Notice: Vote on this question only if you think site navigation can or cannot be improved. Specific proposals can be evaluated in the answers section below.

Apart from specific question pages, I find myself frequently using a handful of links on the Stack Exchange sites:

  • Main
  • Hot
  • Questions
  • Unanswered
  • Active
  • Newest
  • User Profile
  • Inbox
  • Notifications
  • Hot questions (all Stack Overflow)

But these links are not always easy to get to when using a tablet. You have to scroll to the top of the page, and if you've scrolled too deep this can be a mini-chore. Even worse, some of these links are buried, requiring the user to go through an intermediary page.

Is there some way for the experience to be improved for tablet users? Is it possible to make these links accessible, even when you are scrolled deep into the page? This might even improve the interface for those with a keyboard and mouse since it would save them from spinning the scroll wheel or hitting the home button every time.

This post is simply to expose the problem, but I leave the solution open to the community.

  • I'm probably not typical, I almost never use the top buttons on the desktop. I tend to hit "back" in the browser (well, on my mouse, but the principle is the same) to get back to the questions list if I'm just browsing the whole site or a particular tag/search results, or just open a bunch of stuff in tabs. – Adam Lear Jul 12 '13 at 1:39
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    "I want the user experience to be improved for everyone" - not everyone would consider your change to be an improvement - me for one. – Blorgbeard Jul 12 '13 at 1:39
  • @Blorgbeard, Why would better navigation not be an improvement for you? The solution doesn't have to be an obtrusive one. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 2:00
  • @AnnaLear, I agree with that, the back button does get solid usage. But still there are only a handful of page links that get the vast majority of clicks. Maybe everyone else's usage differs than mine... – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 2:05
  • @trav1s "better" is an improvement by definition, but your suggestion is not objectively better. I don't like floating/docked menus, and I'm happy using tabs, browser back, the home key, etc. – Blorgbeard Jul 12 '13 at 2:12
  • @Blorgbeard Have you used the site on a tablet? It is a different experience. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 2:14
  • @Blorgbeard, What about if the above links were placed on the sidebar under the existing sidebar links? Would you still be against it? That is one possible solution. Maybe you misread my post. I did not say the solution I'm looking for must be a floating/docked menu. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 2:19
  • @trav1s No, I haven't used the site on a tablet - possibly, user-agent specific stuff could be done.. I wouldn't be against just placing new links at the bottom of the sidebar. You did say "The user experience would be greatly improved if these links were persistent on the page"; so that's where I got floating/docked from. – Blorgbeard Jul 12 '13 at 2:35
  • @Blorgbeard, Thanks for your input, I think I found why people are disliking this. I think I worded it so people got the wrong impression. I edited to emphasize that the solution is open. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 2:42

I don't think a persistent header is needed. It might help on SOFU, but I don't see any need beyond those sites.

If you have participated on any of the low volume beta sites, you would have noticed that almost all of the following,

  • Main
  • Hot
  • Questions
  • Unanswered
  • Active
  • Newest

can be seen on the home page itself.

My usual browsing flow is by keeping the home page on one tab, and opening every click on a new tab (when looking at questions).

Other people will have different workflows.

User Profile

Unless, you open your profile multiple times while browsing a site, why would this even be needed on a persistent header? I don't think I need my reputation points, badges and username following me around.

Inbox Notifications

Again, within a single session, how many times do you open this? I just open every notification and inbox update in one go, and then don't look at it again, unless there is another notification during the time I was browsing.

  • The solution need not be a persistent header. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 9:22
  • @trav1s Your initial post suggested a persistent header. – asheeshr Jul 12 '13 at 9:24
  • I know and I think everyone got hung up on that so I took it out. It was just an example solution. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 9:26
  • 1
    @trav1s Well then, this discussion has at least ruled out a persistent header :) – asheeshr Jul 12 '13 at 9:29
  • Yes, it was folly to include it initially! I hope it didn't doom the question from the start. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 9:34

If you need these links, you can add them to your browser, right? As bookmarks or with browser plugins to allow custom scripts. Or save them as custom gestures. Many of us prefer to have as much space as possible to read actual question and answers, and no more distractions than needed.

Especially on tablets and mobile phones space is precious. using it for what can be achieved by other means would be a waste.

  • I don't want 10 bookmarks for each site I use on SE. Browser plugins or custom scripts are kludgey and easily broken by site updates. Users have already made scripts, but that is more of a symptom than a cure. I understand that real estate on a web page is valuable, but if you think the only solution to the problem would be large and obtrusive, then you are just not thinking creatively enough about a solution. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 8:45
  • @trav1s and I don't want 10 useless buttons stealing my screen space, and I would be forced to use plugins or scripts to remove them if your request would be implemented. – Mołot Jul 12 '13 at 8:49
  • Then together lets think of a solution that isn't 10 useless buttons so no one needs to write scripts. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 8:55
  • @trav1s On a desktop I can hit home button to get to the top and see everything. On mobile I have gesture that acts the same. Nothing more is needed. – Mołot Jul 12 '13 at 9:52
  • A gesture requires an addon or plugin. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 10:26
  • @trav1s on iOS it's built in already, right? So improving Android users experience at the cost of all the rest - bad idea. If Android users miss that functionality, there are Android ways to deal with it. – Mołot Jul 12 '13 at 10:33
  • Its not just Android but Windows too. I think you misunderstood my question because I never said anything should be done at the cost of everyone else. – travisbartley Jul 12 '13 at 10:43

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