I know that SE is committed to both left nav and responsive design, and I'm not trying to disrupt that. The main reason the new design isn't working well for me is that the new left nav combines with the pre-existing right column (which now must all fit on-screen) to squish the core content. But there's not a lot of content in these two columns -- so for most of the page, there isn't any content in either column:

screenshot with nothing in either column about 35% of the way down the page

So we have two columns that don't have a lot of content in them, but they "stake out" their entire widths of the page all the way down.

What are the design considerations for combining them into one side column?

I'm sure the design team must have considered this question. I'm not a designer and it's not obvious to me why to prefer two sidebars over one. Could you enlighten me? It feels like we could better use the vertical space to then allow Q&A to have more horizontal space, which is particularly helpful for smaller displays (like tablets) and poorer vision (thus font zoom).

Right now I collapse the left column to get more room for Q&A, but I'd prefer to have those links readily available. Besides, I know you're planning to put some more stuff in the left column that I might care about. But I do use my browser for other things (really!), so "make the window bigger" doesn't really work 'cause it'll mess up other stuff. Also, I can't make my tablet bigger.

A request to the community: The new design stirs up all kinds of emotions (me too). I'm trying to ask a constructive question to better understand this design choice. I'd appreciate it if we could try to avoid super-heated responses.

  • Keeping the main body with a smaller width makes it easier on the eyes since they don't have to dart around the screen much. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 2:04
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    @SonictheInclusiveWerehog that depends entirely on your font size, window size, vision, and maybe other things. You cannot simply assume that X number of pixels produces lines of a comfortable length. With both side columns, SE's lines are too short for me. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 2:09
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    IMO the left sidebar functions as a navigation menu. A navigation menu is a simple list of links to the most important pages on the site. On the other hand, the right sidebar functions as a space for widgets. Widgets are complex self-contained blocks that provide extra functionality and information. These widgets don't belong in a list of page links. So I think the reason is that the two sidebars are too semantically different from each other. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 2:37
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    By the way, I'm not arguing for or against the design. I'm just hypothesizing the reasons for the two sidebars. I would have preferred to keep the left sidebar links in the header as a horizontal navbar. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 2:46
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    also looks related: Can we show new/anonymous users more Q&A?
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 14:36


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