I always get alarmed when I see that red Inbox notification icon. I feel like I've done something bad. Can we change it to a more neutral color like blue? Or the SO orange?

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    You've done something bad. – jonsca Mar 20 '14 at 21:51
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    Red color should be the color of "energy, passion and action", if you think it means you've done something bad then you got some issues man. – Nean Der Thal Mar 20 '14 at 21:55
  • It's red because importance. Also, what jonsca said. – michaelb958--GoFundMonica Mar 20 '14 at 21:55
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    Huh, funny... Whenever I see it turn red, I also assume you've done something bad. – Shog9 Mar 20 '14 at 22:14
  • It grabs your attention. – user231078 Mar 20 '14 at 22:22
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    If you work in a nuclear power plant and there's a core meltdown... I guarantee you there will a flashing red light. Not a flashing blue light and most definitely not a flashing green light. When there's a fire, the fire alarms are red. There isn't a single other social networking site I know that uses red for the notification color. – T Nguyen Mar 21 '14 at 1:09
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    Facebook uses red. That said, I do find the SO red quite alarming, especially since red is used on rep page for downvotes... – Ben May 28 '14 at 16:47
  • @Adam how can feature request be by design? I mean, it's explicit request to change the color, so if the request is denied, think status-declined fits better. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Sep 26 '16 at 5:38

I thought that for some time as well. I will add one more detail which has not been discussed but which surely plays a role in the confusion.

The red inbox notification box is displayed right next to the "achivements" drop down where the color green together with a number is used to reward/encourage the user for various actions. Hence, it is not at all surprising that many users will interpret a red box with a number in it, right next to the green box with a number in it, as meaning the opposite, namely that they have done something "bad". For instance, it would make sense this would be used in case of downvotes etc. If this had not been the case, I agree that there is no reason why a user should interpret the red box that way - but the positioning right next the "positive" green box and the firmly established intuition that red/green are each others opposite is very likely to cause such confusion.

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    WhatsApp notifications are also red (and so all app notifications in smartphones afaik), is this bad too? – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Sep 25 '16 at 21:08
  • Does WhatsApp have a green number, counting positive feedback, next to its red notification counter? – Morty Sep 26 '16 at 5:06
  • Good point, but WhatsApp icon itself is green, so... ;) – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Sep 26 '16 at 5:37


Put bluntly, because the graphic design team came to that decision and was certainly approved by the rest of the company. Lots of efforts were put on the recent changes and they were thoughtfully discussed previously here in Meta.

But, how not?, everyone else have their own feelings about this.
So, if we want another Stack look & feel, what should we do?

We go for User Scripts/Styles.
Install an extension on our browsers.
Look for sample stuff folks published here and adapt to our own taste.

Two starting resources:

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    Yes, I do know how to edit my own styles. That's not the point. I'm trying to improve SO for everyone. Red is the color of danger, warning. It's not an appropriate color for notifications. – T Nguyen Mar 21 '14 at 1:04
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    Absolutely, when I walk into MacDonald's that's exactly my feeling ;) – brasofilo Mar 21 '14 at 1:05
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    This answer gives a historical reason, not a logical one. And you can't apply retail food service design patterns to an unrelated software UI. Also, McDonald's doesn't use pure bright red. – Vimes Aug 14 '15 at 18:52
  • @JVimes, exactly, that's why I didn't made the joke inside my answer. Nice one you wrote! – brasofilo Aug 16 '15 at 4:03
  • Oh, that joke went right over my head last week! ;) Hah. Got it now. – Vimes Aug 17 '15 at 15:28

You are absolutely right. It's a rookie design mistake (or a nefarious dark pattern) to use bright red notifications for anything but errors or dire warnings in software. Notifications of new comments do not qualify (not by a long shot).

In this thread, some ideas are being billed as sensible but do not reflect software design or UX experience.

No, color meaning is not so subjective within the context of software notifications, where bright red is universally the indication of something wrong. It is ingrained in the user-base by nearly all software from the last three decades. It is the standard. It is overwhelmingly expected. You don't ask users to customize styles for it.

Consensus-driven designs are universally sub-par and often terrible. Experienced UX designers know that the only way to "get it right" is to find what users need, not necessarily what they ask for, and that the former only comes from actually observing users. Aka, doing Usability Testing. There's a good book on doing it cheaply and effectively called Rocket Surgey Made Easy.

This reminds me of a quote: "What is a camel? It's a horse designed by a committee". The camel does awkwardly where a horse is needed, but is defended by people who are used to the camel.

T Nguyen, sorry that you got down-voted for a totally legit question.

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