I think that the design of MSE could be more welcoming to new users. I don't know how much effort it would take and of course that should be considered. My view is as someone who is relatively new to the site, just a few months, and who is relatively active. I am not under the delusion that these ideas could be implemented quickly, but unless efforts are begun they will never happen. The following list is not presented in any particular order and does not pretend to be complete. I should also say that despite what may sound like complaints, what I am presenting here are ideas to improve something that I find very valuable. I'm presenting them now before I become too accepting of the status quo.
- MathJax is an example. The information on using it is generally good but it could use a table of contents with internal links to help users, esp. newcomers, find what they need. The supplementary material presented as comments should be integrated into the main flow and kept up-to-date.
- Policies should be spelled out in one place with a table of contents (and links) for everyone to see. At present one discovers policies randomly in some Meta threads. Some policies are shown in a FAQ page which, for all practical purposes, is hidden.
- We could use a Style Sheet with recommended notation conventions, where there is ambiguity. This "what to" guide would go beyond the MathJax notes, which is primarily a "how to" guide.
- The language used when a question is put on hold or closed could be more considerate. For example the statement that a question is "off-topic" is very off-putting and actually a misnomer in most cases which we may be stuck with. We should explain that in the explanation. And more generally make the explanations kinder. The following response is cold and uninformative.
"This question is missing context or other details: Please improve the question by providing additional context, which ideally includes your thoughts on the problem and any attempts you have made to solve it. This information helps others identify where you have difficulties and helps them write answers appropriate to your experience level."
Moreover, the criteria described above are ignored much more often than they are applied.
- Written criteria for accepting, closing, and deleting a question should be spelled out in one place with a table of contents (and links) for everyone to see. (It could be a special part of Policies.)