Keeping site preferences on a per user basis may consume a lot of resources, but I would like to know how exactly the staff behind SE sees this. Currently, apart from favourite/ignored tags there are no options to customize your personal experience on SE sites.

On the one hand, I am impressed that such a big web application can go without settings, but on the other hand such a web application may benefit from them greatly.

I ask this question because there have been discussions about feature requests before that some people liked, but others didn't. Some of these could have been implemented as preferences.

For example, whatever the tab key does in the editor when asking/writing a question: some users prefer the default behaviour, others may want it to insert 4 spaces.

I like the fact that great effort is put into finding the best settings for the majority of users, but eventually it's impossible to suit everyone's tastes.

What are your opinions on individual preferences?

  • The general response to that has always been "we don't do user preferences", even leading to this suggestion: Eliminate the preferences tab in the user profile
    – Bart
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:21
  • @Bart I had a feeling about that yes, but what are the reasons behind it?
    – MarioDS
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:23
  • The second proposal you linked to isn't exactly the most important one available. I doubt it's worth wasting the DB space necessary to have everyone's preference so you've got one thing... for which you can press ctrl+k or click the {} button instead so it's not exactly needed; let alone the confusion it would bring removing the basic method in which all browsers work. Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:25
  • @benisuǝqbackwards I removed it but surely there are a lot more examples.
    – MarioDS
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:29
  • I personally haven't felt the need for more settings on Stack Overflow so far. I'm rather happy that there are none for me to think about. Until now, there's been nothing that impeded my experience so badly that I'd feel the need for a setting - and a lot of the smaller PITAs can be fixed through userscripts if you feel strongly about them
    – Pekka
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:31
  • @MarioDeSchaepmeester I would not be surprised if the main motivation is simplicity.
    – Bart
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:33
  • @Bart great minds think alike, I didn't see that comment before starting to write my answer! :) Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:35
  • @Pekka웃 I agree that user scripts are a solution to some things, but not everyone knows how to use them.
    – MarioDS
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:48
  • What preferences should we support? And it's cheating to pick editor enhancements; we're not trying to compete with notepad++/nano/vi/vim/emacs/your IDE of choice.
    – djechlin
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 13:19

1 Answer 1


Stack Overflow is simple by design. Questions and Answers and nothing beyond that.

Starting to add skins, templates, preferences and rainbows will just clutter the design and scare off the people who came to know and appreciate the simplicity of the site.

I think it started as personal preference of Jeff who simply dislike preferences but over time it became part of Stack Overflow.

Just my $0.02 of course, nothing official in this answer.

  • But... rainbows...
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:36
  • I'm not sure if it will "scare anyone off". All users get presented the same default view. Only when they create accounts and actually join the site will they find the preferences.
    – Mysticial
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:36
  • @animuson - we did retain unicorns.
    – Oded
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:37
  • @Mysticial it will be like never ending winter bash: the regulars will start messing around with the options and while some will appreciate the change I think many won't. Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:40
  • @ShaWizDowArd Winter bash had externally visible settings. So I'm not in favor of that. But I'd be in favor of user-only visible settings such as skins and color schemes. The only argument that I buy into the current "no preferences" position, is that it keeps things simple for the dev guys.
    – Mysticial
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 12:42

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