Why all the downvotes on "updated site theme is now live" announcements?

I have just taken a sample and found sites with downvotes:

Compared to sites with upvotes:

Is it somehow related to the nature of the site? The users? Or is it just that users are downvoting the question because they don't like the new theme? Or perhaps don't like change?

  • 8
    Presumably people on some sites don't like that change. Sep 27, 2018 at 7:03
  • 14
    Perhaps it's because the theme looks bad and people don't like it.
    – Richard
    Sep 27, 2018 at 8:07
  • 10
    here is a possible explanation --> "since they stopped doing things of use to me, and only keep making my life harder I feel inclined to make their lives harder in return..." (you could find it in comments at the first referred announcement on SE.SE meta, which currently has score split +8/-10)
    – gnat
    Sep 27, 2018 at 8:19
  • because helpless users can't stop douche bags from pushing ugly designs to production. there's also a controversially better title for this post: What kind of courage is required to publish unwelcome changes to a community? Oct 26, 2018 at 15:50

3 Answers 3


Well, that more or less reflects the current -217 (+136/-353) score on the Live: Left nav, new theming and responsiveness announcement here. Some people like the changes, while others don't.

From Ch-ch-ch-changes: Left nav, responsive design, & themes:

Every Q&A site has its own theme. But there is great inequality in the level of theming that we support. A few (~10) get Cadillac treatment, some (<50) are more like a Honda, while most (~100) are a Yugo. The reality is we created a theming system that we didn't have the design resources to fully support, thus the inequity. In addition, as currently defined, our theming gets in the way of releasing new features on the sites.

Even on sites where the announcement has been downvoted, there are still upvotes as well; for example, EL&U's post is currently at +13/-34, and Mathematics' is +32/-164. Vice versa, on Ask Ubuntu, it's +18/-8. So on every site there are both supporters and critics of the new design.

A possible reason that critics form the majority on some sites, especially the ones with Cadillac treatment, might be that their theme feels less "special" now; they lost some of their unique flavor which made them stand out from the other Stack Exchange sites. For the sites with Yugo treatment, the changes were a lot less drastic.

  • 4
    Sorry, I fail to see where I'm dismissive. I'm trying hard to present the objective facts and not taking any side at all. The double quotes represent ambiguity, not irony. I know it's hard to convey that in written language; feel free to edit it if you can word it better.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Sep 27, 2018 at 9:02
  • The reason for the downvotes has been distilled to "…lose some of their unique flavor which made them stand out from the other Stack Exchange sites.…" This is clearly biased (have you not read any constructive criticisms?) and a misrepresentation. Sep 27, 2018 at 9:11
  • But "lack of appreciable improvements plus lack of symmetry plus we now have two wide columns and an increasing shrinking central column." – that's true for the 'Yugo' sites as well, and doesn't explain the difference in reception.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Sep 27, 2018 at 9:20
  • Then the complaints come from users who care the most, and were more active on the "cadillac" sites, which is why these sites were awarded customised themes in the first place. Their user-base is objectively larger, nothing in comparison to SO though. Hence the CoC and the constant reminder "lets be nice" to newcomers. Thankfully, you're not a new contributor so I can be blunt with you :) Sep 27, 2018 at 9:25
  • 4
    I've added some additional statistics, I hope this version is neutral enough for you. If not, feel free to post your own answer :)
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Sep 27, 2018 at 9:46
  • 3
    We don't have to speculate. People have explained why they don't like the new theme in detailed responses to the posts. It's hard when something that has an aesthetic you like is transformed into something pedestrian, even if you understand that it's too expensive to maintain bespoke themes. I don't know why you put "special" in quotes. These sites are special to their communities. People are invested in them and are understandably upset about changes they have no say over. Can't we let folks express how they feel about the changes without trying to explain it away?
    – ColleenV
    Sep 27, 2018 at 11:16
  • 8
    Worse, some of the limitations just make the new themes ugly - SciFi, for example, seems not to be able to have a space-black background like we used to, because the stupid overly-wide left menu text can only be black, not changed to accommodate a desired site esthetic. Sep 27, 2018 at 12:35

Speaking as somebody who dislikes left nav and thinks the responsive design steals too much real estate from Q&A, and yet upvoted the announcement on one of my sites: left nav and responsive design are a done deal; we can't change that. But we can change some of the design consequences, like fonts and accessibility and our logo. I appreciate that SE is trying to work with communities on the things we can affect, and upvoting the announcements and being constructive and just plain civil in our responses are both keys to that.

Upvote what you want to encourage. I want to encourage SE to keep talking with us. I have downvoted feature announcements that I strongly disagree with, but these announcements on the per-site metas aren't just that. They're invitations to refine, and that's the part I responded to when I cast that vote.

Also, that thing about constructive responses is really important. After we responded to the preview of our design, Joe had this to say:

You all get the nicest community award. Your feedback was on point and very constructive. You're all awesome. I've added tags to the feedback below and we will try to include changes where ever we can to address it. Thanks! - Joe

And you know what? They fixed all the things we complained about on that post.


I'm one of those who downvoted the deployment of the new theme in all sites in which I participate.

My reasons are simple. First, not only is the new unified theme needlessly ugly with respect to the original themes, but it doesn't make the user experience any better, actually worse. Second, the justifications given thus far by the SE team to certain design choices and to the rejection of many user's requests look too weak.

SE provides the platform, but users provide the content. To concentrate on providing the content, many users have been asking for a long time for improvements in the user interface, but the new theme, apparently, didn't bring any of interest to a large part of the user base.

  • 5
    "needlessly ugly" is an excellent criticism. It's not just that the new design is bad, it's that it's almost deliberately bad. It has limitations that a first year web designer wouldn't impose on a multi-site architecture
    – Richard
    Sep 28, 2018 at 6:46

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