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Why does the title comes after the body when writing / editing a question?

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This might sound silly, but ever since I have written 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 & 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 rember to ever have encounted any posting system (e.g. medium, forums, blogs) that reverses title with body.

Also 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.

Question: Why does the title comes after the body when writing / editing a question?

Why should this post be closed?

2 comments

Can you please add a screenshot showing the behavior you describe? The title seems to come first to me. Sigma 11 days ago

I think you are talking about the order when writing a question, not when viewing. If that is true, you should be more clear about it. Olin Lathrop 11 days ago

3 answers

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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.

3 comments

Just curious, was tag display at bottom of Q (rather than immediately under Title) also your decision? pnuts 11 days ago

@pnuts that was more inertia and less intention. I don't think we explicitly talked about that. Monica Cellio 11 days ago

@MonicaCellio More or less as I suspected :) - and definitely 'no big deal' either way but immediately under the Title makes more sense to me, and can reduce scrolling. Unfortunately there have been times (elsewhere) when Title and body have been totally incomprehensible without sight of the tags. pnuts 10 days ago

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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. I 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, but that is now 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."

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But that's simply not how the thought process works when writing a question. I understand the goal, but trying to force an awkward process on those writing a question isn't the answer. Olin Lathrop 10 days ago

I also disagree that titles shouldn't repeat information in tags. Tags aren't content, and aren't available when all you see is the title. Your Google Sheets is a great example. I would want to know it's about Google Sheets (assuming that's relevant at all) before going into the question. Tags are for categorizing content, not providing content. Put another way, questions should work just as well with the tags covered up. Olin Lathrop 10 days ago

@OlinLathrop There are some insights into thought processes here: https://www.artchain.world/all/how-to-title-your-paintings/ and https://www.standoutbooks.com/choosing-your-title-first/ pnuts 10 days ago

@pnuts: Neither of those links are very relevant because they are about titling things to sell, where marketing and emotional appeal make a difference. Here we want to describe. In any case, I think I understand your thought process, it's just that I disagree with it applied to this site. Olin Lathrop 10 days ago

@OlinLathrop a) since each Q competes with others for attention IMO there is a role for marketing and emotional appeal, or at least something similar. b) from a different Q&A site, but IMO relevant: "Usually, I come here and start writing a question and by the time I've understood my own problem well enough to post a question I have figured it out on my own". c) I do note others appear to find the choice illogical. pnuts 5 days ago

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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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