Users from EL&U will know I am not an admirer of the new theme which has befallen on my once beloved site. See my answer on English Language & Usage's updated site theme is ready for testing! which seems to have drawn some consensus among regular users.

One of the questions I asked never received a formal explanation

I do not understand why there are now three ‘hamburgers’, and why the hamburger on the left does not brighten when it is clicked. In my modest opinion, due to its gloomy appearance, it is easily missed and its utility overlooked.

enter image description here and enter image description here

So, I'm asking here. I would like to know why the designers have created three hamburger icons on the top bar.

Technically, I know that the new menu icon, (☰) which is situated far left, is not the same as the SE hamburger logo but the two look remarkably similar. For the scope of this post and the sake of clarity, I'll call it the sandwich.

  1. The sandwich icon permits users to navigate to “home”, “questions”, “tags”, “users”, and “unanswered".
  2. The Stack exchange logo allows visitors to view all the hottest questions from all the different communities on a single page.
  3. The hamburger allows quick and easy access to sites which users belong to, followed by a long list of communities of which they do not, i.e. “more stack exchange communities” and a link to the SE's company blog.

Now, I'm not a designer but it seems to me that the sandwich menu should be brighter. Currently it is practically invisible, a dark grey icon on a pitch black background, it doesn't light up and it's situated on the far right-hand side. But not all is lost, there is a positive note, the sandwich menu has enough space to include the options displayed in the hamburger menu. In other words, the sandwich could have another button with a drop down menu allowing quick and easy access to those communities which interest users the most. Let's call that button “your communities”. This would eliminate the need of the hamburger icon and free up space on the top bar where I would urgently recommend that the developers insert a direct link to meta by means of the word “meta”. No weird icon, no indecipherable image, just ‘meta’ written in white, so it can stand out more.

The link can fit beside the Stack exchange logo (I apologise! Yes, it should be in the same font as the Stack Exchange logo and the kerning leaves a lot to be desired but this is the best I could come up with using the very limited tools available to me.) BTW, the search bar would have to shift a little closer toward the centre.

enter image description here


  1. How do users navigate to Meta?

  2. Add easier links to meta sites

  3. Two years later: How has moving the Meta link affected Meta usage? (posted 2015)

  4. Understanding the significance of the elimination of one-click transfer between main and meta

  5. Asking a question pertaining to another SE site that doesn't have meta

  • 3
    You don't think a lot of people would be horribly confused trying to figure out if they're on the meta or main site with a random link right next to the logo?
    – animuson StaffMod
    Sep 25, 2018 at 13:40
  • @animuson Why is it "random"? Says who? But if that's a problem, place the meta link on the opposite side. We used to have a link that said "meta" before the black top bar was introduced. Nobody got ever confused, the main site was visually very different from the meta site. Sep 25, 2018 at 13:44
  • 7
    @Mari-LouA Most people don't understand what meta is. Having a random link in the top bar that just says "meta" is obvious to long-time users of the network but not to the average user who's never set foot on meta. Even as it is, users often ask questions on meta thinking they're on the main site. Having a link in the top bar would likely exacerbate this problem. I'd like a meta link, too... but not there. That's just too easy to find.
    – Catija
    Sep 25, 2018 at 13:56
  • 2
    @Catija most newcomers probably don't even know what those funny icons represent on the top bar either... Clicking on "meta" would take the visitor and the user to the meta site, they would then have an inkling of an idea. As it is, meta is hidden in one of those 3 hamburgers. Why can't we have a straightforward link to meta? Lack of space is not the reason. Sep 25, 2018 at 14:00
  • Most newcomers don't see them. The left nav is on by default, so the left hamburger doesn't exist for them. Users without access to review don't have that icon, either.
    – Catija
    Sep 25, 2018 at 14:05
  • @Catija so, you're saying that newcomers wouldn't see the word "meta", written in white, next to the logo based on what evidence? On the other hand, the menu icon is practically invisible, dark grey on a pitch black background, it doesn't light up and it's situated on the far right. I don't understand this refusal to acknowledge that maybe I have a point. When I see the menu icons on different websites, it's either black or dark grey on a white background. Hard to miss. But... it's still meaningless horizontal lines until you click on it for the first time Sep 25, 2018 at 14:17
  • I'm talking about the status-quo, not your proposal. The left hamburger menu is not the default for everyone. Most people will not see that menu, they will see the left navigation. Part of the problem here is that you're mixing up two questions that don't really relate to each other. Adding a meta link in the top bar has no connection to having the left navigation collapsed into the top bar. You're going to be better served if you focus your question to one issue.
    – Catija
    Sep 25, 2018 at 14:22
  • comment self-deleted Sep 25, 2018 at 14:47
  • 1
    @Catija so newcomers will have that left navigation on permanent display until they discover (how?) they can turn it off in preferences. That's a horrible disservice but I imagine it's vitally important for the economic survival of Stack Overflow. Sep 25, 2018 at 14:50
  • 3
    Great. My question will be swamped on the Active page by the 1000+ retagging posts. I picked the perfect day... Sep 25, 2018 at 15:01
  • 1
    Most people use the site when they're not logged in. They have no way to disable the sidebar if they're not logged in. We're still looking at ways to make toggling the left navigation into a menu for users who are logged in, easier but that will have to wait until after the site designs are complete. There's no economic benefit to the left sidebar anywhere other than Stack Overflow, so I'm not quite sure where that statement comes in... and, even then, "vitally important" is very much an exaggeration.
    – Catija
    Sep 25, 2018 at 15:03
  • 3
    Never fear Mari-Lou - the crusade to retag 10 year old questions of dubious value has made me start viewing the main page of Meta as "newest" instead of "active". Maybe a couple of other people have done the same.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 27, 2018 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


Consider the layout of the top bar. On the left are items that pertain to that particular site. The menu on the left contains items that are relevant to just that site: the Home page, Question page, etc.

On the right are items that pertain to you the user. Your user page (for that site). Your notifications. Your rep changes. And at the far right is a list of SE sites. And your favorite sites are listed first, in an order you define.

The point being that the current organization reads right-to-left, more site-specific to user specific.

Now, there are several UI elements that work against this: the Stack Exchange logo isn't site-specific at all. And the review/help buttons are site-specific. But my point is that, given the current UI design, site-specific things tend to go on the left, and user-specific things go on the right.

So putting the list of your favorite SE sites on the left is somewhat incongruous to this UI design.

Adding to this is the fact that the "sandwich" menu doesn't have to exist. By default (unless you change your settings), this is the left navigation panel and there is no button. So, do users want the left navigation panel to always have these sites listed? I suspect not. Indeed, when SE talks about adding more stuff to this panel, the stuff they tend to talk about is site-specific (saved searches and so forth).

So, what you're asking for is not really a good thing for the way that SE wants the site to work.

  • You have to forgive me but what does UI stand for? User?? I keep seeing it on SE but I forget to look it up. Sep 25, 2018 at 16:51
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA: It stands for User Interface. Sep 25, 2018 at 17:02
  • So putting the list of your favorite SE sites on the right is somewhat incongruous to this UI design. I suggested putting favourite sites/ communities on the left, in the sandwich menu. EDITED The list of sites is relevant to SE not just to the user, but I begrudgingly see your point. Not sure it's all that important though. Sep 25, 2018 at 17:08
  • @Mari-LouA: Fixed. Sep 25, 2018 at 17:09
  • 8
    Following your logic, why isn't there a link to the site specific meta in the left navigation bar then? And why is the site specific "help" menu on the right side of the page? I don't mean this to be snarky - I think your observation is a good one. The SE user interface is something I struggle with - nothing ever seems convenient. Or rather, enough stuff is inconvenient that it detracts from what is convenient and makes me forget the good parts. I hope that SE will take a look at the popular user scripts out there and incorporate some of them into the main design.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 25, 2018 at 20:44

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