One of the biggest challenges for a Beta SE site is attracting enough people to attain critical mass necessary for keeping the site productive. Whereas cosmetic appearance isn't nearly the most important aspect of a Q&A site, it does affect first impressions - considering the breadth of the Internet and diversity of Q&A sites out there, a first impression is often a defining factor in whether a new visitor takes a site seriously or not.

Soooo, isn't there some way that the powers that be could see fit to allow beta sites to make it so that their sites look a little less... generic? Or maybe at least allowing us to pick from a number of themes? I'm a pro tempore mod on buddhism.stackexchange.com, and I'm afraid it doesn't look all that inviting to practicing or scholarly Buddhists.

If not, could someone explain the rationale for beta sites all looking so bland? Is it really important that they send out the impression of being in beta?

Also, sorry if this is not an appropriate question for meta.SE, I just assumed this is where I should ask it.

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    Allowing beta sites to pick from a few different themes would seem to be a nice compromise between "all look the same" and "effort of full-on design should be saved for graduated sites". Can you say more about what aspects you would want to change? You said CSS, so are you thinking mainly colors and fonts, or what? What would a site that appeals to scholarly or practicing Buddhists look like? Apr 26, 2015 at 18:59
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    @MonicaCellio thanks, that's a good question... I find the beta format to be somewhat harsh, especially when quoting texts, which we do often. Honestly, hats off to whoever designed it, it really does give the feel that "this site is in beta". I guess warmer colors, avoiding the yellow+blue look... many Buddhist sites seem to take orange as a base. Apr 26, 2015 at 19:31
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    Though style is of course arbitrary, this site is somewhat typical of a Buddhist "style", I think. Apr 26, 2015 at 19:53

2 Answers 2


A fairly recent post elsewhere said,

Unfortunately, there has been a long backlog of sites waiting for their custom site design.

If SE hasn't the bandwidth to produce new CSS templates, and would refuse this feature request for that reason, could a compromise be to let sites tweak their own CSS?

  • SE agrees conditionally
  • The site/community defines an addendum to their beta site's CSS
  • SE reviews the new CSS, accepts it, and appends or merges it into the site's CSS

The new CSS could be statements (a file) placed after the existing CSS (to override existing CSS, instead of editing it); and of course use existing HTML class names in its selectors (not expect a change in the HTML).

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    To facilitate development and testing, they could work it up as a Stylish style and get enough of their users to use it for long enough to find major bugs. Then submit that for review once there's community buy-in. Apr 27, 2015 at 19:03
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    Restyle the web with Stylish!
    – ChrisW
    Apr 27, 2015 at 19:08

I think the rationale behind all Beta sites having the same style is because a Beta is a temporary state.
With either: The site getting closed off, and so a unique design would have been a waste of dev/designer time; Or going through to a Live state where they then do get their own unique styling.

I do like the idea of some basic design choices. As they can be re-used by multiple Beta sites they won't be a waste of dev/designer time.

Specific site content requires specific design elements, so even having some different design templates to choose from still might not be useful to certain site content.
However, I would imagine it would benefit enough sites for it to be worthwhile.

Most site's content could be encapsulated simply from colour/font choices, even without substantial design elements. Certainly more than the current Beta one.

Such as your Buddhism site would benefit from even a few simple colour change here and there, on basic elements.

Then if the site goes through to Live, a unique design can be made as it is now.

I would certainly suggest this be kept simple though.

Just taking the current Beta site design and providing the same style/layout with a range of colours changed on certain elements, and a range of font choices.
The colours could be pre-set across all elements for a given "theme", so for example you would pick an "orange" theme and various elements throughout the site would be different tones of orange.
Then fonts can be chosen separately to go with your chosen theme.

And of course once chosen it cannot be changed. Otherwise this would become a messy ordeal with Beta sites looking different every time you visit them.
So the theme/design would simply be chosen at the same time as the name and creating it. Then it's set until it goes live where a new design would be made.

This would need to be made very clear, or people would be constantly asking to change their current Beta to a different theme.

  • Everything is temporary, but CodeReview for example has been in beta for a good 4 years now.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 26, 2015 at 22:15
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    @ChrisW Well, indeed. I suppose "should" be temporary is more fitting. Code Review is an odd one as it's been borderline popular where just enough posts/people have been there to keep it alive, but not enough to make it a live site. I presume mostly because there's not enough users with high rep to moderate.
    – James
    Apr 26, 2015 at 23:41
  • @James Strangely, it seems to be doing very well according to the Area51 metrics: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/11464/code-review.
    – Ixrec
    Apr 27, 2015 at 19:14
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    @James flash news: Code Review graduated last September. We're just waiting for our "colors" :) Apr 27, 2015 at 19:41
  • @Mat'sMug I thought I'd read that somewhere, but as the site was still flying the Beta flags I presumed it was still Beta. Nice to know, seems like it'll be a steady enough site and useful to many, even if not the most active one.
    – James
    Apr 27, 2015 at 21:00
  • @James Code Review is significantly more active than sites such as CS Theory or Movies which both have graduated. Apr 28, 2015 at 9:20

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