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So the SO-Team took the minimalistic approach (Inspired by SO-Site Bar (Minimalistic)?) and implemented some "cubicons" (Is that a word?) representing each of the four so-sites. Next step, duplicate them at the top of the layout, so I don't have to scroll past a wall of questions just to find a link to Meta :)

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You will end up with non-linked cubicons (btw Google shows 582,000 hits). – Ladybug Killer Aug 11 '09 at 13:14
Sorry, John. I don't follow. Why would I end up with non-linked cubicons? As long as the href="" is there, all is well, no? – Sampson Aug 11 '09 at 13:18
All those pipes are gone – random Aug 11 '09 at 13:33
The cubicons are not linked at the bottom of the page, the search icon is not linked. The envelope is the exception to the rule. – Ladybug Killer Aug 11 '09 at 13:41
up vote 5 down vote accepted

You're doing it wrong. You're either supposed to have all these sites already bookmarked, or you're supposed to have your fingers trained to type it out faster than you can get to it via mouse click.

Or you can write a greasemonkey script that will take the entry Ctrl + Y + Ins + F8 and immediately take you to Meta.

Edit Cubicons would imply three dimensions. What you are looking at are Squares or Squaricons.

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I firmly believe they are three-dimensional...they're just oriented in a way that makes you think otherwise ;) – Sampson Aug 11 '09 at 13:17
@Jonathan Sampson: I disagree. They're obviously hypercubicons, but we can only see one face of one cell. – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Aug 11 '09 at 13:20
@Pesto...oh, wait, I think I see what you're saying.... :) – Sampson Aug 11 '09 at 13:25
They're not even really technically icons - they're actually characters ■ – Kyle Cronin Aug 11 '09 at 15:05
Three-dimensional characters....Kyle? :) – Sampson Aug 11 '09 at 18:23
They are time cubes. Anything else would be evil. – Andrew Grimm Jan 11 '10 at 2:35

Little square unannotated icons are incredibly user unfriendly. I am offended that you would even consider suggesting something like this.

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What if they have useful tooltips? And when you aren't hovering over them, there's a huge blinking arrow pointing toward them with the text "THESE ARE USEFUL LINKS"? – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Aug 11 '09 at 13:27
We talking about icons that are expressed in the context of sister sites. It take a whole two seconds to figure that out. Consider your audience - the same audience that buys binary-clocks. – Sampson Aug 11 '09 at 13:27
The context around a binary clock is simpler than the context around associating a coloured box with a website. I don't currently associate orange with SO, red with SF, cyan with SU and grey with Meta. While I might in the future, remembering something arbitrary like that is making me think, which seems very, very contrary to everything this family of sites represents. – JSONBog Aug 11 '09 at 13:31
Indeed. I thought the original greasemonkey idea was pretty stupid. At least what the team did in the footer is a bit better. But just supplying colored squares? Hell no. – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 13:37
When Welbog thinks, people die. – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Aug 11 '09 at 13:37
Making users think is a great way of making sure they never use your product. – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 13:39
Just because there are a lot of you doesn't mean you're not all wrong. – JSONBog Aug 11 '09 at 13:41
@Jonathon: What? I can't quite hear you. My greasemonkey script is still set to ignore. – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 13:42
Minimalism isn't a good excuse to reduce usability. You're basically saying it's OK for programmers to make the #1 programming mistake (lack of usability) because the site is used by programmers. I can't believe you would suggest something like that. If anything, we ought to make sure SO is the most usable site ever simply because it's a place people go to learn to not make mistakes like this. Lead by example, Sampson. – JSONBog Aug 11 '09 at 13:46
To cover me claiming that usability is the #1 mistake: you realize there are people in the world who hate programmers because of things like this, right? It may not be a programming mistake per se but it's what end users notice the most, complain about the most and hate programmers for the most. – JSONBog Aug 11 '09 at 13:47
IMO, this is a boost in usability. Sure, they're unfriendly to novice users, but they are very friendly for power users. Novices can, and most likely would, safely ignore them. – Rob Allen Aug 11 '09 at 13:55
This comment thread has been nothing but a subliminal ploy for you to all buy more binary clocks. And those squares ignore the colour-blind or those unable to differentiate between two similiar hues, as mentioned here: - binary clocks, pfft, hex clocks are the real deal. – random Aug 11 '09 at 13:59
@Sampson: Your suggestion is still awful. The icons should have shapes and/or words for easy differentiation, good titles for screen readers. Colour-to-site relationships are a bad idea. Every site has a logo, so why not use those instead? The logos are already associated with the sites, so there's no learning curve. The logos are shaped differently so colourblind users can use them. (Except meta's logo. That will have to be changed.) – JSONBog Aug 11 '09 at 14:04
@Welbog - that's a good evolution of the mini-icon concept. I agree the color associations could be an issue. I would support a logo-based icon solution once the meta logo gets some differentiation. – Rob Allen Aug 11 '09 at 14:06
The true reward comes with installing the script and then not putting any users in its list. So it's always there, carefully ignoring no one. When i'm feeling down, doubting myself, i can then point my cursor at that little Greasemonkey icon and say to myself, "See? TOLERANT AND ACCEPTING OF OTHERS! GOOD!!!" – Shog9 Aug 11 '09 at 14:19

Here is an update to your script that uses the same order and colors as the team's approach:

      .prepend('<span class="link-separator"> | </span>')
      .prepend("<a href='' style='position:relative;top:1px;display:inline-block;width:10px;height:10px;background:#444;margin-right:1px;' title='Blog'><span style='display:none'>blog</span></a>")
      .prepend("<a href='' style='position:relative;top:1px;display:inline-block;width:10px;height:10px;background:#969696;margin-right:7px;' title='Meta'><span style='display:none'>meta.stackoverflow</span></a>")
      .prepend("<a href='' style='position:relative;top:1px;display:inline-block;width:10px;height:10px;background:#00AFEF;margin-right:7px' title='Super User'><span style='display:none'>superuser</span></a>")
      .prepend("<a href='' style='position:relative;top:1px;display:inline-block;width:10px;height:10px;background:#E8272C;margin-right:7px' title='Server Fault'><span style='display:none'>serverfault</span></a>")
      .prepend("<a href='' style='position:relative;top:1px;display:inline-block;width:10px;height:10px;background:#FE7A15;margin-right:7px' title='Stack Overflow'><span style='display:none'>stackoverflow</span></a>")
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