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http://stackexchange.com/ went through a major change somewhere between June 11th and June 12th according to the Wayback Machine.

This is how it looked like before, with focus on the sites/communities and many links from the homepage itself. After the change, the homepage is showing only the list of Hot Network Questions, sorted by hotness points (can be seen as tooltip) and for anonymous visitors (i.e. those not logged in) also showing a nice "Stack Exchange Q&A communities are different. Here's how" banner on top.

So the focus changed drastically from sites to questions, and all links removed, making it cleaner.

I am not challenging the change, just curious to know the reasoning behind it, what motivated such a change, and whether it's successful or not e.g. more incoming traffic from the portal to sites needing traffic?

Worth to mention, this new design is very similar to the first design of the portal (since Stack Exchange 2.0 was declared) as can be seen here.

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    I don't like the new design, by the way. Older was better. – nicael Jul 4 '14 at 23:09
  • I diligently scrolled the Tour to the bottom, hoping for an Informed badge on Main Stack Exchange site. Alas... But I am very happy to see the randomly rotating site banners gone. Those were getting on my nerves. – user259867 Jul 4 '14 at 23:11
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    @nicael my initial impression too but after a while I did like it. Sometimes it needs time to get used to a change. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Jul 4 '14 at 23:12
  • @Thisismuchhealthier lol, secret badge could be cool! :) – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Jul 4 '14 at 23:13
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    I'm barely aware of that landing page, can't remember any recent visits. Seeing both for essentially the first time, the current version is immediately more pleasing - it flows a lot better. – Michael Petrotta Jul 5 '14 at 0:10
  • wonder how old is that new design? 'I really like the new Stack Exchange home page, where certain questions from the Stack Exchange Network are presented, along with a hotness rating that is described as "arbitrary" in its tooltip...' (asked Aug 12 '10:) – gnat Jul 5 '14 at 12:40
  • @gnat I believe he's referring to the Hot Questions page that was linked from the homepage, the design was changed less than a month ago as proved by the Wayback Machine. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Jul 5 '14 at 16:16
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    @gnat It changed on/around June 12th. – hichris123 Jul 5 '14 at 16:30
  • @ShadowWizard nope, if you check the question, there's linkified text referring same URL as your: "new Stack Exchange home page" – gnat Jul 5 '14 at 17:27
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    @gnat true, I've edited the question to add this interesting part. No exactly same design but very similar indeed. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Jul 5 '14 at 17:39
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    @gnat nice detective work! All the more reason to get some official response. I'm afraid screenshots would get messy but will think again about it. :) – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Jul 5 '14 at 19:00
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    update: Podcast #60 (07-16-14) refers this change: "We redesigned the Stack Exchange homepage… again. (The pendulum swings.)" Have to admit I was too lazy to listen, maybe there are more details about the change there – gnat Aug 6 '14 at 16:51
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    @gnat true, wish a team member will come here to summarize this officially. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Aug 6 '14 at 17:49
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    there you go - I just added a bounty :) – gnat Aug 6 '14 at 17:51
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    @ShadowWizard, we only respond when bounties are on the line! (Sorry for the delay - I actually just hadn't seen it on the first pass, but spotted it on the home page today when I had a few to respond...) – Jaydles Aug 21 '14 at 20:13
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+200

TL;DR

If we assume most visitors to SE.com are trying to find out what we're about, the page should focus on showing them content that may convey what we do, not telling them why our content is better.

We also wanted it to be potentially useful to existing users who are interested in browsing other sites on the network. (A few of us here read it every morning to find interesting questions or learn something.)

More Detailed Color

The old home page had a feel that seemed less like a good indication of what (we think) makes our communities special, and more like everything a reporter or someone curious about the company might want to know.

We asked two questions - who do we want to talk to, and what do want to convey?

  • We want to talk to users or potential users, not reporters, investors, etc.
  • We want to focus on showing them the kind of content they might find on our sites, with as short a summary as possible of what makes that content better.

The old homepage didn't achieve this as well as we'd hoped for a coupla reasons:

  • It showed a total of just six questions, which meant that it was very unlikely that someone browsing would see one that was a topic they knew (which could therefore help convey the kind of hopefully high-quality content that would interest them.)
  • It focused too much on stats, network growth, and descriptions of question quality. But it's a lot harder to tell someone your quality is better than other Q&A than it is to show them.
  • A lot of space was highlighting 3 sites. Even if they happened to be ones you cared about (unlikely), there's still not much to make you see what may be better here than on other sites on that topic.
  • Almost a third of the page highlighted site blogs and contact info. Blogs on most sites are updated pretty rarely, and the focus on contact info might help a reporter, but not a potential user checking us out.

So, for the new one:

  • We focus on content, which we think best conveys what our sites are about.
  • We also try to get across what makes that content happen in the areas not devoted to the content itself. Specifically:

    1. The Big Three in the box on top: Expert Communities, Ranked Answers, and Earned Trust
    2. One featured community, mostly just to convey the idea of separate communities for each topic in a tangible way
    3. Some network users to convey the notion that real, live human people (like you!) create all the awesome content here.
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    Thanks, that is exactly what I was looking for. One thing though: it still feels weird to write "Stack Exchange community" instead of "Stack Exchange site". Don't you think it makes one think "community? hey, so it must be a social forum!". No? – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Aug 21 '14 at 20:26
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    <nitpick>"what makes that content better..." - word better here looks somewhat... not 100% accurate, taking into account that what you show (hot questions) is intended to focus on entertaining / interesting stuff, not on high quality one</nitpick> (for the sake of completeness, same word looks perfectly okay when used in another context - "better than other Q&A" - this is so true) – gnat Aug 21 '14 at 20:39

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