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In the blog post, Updating Navigation for Stack Overflow, Enterprise, and Stack Exchange Sites, we are introduced to the concept for a new left sidebar for navigation. This blog post does indicate that they are attempting to address concerns of users with smaller screen sizes:

What about people using smaller screen sizes? Adding a vertical left navigation increases the page width, and how will we support people across a range of screen sizes and devices?

But the only mention of smaller screens in the remainder of the post is in relation to tablets and mobile devices. It seems to skip over explaining the experience for users with smaller-resolution screens on actual desktop or laptop computers.

Right now, the site is fixed at about 1100 px wide. Many users over the years (as early as 2009 & a good one from 2012) have requested a fluid site design that allowed for wider browser windows (larger screens) without leaving large margin bars on the sides. These requests have been repeatedly declined, preferring to keep the static page width layout for various valid reasons.

So, my question is, will we be keeping the ~1100 px width, which is good for most (though not all) full site screen sizes (not including tablets/mobile) or will we be moving to a fluid design (despite previous reticence) or increasing the page width (say to 1250 or 1350 - 1366 x 768 was apparently most common size as of 2012) to allow for the sidebar... but potentially affecting users on smaller-width screens?

  • The page width now is around 1300, not 1k. That mod pop-out thing for posts (that Art's script replaces) disappears at about 1250, as I recall. I was unable to moderate on a 1050px-wide monitor (it was portrait orientation, in case you're wondering). – Monica Cellio Feb 9 '18 at 22:30
  • @MonicaCellio I just took a screenshot and tested it and the page width that I get is 1065 px... – Catija Feb 9 '18 at 22:31
  • I just measured mine and I have horizontal scrolling at 1085px wide. – Monica Cellio Feb 9 '18 at 22:33
  • That's a lot closer to 1k than 1300... different sites have different scroll points, I think, depending on the custom site theme. I do say "about" 1K. – Catija Feb 9 '18 at 22:35
  • Well, I have a scrollbar. (If I lose some HNQ, who cares?) I assumed you meant "about 1k without any scrolling". Maybe somebody from SE will clarify the actual number. – Monica Cellio Feb 9 '18 at 22:36
  • I do mean without scrolling... I personally get zero scroll at 1108 px on MSE. But, again, which site you're on will affect this. I had no scroll on MSE but did have scroll on Seasoned Advice. Apparently, if you look at the CSS, the minimum width is 1090. – Catija Feb 9 '18 at 22:41
  • Ah, I was misremembering a bit. Back when I wrote this post, the mod tools were designed for 1250px and worked down to 1070px, and I'd been told that the site was designed for 1024px. This was before the right sidebar was widened (by 50px I think?), so add a bit to those numbers. So it looks like ~1100px is the target now, which will go up to ~1300 if they add that left sidebar without changing anything else. – Monica Cellio Feb 11 '18 at 1:11
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Great question. The plan is to work our way to a fully responsive site. If all goes well that means the site will work on any device at any viewport (aka window size). The introduction of the left nav forces our hand on this point. It actually increases the min width if we don't make any changes. So, we are going to bite the bullet and make the site responsive for everyone. Desktop users first and ultimately mobile users.

This is a pretty big undertaking. It will take time to get every view ready for this. So, you'll have to be just a little patient with us. The work has already begun. For example, if you inspect the question page you'll see that comments are now list items and no longer in a table. That's one of the first bits to go live (even though the page isn't yet responsive).

Also, all of this will require moving quite a bit of cheese. Responsive design means every one of your experiences needs to be reconsidered so that it can scale and adapt. I'll be posting more about this and other issues related to the navigation changes next week.

  • Ooof, that sounds scary ;) I'm not an SO user but I wonder if you could elaborate at all on the primary concerns (as I see them) as it relates to code formatting mentioned by Jon Skeet here? If you're still working that out, exactly, that's fine but even knowing whether you consider it something to work around would be helpful. :) – Catija Feb 9 '18 at 22:00
  • @catija I don't mean to sound scary, just keeping it real. As to code formatting or site plugins for other sites that support special content, each one of those cases will need to be considered specifically. We aren't that far along in the process yet. Obviously there will be tradeoffs. – Joe Friend Feb 9 '18 at 22:10
  • Nah, not scary... that's what the winky face was for. :D Thanks for the info, though. I look forward to seeing what develops (no pun intended). – Catija Feb 9 '18 at 22:12
  • Glad to hear you're doing desktop first! I hope you're also doing smaller viewports first and then worrying about the people who maximize browsers on 30" displays. There's a difference between "could be better" (what the wide-screen people need) and "was working, now broken" (what I fear any time you add width to the design). – Monica Cellio Feb 9 '18 at 22:35
  • @MonicaCellio We will have max width that is similar to todays size + left nav. This will keep the line lengths readable in the main content area on large displays. We actually start designing with mobile views and then scale up. But we will implement desktop first. It just means that we can get things workable for the majority of site views first and then work on creating a great mobile experience next. Also, this is being paired with doing accessibility work. Goal is to improve access for everyone. – Joe Friend Feb 9 '18 at 22:43
  • Thanks for the response, Joe. The thing I'm concerned about is that you're adding ~200px to the page width. I already clip the right side, but that's ok -- everything I need to see is there on page load without scrolling. By adding to the left, you make me scroll right to see what I used to see -- and scroll position isn't sticky, so I'll have to do it on every page. That's why I suggested making the side pane smaller & resizable; as somebody who barely uses SO and has no channels, I don't need all that space. I do need questions, users, etc links though! Right now I have them at the top. – Monica Cellio Feb 11 '18 at 1:03
  • When the site is fully responsive, I assume these concerns go away. It's the time between now and "fully responsive" that I'm worried about. – Monica Cellio Feb 11 '18 at 1:03

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