I want as well. I need to rethink my answer based on the points you've made. I can't figure out where everybody is saying the line should be drawn. Do we make software questions completely off topic? If so, what happens to the huge portion of our question base that are software questions? Maybe we can apply a custom retroactive close reason to them saying we used to accept software questions but don't any more? Maybe we could even apply a temporary ban, like a quota system? I'll think more on it. More input would help.
    – Dom
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 0:45
  • 2
    Here's my thought -- software questions to solve a design problem = good. Software question on how a tool/feature works = bad. If the question can be answered by the help files, it doesn't belong here. Just my 2¢. We should not be competing with the Adobe forums. If the question belongs there, then it doesn't belong here (for the most part) no matter how much a user wants to avoid the Adobe site.
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 1:18
  • Nice answer Dom. I especially like your comment examples, and I'll definitely be using the first one. I agree, we should have a meta post with all possible comments.
    – Yisela
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 9:43
  • 2
    I agree with @Scott; I think the basic rule should be "Have you searched the help docs? Have you Googled your question?" If I can't find an answer in the first three screens of either search, then it's an appropriate how-to question to ask here. If one is sophisticated enough to be using the Adobe suite, one should understand how to execute a basic keyword search. Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 11:23

I would like to move the focus a little:

I don't think the basic questions are the only problem. It's also that these are not really design questions.

While in beta, we agreed that "How do I do X in software Y" was off-topic, but we needed those to create a user base, to get new questions and answers flowing. Now that we have graduated and are doing very well, I believe perhaps it's time to let them go.

Some of these questions can exist in both places, but the basic ones that are about how to use the software instead of solving a design challenge should be migrated to superuser.

Of course only the good ones. When a question is too low quality to exist anywhere on the network I think we should, as Matt suggests, put them on hold. Comment, request clarification, then if followed migrate.

Alan summarized the scope question quite nicely, I'll copy his answer from this thread:

  • We are not a substitute for Google, WhatTheFont, or an application's
    menus (phrased more tactfully than that, but that in essence).

  • We are not a substitute for tech support. Questions about how to access a particular function in a particular program are not what we're looking for. "How do I save all my open documents at once?" (This is similar to the first point, but perhaps a little more explicit.)

This is from 2011, but I think it still applies.

Related content:

  • I think we would get a lot of issues with migrating all those to SuperUser because they could argue that GD is a better home for those questions.
    – user9447
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 14:17
  • 1
    We should talk to them first, of course. But I don't think there would be issues unless the questions are really poor quality. How to make a double stroke in Illustrator is not a design question. It never has been, it was a compromise.
    – Yisela
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 14:31

Added: March 30, 2015....

I decided to make this a new answer rather than editing my other answer. Several weeks have passed and well, my thoughts have gotten a bit more... errr...... solid (for lack of a better word.)

TL;DR: - We ARE DesignSoftwareSupport.StackExchange.com. That's what this site currently is. When 80%+ of the questions are support questions, we are no longer about "design". If we don't make an effort, there's very little value in the site as it stands, with the exception of searching for answers provided during the beta phase.

We've been discussing this on meta for over a month now in various meta topics.....

I'd ask users to take a moment and stop to examine the primary "Questions" page or home page from time to time.

Stop and count how many questions you see which are truly about design and not asking how some feature of an application works or how to use some application tool.

The number of actual design-related questions is plummeting fast. We effectively are becoming designsoftwaresupport.stackexchange.com.

And by design I mean question related to line, color, shape, space, size, psychology, balance, form, proximity, repetition, contrast, etc. They have been (to me) clearly absent for a few weeks now, if not longer. Sure we may get 1 of these over a two week period which is worded poorly and lacks a great deal of effort. But recently, even that isn't happening.

I don't know what more can be done at the moment. So I will simply continue to down vote and vote to close. But I sort of feel like Sisyphus at this point. My voting counts used to be highly favored to the up vote side. Now, they are relatively close. It won't be long until my down vote numbers surpass my up vote numbers. (not the impression I'd like to give, but what else is there?)

The really ironic thing is that "Community" promotes unanswered questions. And guess which questions go unanswered.. yup.. the "how do I use software" questions. So even "Community" is unwittingly furthering the appearance of a basic design software support stack.

I know all this looks good for the "questions per day" stats and other items, but for me -- I'd rather see good questions than just any question. I'd be all for less activity if the actual activity was more valuable. But I do realize that may be my preference and may not be the preference anyone else.

I've answered my fair share of "My Adobe won't..." questions over the years in many, many online venues, including here. It has never been my goal to just repeat that at a new www. I was sparked and intrigued by a site which may offer actual design knowledge rather than just Adobe/Software how to items. I like a challenge, new methods, new perspectives. I'm sorry to say "how do I use this tool" doesn't offer anything new to anyone but the person asking the question because they are too lazy to ask Google and find the 5,000,000 answers already on the internet.

There's no balance any longer. There's no "design" here. It's all software support unfortunately. How do I use this, How do I make this, Why won't this tool do that.... the questions have become completely novice and beginner questions with clear cut, straight-forward, answers that really aren't geared towards new methods, perspectives, advanced knowledge, or detailed answers. Even looking at answers. It's very rare you see a long, detailed, answer unless it contains 10 screenshots of how to make something very specific because a user asked how.

If we received all the questions in the past year during the beta.. I don't think we would have graduated to be honest. We have great content in beta. Since then.... meh.... occasional glimmers but more mud than pearls.

I'd stress that I never wish to appear to be an elitist and I do not think every question needs to be geared toward advanced knowledge or non-beginners. However, there should be a line. A clear cut line. We all came to agreement over what was and was not acceptable for fontID and critique questions. Surely we can find a common ground as to what is just too basic to allow. If we don't, we'll need new branding for a software support stack, because it surely won't be about design for much longer.

All the above being posted... I will make an effort. I'm not just blowing smoke. I'll try and come up with more design related questions and post them to hopefully have some influence and gain more valuable content. I haven't given up, but it has become clear to me that without concerted effort things will continue to deteriorate.

  • 1
    Stellar input, Scott, and good thing that you're relevealing some hard truths. Thanks.
    – Vincent
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 12:14
  • Honestly, I don't mind lots of questions being software support, as long as they are good, elicit good answers and aren't cookie-cutter. The candy worm question comes to mind.
    – Vincent
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 12:18
  • Eh... even that question is pretty straight-forward support. The difference for me was that I was having fun and playing with it... it became a challenge "can you make gummi worms?" was what I saw rather than "add a gradient to a stroke"
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 17:48
  • I've also noted that I am frequently using up all my available close votes in a day.
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 23:30
  • Is there a way to hide all questions that are tagged with any application-name tag? If done by default, this could eliminate the DesignSoftwareSupport.StackExchange.com questions for almost everyone, except those who opt-in. Yeah, I know that this is most likely not possible from a technical pov, and a crazy idea overall, but the problem is that those questions get asked here because people assume (correctly) that there are many others who work with those apps around. Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 16:08

I have read all the answers and there are pieces to agree with in each. I came here because there are several questions on the forum similar in "quality" and "effort" ans some are put on hold and others are up-voted. The rules and their implementation are arbitrary at best, and often time looks down on people who know less than the people expected to answer questions.

Arbitrariness is manifest in the nature of the rule as well as their implementation. Why must a questioners try, or falsely state that they did, different things before asking a question? If I am blind-folded in a room with one opening, how many times must I hit my head against the wall before I can ask "where is the exit?" As I indicated in the opening the implementation is also arbitrary, some questions are put off limits and others remain floating.

The important issue here is one of "learning." I am all for discovery rather than being told the answer. However, pushing everyone with no guidance, no hints, to hit their head against the wall has never made sense to me at all. I am a professor emeritus, having taught for over 40 years, and have never kicked a student out of my office or class with nonsensical "go try harder and then come back" argument. I asked pointed questions, I tried to show similarities, I referred to a particular chapter in the book, but I provided guidance and inspiration. The prevailing attitude on this forum is quite the contrary, instead of inspiring people to find the answer they are discouraged to ask questions. No wonder many first time visitors may not even come back to find out if there are any answers to their questions. The feeling of superiority and inferiority are quite evident in the somewhat polite "shut up" statements.

If this group is intent on facilitating learning, the attitudes and rules need to be brought in line with that. If, on the other hand, the purpose is to convey "oh, how much I know and how stupid you are" idea, carry on! I have been getting progressively less interested in the dialog on the forum because of this rapid shut down of questions. People ask questions because they do not know. Don't immediately assume they are lazy, prod them, guide them, encourage them, inspire them, but do not shut them up. That is against the tenets of learning.

  • 1
    Unfortunately stakexhange model is not a forum or a teaching platform. I also would not kick a student out but i would kick a expert out for not knowing basic stuff. The site has strict requirements on asked questions, questions by experts to experts. Idea is to make persistently useful answers to that end a good question makes the answer better. Unfortunately there are too few people that moderate for moderation to be consistent. I dont really mind many questions that are closed off. But what can you do democracy is erratic by nature.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 18:22
  • Oh and by the way you can vote questions to not close so if you vote for non-closure then it requires more votes on closing. Also if you find a question worth answering that you think will get closed you can affect policy by answering the question, this automatically triggers a reconsideration in the population. Since there are so few voters you alone can change quite much of the policy on your watch.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 18:28
  • 1
    The fact that this site is "by the experts, for the experts" totally escaped me. Perhaps the way to enforce this is to put up a wall that requires demonstrations of expertise before entering the inner sanctum. Quite frankly, most of the questions I see on this forum are not coming from "experts" who are struggling with a dilemma. At least at that level, it is failing; by allowing know-nothings to ask questions. By the way, I define learning as any overt or covert change in behavior as a result of acquiring new knowledge.
    – user45605
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 1:45
  • Consequently, even the "experts" are "learning" by way of acquiring new knowledge. But, if this is the modus operandi of this forum, I am certainly in the wrong place. So are many others who dare ask "simple" questions. This is precisely the "looking down" attitude I was talking about. Be it!
    – user45605
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 1:47
  • I wanted to learn how this site functioned and visited the help section. Here is what it says: "Anybody can ask a question. Anybody can answer. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top". This is probably why the "by the experts, for the experts" nature eluded me; because it is not mentioned. "Anyone" I took to mean "anyone." Apparently I am mistaken.
    – user45605
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 2:12
  • Anyone can ask but not anything. The idea is not to be a answeing service, the idea is to compile a resource that is self sustaining so no questions need to be asked. I grant you it does not work wery well. By the way i dont see you answering the how to do copypaste questions, so why complain.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 4:33
  • Are we on the same topic: "Should extremely basic 'how to do this in software X' questions be off-topic?"
    – user45605
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 12:14
  • Unless you changed the subject then yes we are. Now the remaining real problem is how do we define extremely basic?
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 12:28
  • Hmmm, I wonder what "i dont see you answering the how to do copypaste questions, so why complain" meant? Why should I be answering how to do copypaste [sic] questions when the topic says something totally different?
    – user45605
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 12:55
  • We are self-decided to cater towards "Graphic Design professionals, students, and enthusiasts". Even if we chose to only serve as a platform for experts, we'd have no way of enforcing it. I agree ACEkin, the rules can seem arbitrary and subjective. But that's the nature of the SE platform, that's why it takes 5 votes to close instead of one. Our scope is going to be subject to opinion, we won't get everyone to agree upon what should and shouldn't be on topic.
    – JohnB
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 12:58
  • In defense of the "show what you've tried" close reason, I feel it helps curb the "tutorial on demand" type questions we see so often. I'm sure we've all seen our fair share of a question with a single image and the user asking how to create an image "like that". This is a poorly written question. Keep in mind that the title text for downvoting states "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful". Essentially, that close reason is a subset of "too broad". I personally do not like it to be used as a "too basic" close reason, rather the opposite.
    – JohnB
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 13:02
  • Copy paste questions are a typical stand in for very low quality questions.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 13:04
  • @JohnB Rewording may have merit. Instead of "show what you have tried" it may be a question that may help the person find a path and discover, like "have you tried using ...?" The idea I am suggesting is "encouraging" discovery rather than "discouraging" it. Even on those questions where the question owner modifies and adds a few things "tried" one can detect fillers being added to avoid being shut out. I realize that many, if not most of the upper echelons of this venue do not share this idea. I am making a last ditch effort to make some to think about them differently.
    – user45605
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 13:13
  • 1
    @joojaa So, I was on topic and I could complain? Thank you, but my confusion persists.
    – user45605
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 13:14
  • 2
    You're not the only member that has voiced frustration towards the ambiguity of that close reason. And we all have once voice, regardless of the echelon we're in. These things should be decided on merit, not by popularity of the person proposing the solution. I would support re-wording it, and I think your idea of encouraging discovery is a fantastic one. A faq post similar to the font-id and critique requirements that guides the user on how to find a starting point.
    – JohnB
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 13:23

I am not in favor of closing what are seemingly basic questions to us.

Here's an example:

Warping an image to the interior of a cylinder

That question is very simple, to me, and possibly to many of you. But the person showed effort and what they attempted. That made it worth answering to me. My time commitment wasn't much and it helped someone else.

I basically look at it like this, did the person asking the question show as much or more effort than I'd have to put in to answering it? If not then it better be a very interesting question to me.

On the other hand there's questions like this:

How to remove border from this coffee cup image when Magic Wand in Photoshop can't?

I didn't initially answer it because they didn't seem to be putting forth effort. Since I saw they were responding to comments and advice though, and again my time commitment wasn't much I then answered it.

Then there's stuff like this one:

How can I create wood text effect in Photoshop?

It doesn't get any response from me. It showed no effort. Brown text doesn't cut it. Any response, such as the one they got, is more effort from the person answering than the person asking.

Summary: Don't close basic question, downvote them. Answer questions when the effort of Question is greater than or equal to the effort of Answer. Or Answer questions you find particularly interesting, or have a particular method of achieving you feel like sharing.

I don't usually vote to close stuff like this though, I downvote.. Close is for off-topic, downvote is for lack of effort.

  • 2
    I'd kind of not call any of those three questions "simple application use" questions. When I think "simple" I think of things like "How to make the marquee tool not have a soft edge" or "How to change the color of the stroke" or "How to save an image as a png" -- Things that aren't so much about creation and are far more about how to use a tool. The questions I listed here are all these types of questions.
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 18:21

I wanted to add the perspective of a new member to this stack, and one who in a big way fell head first into the situation being discussed in this post. I'd like to share 3 pieces of feedback.

  1. It's a pretty common use case to have a question about a Graphic Design tool (like one from the Adobe suite), find the tool listed on the Wikipedia page for Graphic Design as the "industry standard" tool and then conclude that posting your question in the Graphic Design Stack is the right spot to put it. Most people (myself included) assume that if they have a question about a programming tool it goes in Stack Overflow, if they have a question about a power tool it goes in Home Improvement, if they have a question about a math tool, like a calculator, it goes in Mathematics. I'm not saying this is the right thing to do because maybe Graphic Design is different; however, I am saying: it's a pretty darn natural thing to think: graphic design tool = Graphic Design Stack. Choosing to address those use cases by saying they're off-topic doesn't seem like an effective strategy.

  2. As it stands right now I don't think the help page is a source of clarity. It does list topics which are fair game for discussion which is good, but it doesn't sound like the problem is trying to tell the people who are posting about those topics what to post, it sounds like the problem is telling people like me what not to post and in that area it doesn't clearly describe the categories about what not to post. The two bullets I'm referring to are:

but not about:

  • Simple "How to" questions — please search your application's help files first, and do a Google search before posting a question
  • Application Troubleshooting questions or other forms of technical support

The first bullet is confusing because it's saying do not post about simple how to questions, except then it's saying to search your applications help files and google before posting, which is what many people already do before posting a question. Also the fact that it's saying to "search your application's help files" implies that the how to question is about an application, which is generally a piece of software. This leads to the next bullet which is saying do not post application troubleshooting questions or forms of technical support, this bullet alone is pretty clear; however, for a lot of people application troubleshooting ~= technical support ~= application how tos. So when bullet 2 is combined with bullet 1 the overall message could be taken as "don't post questions about software until you have searched google and the documentation" which is the standard operating procedure for posting a regular question.

  1. Also as of right now there are many really well answered questions about software in the Graphic Design stack that come up on google. Many people will search for a graphic design software related question on google and find a similar but different question in the Graphic Design stack and then assume that their similar but different question is fair game for GD. For example, the first hit when you type

"Keyboard shortcut to hide layer"

in google the first hit you get is a GD question about how to hide a layer in Photoshop, when you click on it you find a typical friendly question with upvotes and insightful answers from experienced members and moderators of the forum. So it's a natural assumption (though maybe not the correct one, I'm just saying it's natural) to make that if you have the exact same question except for Illustrator then GD is the right spot. Except then you get blasted with downvotes and told that your question is off-topic because it's asking about software. It's pretty confusing. enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

I don't think the answer is to ban software related questions. Graphic Designers use software to do design every day, people have questions about how to use those tools to do graphic design and the online forum about Graphic Design really seems like it should be the spot to ask those questions. Someone who is exploring color theory might want to know to how effectively use the Color Palette, someone who is learning about line may want to know how to effectively adjust line properties. The fact that some people are saying some software questions are too basic for the stack and it's not an elitist attitude is a tough pill to swallow.

I think the best way to move forward would be to:

  1. Accept that people are going to ask questions about using Graphic Design software in the Graphic Design stack.
  2. Keep the questions that clearly answer a software question. When the question gets repeated, link to it and close it as a repeat question.

This preserves the quality of the stack and addresses the apparent 80% of questions in GD about software.

Another option could be to make a new "Graphic Design Theory" stack, where the other 20% could go to seek refuge. If the title of the stack were "Graphic Design Theory" it would be pretty unambiguous that it is not a place for technical questions about the tools used to do Graphic Design.

  • 1
    If you saw the question "Whats the shortcut for copying text in InDesign?" what would you do? What if you saw on SO the question, "What is the shortcut for copying text in SublimeText2?"
    – Ryan
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 20:49

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