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Why does the title come after the body when writing a question?

+11
−2

This might sound silly, but ever since I wrote my first post here, I have noticed that the title comes after the body and I find it quite strange.

Since I have some activity using Stack Exchange (both public and private) I am very used to having the title before the body, so I thought I am way too biased in this direction.

After thinking a little more I realized that I do not remember ever to have encountered any posting system (e.g. medium, forums, blogs) that reverses title with body.

Also I assume that most folks' thought process starts with an idea, a vague question and then it develops into something more, a body that includes a context.

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General comments (2 comments)

3 answers

+13
−1

I made that design decision. If it doesn't work we can of course change it, but the reasoning is pretty much what @pnuts said in another answer. On other sites I've seen a lot of bad titles, ones that didn't match the question that came out at the end of the question body, and I think that's because the mere act of writing a question can change what you thought you were asking as you rubber-duck your problem. I consider myself to be pretty proficient at asking questions and this still happens to me a lot. Being conscientious, I go back and rewrite my title when this happens, but I don't assume that everybody will.

Placement after the body is only upon first posting the question. When editing or, of course, viewing, the title is at the top.

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General comments (5 comments)
+9
−3

It is the logical place for adding it.

Based on experience elsewhere, I have long suspected that thinking up a Title after the body of a Q has been written is likely to lead to better quality Titles. I have been known to scroll down to add a Title first (which I have not found bothersome, though that could be because I write few Qs) but even so I may well change it after I have written the body.

OP wrote "I assume that most folks' thought processes starts with an idea, a vague question and then it develops into something more, a body that includes a context." With the sequence "vague question" > "Title" > "a body that includes a context" it does not surprise me that Titles can leave a lot to be desired.

Springer has advice about Titles (though the context is scientific publications rather than Q&A):

The title of your manuscript is usually the first introduction readers have to your published work. Therefore, you must select a title that grabs attention, accurately describes the contents of your manuscript, and makes people want to read further.

It does seem likely to me to be easier to describe content accurately after such content has been written, not before. A scaled up analogy might help: "What describes a ship better, the plans sent to the yard by the naval architect, or the 'as built' drawings?".

Advice here includes:

the more you repeat the title, the more boring it gets and the more space it wastes

It did not work in this case, but hopefully adding the Title after the body will also sometimes help reduce clutter. In this case the 'thought process' seems to have been: write most of the body, then ask the Q, and finally copy the Q into the Title box (and add tags). The unnecessary repetition is unfortunate, but the actual order of events in this case seems to have been exactly the sequence the current layout seeks to encourage.

Placing the Title box after the body puts it adjacent to tags. This may help improve Titles by reducing tags in Titles and hence make Titles more meaningful without adding to their length.

Originally "Why does the title comes after the body?" (in the body) does not evidence a great deal of care. The incorrect grammar is perhaps something than can't be helped but clearly that this was only intended to refer to Qs does not come across in that version of the Title. OP seems to have found it worthwhile to edit the Title (to include when writing / editing a question, though the / editing part is incorrect).

Here is an example from yesterday from a site where the box for the Title comes first:

Google Sheets: filtering and matching a list treating NON-unique values

It is from a site where [google-sheets] is a tag and a site that actively discourages tags in Titles. Hopefully, if only now and again, some users will realise when going straight from something like the above to choosing a [google-sheets] tag for it (i.e. Title below body) that the Google Sheets: is just a waste of space. The saving might only be a few characters but even these could be useful. That no A has yet been offered there may already indicate the Q is not clear. filtering and matching a list in the Title may make sense when the Title is prepared before writing the body (where FILTER and MATCH functions are shown in a formula). However much less so when the Title is prepared after writing the body, and the body finishes with "I'm starting to think filter and match are the wrong functions to use for this."

One user chose to disclose the order in which they wrote their Q, which was Title, then body. That Title does capture some key aspects of their Q. Something to do with Voting (though not tagged as such) and being not signed in. However, as the body makes clear, Voting when not signed in is actually not possible (so that as the Title is misleading) and the real issue is that failure is silent, to which the Title gives no clue.

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General comments (5 comments)
+4
−9

This has bugged me too. To be clear, we are talking about when you write a question, not how questions are displayed.

When I click on the button to write a new question, the first thing I want to write is the title. I remember the first few times thinking "What the...? Where do I put the title?", then finding it is below the main text edit box for some reason. That's certainly not where I expected to find it.

I think that in all cases I've written questions, I have always scrolled down and entered the title first. Each time I mean to mention it here, but then forget by the time the question is written and posted.

I agree this should be fixed.

Oh, and it shouldn't be called a "summary". It's a title. Call it that. Explaining that it should be a quick summary is a good idea, though.

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