the-loop November 19, 2020

The Loop: Adding review guidance to the help center

While working on the review queues project, the Public Platform team saw an opportunity to improve the help center and create a space for more canonical articles about reviewing. By adding new, specific review queue help pages, the help center could become a more accessible and useful resource to all of our users.
Avatar for Lisa Park
Product Designer

While working on the review queues project, the Public Platform team saw an opportunity to improve the help center and create a space for more canonical articles about reviewing. Previously, most of this information could only be found across a number of posts on Meta Stack Exchange (MSE). These posts were not easily discoverable and often contained more detailed information than the beginner or average user needed. By adding new, specific review queue help pages, the help center could become a more accessible and useful resource to all of our users. 

Inspiration strikes

As part of the Community Q4 2020 roadmap, we’ve been actively working on improving the review queues on Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange sites. Earlier in this year, we performed user research to inform some initial designs and shared our progress with the community for feedback. A number of responses suggested that the review queues could benefit greatly by providing users better guidance on how to effectively review in each queue. 

Additionally, we found that review suspension messages provided varying lengths of information or guidance. This inconsistency made it difficult for users to learn about what they did wrong and how they could improve in the future. 

With these issues in mind, we were inspired to utilize the help center and ensure that our users had a consistent source to cite for necessary information. 

Missing pages in the help center

The help center is where you can find information about the basic inner workings of the Stack Exchange sites. In the help center, you’ll find the Code of Conduct, information about reputation, and how to ask a good question. But before the review queues project, specific information about what the review queues were and how to use them was sparse, was in dire need of updates (the “access review queues” privilege page hadn’t been updated since 2013 😱 ), and was primarily found on MSE and Meta Stack Overflow (MSO).

When we began drafting the new review queue help pages, there was no better place to start than the community FAQs on MSE and MSO. We used those posts along with our internal knowledge to boil down the information into an easy-to-read guide with the most essential points for performing reviews. We also made sure to link to related help center articles and the FAQs for users who wanted more information. 

Taking it back to the community

Reviewing is all about community moderation and effort, so it was only fitting to ask our community to review our drafts. We shared a total of eight drafts between Meta Stack Overflow and Meta Stack Exchange. Each post was open to solicit feedback, particularly from the experts themselves: the reviewers and moderators. Collaborating with the community resulted in invaluable feedback that we used to determine what information we may have missed or miswritten. We then adjusted the content and on November 11th, published the pages for everyone to use.

What’s next

This project resulted in a total of nine new help center pages—one for each of the eight review queues and one general reviewing guide. Like asking and answering a question, we believe reviewing is an important aspect of our site, so we created dedicated space in the help center to house review queue help pages. These articles are now viewable and available as one review queues group.

As we make more progress with this project, we will continue to make edits and updates to the help center pages since many of the upcoming changes will impact the review workflow. These new help center pages are also included in the message templates implemented as part of the review suspensions moderator UX release, directing struggling reviewers to additional help and guidance.

As mentioned, we intend on keeping the existing community FAQs as additional sources for information. By directing users to the help center, we hope that Meta can better focus on specific questions and provide supplementary information and discussion.

Thank you to everyone who helped with this endeavor: Catija, Yaakov Ellis, Des Darilek, Anita Taylor,  JNat, and Nicolas Chabanovsky. We’d also like to extend a special thanks to the community for working with us. We hope to have more opportunities to collaborate in the future.

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