There is a gray area between Programmers & Code Review regarding design reviews.

Code Review's on-topic page explicitly calls out design reviews as off-topic.

However, if your question is not about a particular piece of code and instead is a generally applicable question about …

  • Higher-level architecture and design of software systems

From our on-topic page

Programmers Stack Exchange is a site for professional programmers who are interested in getting expert answers on conceptual questions about software development. If you have a question about...

  • software architecture

It would appear that a design review is on-topic.

But it fails the applicability to programmers in general test, as a design review is essentially too localized.

Please make sure your question uniquely applies to programmers in general

Why do I ask?

Is this proper OO design for C++?

Was recently asked, and in the body of the question it was stated:

From what I've read, design review is on-topic for this site (and off-topic for the Code Review site).

So I'm opening it up here in Meta so we can hash out whether or not design review questions are on-topic for the site.


2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I think that, generally, design review type questions are on-topic. However, the problem is how broad they are. My concern for this type of question is that most of them may be more suited to a discussion environment. I do think that there are good design review questions, but they need to be clear and specific and not soliciting general feedback. Specifically, in the question you linked to, this section has me most concerned over it's viability:

I'm looking for a general review of my OO design, use of UML, and use of C++ features. I especially just want to know if I'm doing anything considerably wrong.


Any sort of feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading this.

I would expect a good design review question to focus on a particular aspect of the design (or the representation of the design, which would also be valid). I'm not sure this particular question does that well. But it's not off-topic, just too broad or unclear.

I think that most (all?) questions that get presented as a design review will be too broad. When you have got it narrowed down far enough, I believe that it will no longer be regarded as a review by the asker. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Mar 3 '14 at 13:47
@BartvanIngenSchenau That may be a true statement. I think that point is that asking about your design is on-topic, but it otherwise needs to meet the other characteristics of good questions (such as not being too broad and providing sufficient information to reduce the valid answer space). – Thomas Owens Mar 3 '14 at 13:49

I prefer to use "and-clause" borrowed and slightly rephrased from Codereview.SE

  1. Does my question contain design? (Please include the design in the question, not a link to it)
  2. Did I write that design?
  3. Is it actual design from a project rather than pseudo-design or example design?
  4. Do I want the design to be good design, (i.e. not design-golfing, obfuscation, or similar)
  5. To the best of my knowledge, does the design work?
  6. Do I want feedback about any or all facets of the design?

If you answered yes to all the above questions, your question is on-topic for design review at Programmers.

Per my reading, question in question passed above clause.

On a more general note, blindly letting questions pass based on bare stamp "design review" wouldn't be a good idea, because there would be no way to verify research effort.

Otherwise, one could just thoughtlessly glue some buzzwords and see how it sticks: "I am considering SOA+ORM+responsive Web UI, any thoughts?" I for one would vote close braindumps like this as unclear what help you need.

Worth noting that, as pointed in comments, #6 may be interpreted as too broad, that is, focusing on specific design concern(s) would be safer.

My only concern is #5 and how that could lead to many answers, none of which can be objectively scored. – Thomas Owens Mar 3 '14 at 15:09
@ThomasOwens good catch, I need to think a bit more about this. First thing that comes to mind is to rephrase "Do I want feedback about any or all facets of the design?" to something like "What facets of my design I want feedback about?" – gnat Mar 3 '14 at 15:26

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