Here's a HTML/CSS question. It looks like exactly the sort of thing we traditionally shunt over to stackoverflow.com, and I voted to close for that reason. But I'm having second thoughts.

  1. It seems more basic than most stackoverflow questions. Does stackoverflow still accept questions like this?
  2. I know lots of designers who'd find it interesting, and it's got a pile of answers
  3. It seems like a classic example of the kind of thing where a developer would groan that it's basic-level stuff, and a designer would struggle to figure it out (been there myself) because things like CSS positioning tend not be explained clearly.

Maybe this is the best place for questions that are essentially "I want to make X design but I can't figure out how to do Y in HTML/CSS"?

Then again, we don't want there to be multiple competing sites on the same network doing overlapping types of questions. And maybe it'd look off-puttingly out of place to most designers (the majority don't code).


If we don't want questions like this, where should they go? Someone mentioned stackoverflow.com and someone else mentioned webmasters.SE.

I don't know which (if either) is most suitable. If we're going to forward questions like this on, we should know and be consistent about where we're sending them.


EDIT: Bumping because we just had another of these that turned into a big debate in the comments section... we need a clear line here and a clear reason why: How to keep website divs in place?, image link for those without enough reputation to see it: http://i.stack.imgur.com/49eGz.png

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I think this topic is far too grey for there to be a "clear line" between what should and shouldn't be allowed, but I will put some thought into how I think it should be –  JohnB Sep 3 '13 at 20:38
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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I agree with Alan entirely. If the question is "Help me achieve X result with Y tool," we allow questions where "Y tool" is Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Fireworks, Quark, Inkscape, GIMP, and Publisher, and (while my skin crawls at the thought) we might even accept Word. So why not HTML/CSS? If it's not a code-specific question, I think we should allow it.

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Since it's difficult (or at least inadequate) to discuss web layout and design without touching CSS, I can't say a CSS or HTML question would be wrong on gd.se so long as it related to design. That's the case with your example question, which I upvoted rather than closing.

Artificial topic demarcations are a bit of a pain point for me on SE in general, but GD, which encompasses so many disciplines, seems particularly prone to it. The recent typography.se proposal was an example, and this question exemplifies the unreal attitude that SE topics must always be utterly distinct and separate. The real world has never worked that way, and subjects grounded in the real world will never fit neatly into predefined boxes.

Thirty years ago, typesetting/typography was a separate discipline from design, just as color management (color separations, etc.) was. Both were done by other people than the designer -- people who usually worked for different and highly specialized companies. The web, when it came along, was utterly foreign to designers (and it showed...), and for a decade or so wasn't much on designers' radars.

Both of these conditions have changed. What used to be distinct disciplines are now required skills for a professional graphic designer. Not only that, but distinctions among the disciplines themselves are blurring: e.g., ePub, which is html/css and xml under the hood. Would Scitex codes or LaTeX markup be considered separate from design, when they both are design, inasmuch as you can't design using either without knowing the code?

Questions that pertain only to web coding (the Meyer reset, W3C standards compliance, etc.) and that don't involve specific design issues would not be on-topic here. That's about as far as I would commit.

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Alan's reasoning is right on spot: demarcations are difficult, we face this same issue with other areas like 3D and critique. In both cases, we tend to accept questions as long as they don't fall too far from the on-topic tree ("It's related to design"). It's just simply impossible for SE sites not to overlap (in some cases the lack of alternative spaces help the decision. Blender questions are generally migrated to the Blender site, for example, while other 3D question, if related to design, are allowed in our site).

JohnB & I have been discussing this for a while, and while we think it's difficult to trace a line, there are some guidelines we could consider when making the decision of a question staying or being migrated to SO.

We think our first agreement (according to what has been said here and in chat) should be: HTML/CSS is not necessarily off-topic.

We do however need a second agreement, and we think it could be that there is a (good) existing site for code troubleshooting. Therefore, Code troubleshooting belongs in SO and is off-topic in GD.

Now, what type of HTML/CSS questions should we allow? The formula for our other classical subjects seems to work here as well: Questions that relate to design (a la "How do I achieve this effect using HTML/CSS"). These would be on-topic, as long as they don't fall into the brainstorming category.

Many of us in the site (I can say for sure the Ink Spot geeks especially ;P) have or are currently working with web, so we do have, as a community, the knowledge to potentially answer code-related questions. Since we are not 100% coders, our approach should always try to be that of design and usability.

What do you think?

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It's good, but we need to be careful where we draw the line. "I want to achieve X - how?" and "I'm trying to achieve X, here's what I've tried, it doesn't work" are exactly the same question, except the second one shows more effort; I'm a bit worried that by this rule the first would be okay but the second would be treated as troubleshooting (i.e. good things - effort and showing what you've tried - would effectively be penalised). –  user568458 Sep 4 '13 at 9:34
    
@user568458 Definitely, "I want to achieve X - how?" is not acceptable under any tags. –  Yisela Sep 4 '13 at 9:48
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Per request to add my input I would like to say that the question is off-topic to me. I say that because it is a developer style question and code related. It would always be nice to consider the "design" of the code but as already stated we have some that are clueless about this. That is why I think this type of question would be best answered with the best possible answers on the stackoverflow or webmasters boards.

BUT the fact still exists that BETTER answers to the question and input can be obtained at either Stack or web. GD is for DESIGN.. no?

Now I can see if it relates to a design software but this question is solely code based, as in a developer mentality.

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