In the blog post Updating Navigation for Stack Overflow, Enterprise, and Stack Exchange Sites the term "information architecture" is used to justify the inclusion of a new section for all Stack Exchange sites as shown below.

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PLEASE do not use this approach. It is dangerous to damage the flagship product in order to test the channels feature, and this would be damaging. It would literally be removing a large section of the most prominent part of the viewing screen. Put simply, this change will make the site harder to use.

The response to similar concerns to mine was that "any concerns about the extra screen width this would introduce were alleviated with knowing that the site will become responsive". That just means "the sidebar will take a larger percent of the screen the smaller your screen gets", and absolutely does not alleviate any concern I have.

This change will make it harder to place ads on the existing sidebar as its size will be impacted, make it harder for users to navigate the question list as there will be less real estate per abstract, and will not get anything in return aside from moving a horizontal set of options to a vertical one. There is quite a lot of information in the multi-collider, why can't this approach be used for features?

Moreover, why is the approach to make a channel silently look like Stack Overflow when it is not? I would suggest that there be a path to migration from a channel to other exchanges, and that the channel itself look like a separate exchange from Stack Overflow with a default gravatar image that can be replaced with an uploaded icon for the channel.

This would allow a seamless experience so users are not confused which site they are on, reduce the need to re-engineer the entire exchange, allow channel customers to retain some branding, and allow the team to focus on more important tasks than dealing with the implications of modifying every single view.

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    I guess it hasn't been clear, but one of the goals of Channels is that they are part of Stack Overflow. Instead of going to a wiki or some other internal forum, teams can just come to a part of Stack Overflow to ask questions. A good deal of work is going on right now to make the distinction between public content and channel content clear to alpha users. (Accidentally revealing trade secrets on the internet would be bad news indeed.) – Jon Ericson Feb 9 '18 at 20:36
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    @JonEricson - I guess that isn't the way it looked to me. I was under the impression that the goal of Channels was to allow a privatized space of the Stack Overflow paradigm for that customer. What benefit of "being a part of Stack Overflow" is there if you are not actually part of Stack Overflow? – Travis J Feb 9 '18 at 20:41
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    In every version of the full site I've ever seen, there's been a fair amount of "empty real estate" on both the left and right sides of the feed. There's even been a Meta post complaining about the wide margins on the sides. To me, this would just be making better use of the available space. – Carcigenicate Feb 9 '18 at 20:41
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    @Carcigenicate That's sort of the point... for users who are already space-rich, this will be unlikely to cause concerns... the site is currently fixed at 1K px wide or so, which fits most screen resolutions at minimum... If this makes it so that the pages are now 1200px wide, those users who were already cramped at 1K px will now be having issues... either the minimum width isn't fixed (in which case the content between the left and right sidebars becomes small) or the width is fixed, and then users with 1K px wide screens have to side scroll. – Catija Feb 9 '18 at 20:44
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    @Carcigenicate - I agree that there have been issues with white space before for some users with screen widths in excess of ~1700px... in certain views. That said, there are plenty of places where there is not the same wasted space, and this global navigation would effect those spaces as well. – Travis J Feb 9 '18 at 20:44
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    @TravisJ: Part of the goal is that there are great programmers who are not active on SO because they never see the benefits of participation. If their team has a channel on the main site, they will get some exposure to public questions while also getting some experience with the system itself. What you are talking about is hosted Enterprise, which is a fine solution. But we think Channels will benefit the public site too. – Jon Ericson Feb 9 '18 at 20:45
  • @JonEricson - "a feature of Stack Overflow for organizations to have a private & secure space for their engineering teams to collaborate pretty much unrestricted and unstructured apart from public Q&A" sounds different than "a channel on the main site where users are exposed to public questions". What about the overlap for tags? Which reputation do you see on a post from a fellow channel member? 1 rep in channel, 1M rep on main? I was under the impression there would be a higher degree of separation here. – Travis J Feb 9 '18 at 20:50
  • @TravisJ Thanks for sharing your concerns. Our goal is to make the left nav a valuable use of space, whether you're a channels user or not. Regarding channels implementation, I'm sure that you already know that there's no way we could go down this product development path without thinking about the issues you mention regarding rep, tags, etc. We're on it. More publicly available info is coming soon. – Joe Friend Feb 9 '18 at 22:01
  • @JoeFriend - I didn't really expect direct answers to the development questions such as rep,tags, etc. so much as to rhetorically nod towards the fact that using a silent but integrated channel seems problematic and wasn't what I had thought the project was described as. Perhaps that is because I misunderstood the goal, which is fine, but that wasn't my understanding and in light of that being the stated goal it seems problematic from several angles. – Travis J Feb 9 '18 at 22:09
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    The most pressing of those being the direct impact on the flagship product - namely that screen real estate will be negatively effected in my opinion. As shown, it looks like the left-nav will be about 2/3 of the right side bar. That places it at 200px (the right being 300px). In a design where the width of real estate is 1075px that would constitute nearly half (46.5%) of the screen dedicated to content that is irrelevant a majority of the time. I just don't find that to be desirable whatsoever. – Travis J Feb 9 '18 at 22:10

Most users don't need and don't want to see what's on that side-bar

In my opinion and understanding.

  • Home: What home? This is a Q&A site, not a portal. There is no home of any significance. People come to ask questions. Plus, there's a big site icon on the top bar, that's plenty.
  • Users: Few users look at the general listing of all users. I don't think I've once done that over years here on the site. The top users for a tag, sure; clicking the link saying saying that you're in the top X% - yeah, I guess. But never just the general listing. Now, searching for a specific user is something else, and I suppose that could go through the list of all users, but I believe very few users would do this.
  • Jobs: That's not really an integral part of the site, it merely exists alongside the site, and is very distinct from Q&A-related content.
  • Tags: It's very rare for users to want to search the space of tags other than when they enter tags for a question. I've only done this a few times and that was for purposes of review or thinking about proposed mass-retags etc.

So this is what I have to say about adding a left navbar:

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    I look at the user lists all the time. It's one of the easiest ways to find specific users. You not doing it doesn't mean that no one does... any more than me doing it means that everyone does. Similarly with tags... I use them quite regularly... if only to see what tags already exist. – Catija Mar 13 '18 at 23:11
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    @Catija: You have > 20k reputation on 3 network sites and > 20k reputation meta.SE. So you're in a tiny tiny niche of people, and very very deep within the communities and cliques here. While this is a very important niche, the visual design for the general public should not cater to this niche. – einpoklum Mar 13 '18 at 23:19

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