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For those who don’t know me, I’m the Director of Design at Stack Overflow. I’m responsible for the team of designers who work on the public sites.

The visuals of Stack Overflow and the network sites have remained largely unchanged since I joined Stack Exchange, Inc. in 2017. The aging design has become frustrating for me, for our designers, and for our audience. We all deeply care about the sites and want the visual aesthetics to reflect that, in addition to making the site(s) feel welcoming and less intimidating.

What is a design vision and why do you need one?

A design vision is intended to provide top level inspiration and guidance for the design team. It helps designers create a unified experience when working on different projects. With new features coming down the pipeline for both our community and Teams products, it is imperative for us to align on a visual direction. We can build new components in our existing design language, but we’d like to use this unique opportunity to evolve.

The design vision is not something that is written in stone and being shipped as is. This means that each designer will be able to work within their unique problem—taking research, user/community feedback, and other constraints into account.

Show us this vision, please

Composition of Stack Overflow in new UI style

Composition of Stack Overflow question page in new UI style

As you can see, there are inconsistencies, things we haven’t touched yet, and items pushed very far visually just for the sake of exploration. There is a lot that is different here: top navigation, sidebar widgets, post summary, and more—but the only things that are finalized right now are our colors and the items we’ve already shipped (like buttons). Nothing else is set. It is simply meant to portray a visual identity described by the team as simple, modern, efficient, and scalable.

How will you bring the design vision to life?

We are working on many things right now and simply don’t have the capacity to go heads down into a redesign. You’ll see designers build new features in this style (e.g., Search) and you’ll also see designers pick up “components” (e.g., buttons). In short, things will be shipped iteratively and may feel disjointed from time to time. No matter how they ingest this design vision, we will be bringing major ideas to you with time to provide feedback, and we commit to reviewing that feedback carefully. If we believe a change is very minor and will not impact your workflow, we may make the change and discuss only if an issue arises. For instance, we may not bring every change that adjusts a border by 1px to the community in advance, but if we add a new section to the page, we’d bring that in advance.

So what’s next?

We have three designers eager to discuss specific components with you that they want to work on. They have now made individual meta posts regarding the left side navigation, user cards, and the post summary display. I want to reiterate that development has not started on these components. We are bringing you our thoughts early in hopes of gathering useful feedback based on your time spent on the sites that can influence the design.

I look forward to hearing from you all and building on, improving, and implementing our vision for Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange network.

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    "The aging design has become frustrating for me, for our designers, and for our audience." - only one of these really matter, in my humble opinion.
    – Jamiec
    Aug 8, 2023 at 16:05
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    And, do you really have to push the blog articles even more onto the Q/A readers/contributors? The blog articles are not relevant to us. Aug 8, 2023 at 16:11
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    I'm sorry, but I don't understand what the vision is. Do the images represent the design vision? Apparently, you are critiquing it. What kind of answers are you expecting from us? Is this an announcement and no answers are expected? Aug 8, 2023 at 16:14
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    Also, why are you only showing screenshots of the questions and Q/A pages? These pages don't actually need any design changes; they mostly work just fine. There are however other pages that are in deep need of refreshments and enhancements. Review pages, for instance. Aug 8, 2023 at 16:15
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    @Jamiec: At first I agreed with you, but then I thought about it some more from the perspective of a line-of-business software engineer. While pleasure working with a system I'm maintaining is not the highest priority, or even the second-highest, it does make it easier to put a little extra time, focus, and inspiration into it, rather than having to consciously avoid focusing on what I dislike. How much more for a visual designer, whose aesthetic taste is more clearly necessary to produce good artistic work? (Not that SE needs to be fine art. But it should look good and flow smoothly.) Aug 8, 2023 at 16:22
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    While one picture is worth 1000 words, I'm old school, and love to read instead of staring at a picture trying to figure out the differences. Can you please provide a list of the planned changes? Aug 8, 2023 at 17:30
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    @idmean I disagree. The screenshots with the changes are not random. Someone made them, and know exactly what changed. I don't like it this way and want to know those changes. I understand SE motivation against it, would be easier to resist the changes this way, but still, want to try and ask for it even though it's futile. Aug 8, 2023 at 17:36
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    The purpose of this post (and the images in it) is basically to say, "Here's the overall look we're going for." The subsequent posts (mentioned above) will share more details about proposed changes to individual elements in the left sidebar and other parts of the UI, rather than trying to discuss them all here. (We'll edit in links to those posts once they go up.) So if y'all see an element missing from this mockup, or the wrong UI element being used in this mockup, be patient – it's only a mockup.
    – V2Blast
    Aug 8, 2023 at 17:54
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    No one said the screenshots' contents are random, @ShadowTheGPTWizard — just that they don't represent any actual, set in stone, changes. They illustrate a high level vision of how a unified design for the sites might look like in the future. That being the case, I don't think it's particularly relevant to have a wall of text saying stuff like "the inbox has a blue dot, instead of a red one" because... that might not be the final product. 1/2
    – JNat StaffMod
    Aug 8, 2023 at 18:07
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    I also think it's uncharitable to say that we're not describing the changes deliberately because it makes it harder for you to contest them, when we're coming to you without decisions having been made, and mention that you can expect more posts to discuss more specific changes... :\ 2/2
    – JNat StaffMod
    Aug 8, 2023 at 18:07
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    @JNat I think the conflict is coming from not understanding which aspects of these screenshots are useful information, and which are not useful/distracting. To me, a "vision" means "what we want the site to look like", so if that includes changes that are not intended, why are they there? Perhaps they are there to demonstrate something else important but more subtle, like a specific color scheme or change in spacing. But, so far, it seems like all the most obvious differences from the current site are not intended to demonstrate changes that are part of the vision, so which parts are? Aug 8, 2023 at 18:36
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    When working on the top bar, please be aware of some of the pitfalls encountered last time it was changed. Big example is how it impacted reviews. Another important one may be feedback the last one received.
    – Andy
    Aug 8, 2023 at 18:58
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    It's a bit unfortunate that this post is probably receiving a much more chilled response due to confusion about the actual scope of the changes. This is the kind of preview I'd hesitate to show my boss simply because I fear he'd focus on some specific points that aren't actually part of the scope, and I spend half the meeting explaining that. If you don't have all the context, it's very easy to misunderstand these screenshots. Aug 8, 2023 at 19:04
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    @V2Blast guess it all boils down to the general mistrust, or more accurate lack of trust, between myself and SE as a company. And it's one of those cases where I'll be happy to be wrong. But even so, yes, I would like to have wall of text where I can see what I might otherwise miss from comparing screenshots to what we have today. Aug 8, 2023 at 19:27
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    @curiousdannii I can see the pictures and I still don't see or understand what is different about this "vision". It looks like what already exists now. 🤷🏻‍♂️ What is the point?
    – Drew Reese
    Aug 10, 2023 at 1:45

35 Answers 35

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It looks to me like this is an effort towards reaching out to the community at an earlier stage for feedback, as has been insisted upon by many here on Meta and as part of the moderator/community strike. Whether it's a new effort or just something you planned all along, thanks and kudos!

As you can see, there are inconsistencies, things we haven’t touched yet, and items pushed very far visually just for the sake of exploration.

I'm not a design professional, and maybe this post isn't targeted to me, but I don't really know what any of these mean, and I certainly don't see them.

What would be most helpful to me in understanding what you're trying to do would be to explain these specifically to help me understand the vision that is being presented:

What is inconsistent?

What have you touched and what haven't you touched?

If there are aspects that look more like an older version of the site, is that because the intent is to revert those changes or is it just that the design was iteratively developed from an older site version and they've now drifted apart?

What does it mean to push an item visually for the sake of exploration, and which items are pushed that way?

The aging design has become frustrating for me, for our designers, and for our audience. We all deeply care about the sites and want the visual aesthetics to reflect that, in addition to making the site(s) feel welcoming and less intimidating.

What about it is frustrating, besides the age? Which visual aesthetics do you see as a problem, and why? Which aesthetics are unwelcoming or intimidating?

I'm certainly not expecting solutions out of the gate to everything, that can come in the future, but it would be more helpful to me in understanding the overall "vision" to hear what specifically you're going after and why.

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    I'll try to keep my response short. Inconsistent? Colors, shadows, etc. What have we touched? Buttons, border radius. Older version of the site? This vision was started from the current state. Push an item visually? Top bar navigation—it would never ship this way. It has some usability concerns and business constraints that need to be addressed. Frustrating? Crowding of the site. Spacing/number of borders used is very overwhelming and can add to the intimidation.
    – Piper Staff
    Aug 8, 2023 at 17:03
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    @Piper Thanks, that's helpful, although I still don't really see the inconsistency in colors or shadows, for example. Different colors seems like a good thing for identifying separate information/functionality, so what is it you mean when you say they are inconsistent? Are things like the capitalization change in the text links below Q&A intentional? I thought those were just recently capitalized for design reasons in a previous iteration. Aug 8, 2023 at 17:11
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    @BryanKrause: I don't think Piper's intent there is to suggest we'll make everything use the same color, for instance – but rather, to reassure folks that specific elements looking a certain way in the overall "design vision" mockup doesn't necessarily mean it's an intentional change or final decision on what we're going to do. I suspect the lowercase used in the buttons/links below the post body is one of those inconsistencies (since they are intentionally capitalized right now, per Stacks guidelines – whereas they used to be lowercase).
    – V2Blast
    Aug 8, 2023 at 17:38
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    @V2Blast No of course not, sorry I didn't mean to imply that either, just to emphasize my own very rudimentary understanding of color in design and that I need something more like "this orange and that orange are from a different family" or something; "we changed colors here but these ones are still the old". For capitalization, that inconsistency doesn't make sense to me if the design is based on the current site: it would mean someone took the current site, and changed it to make it inconsistent. If they did that, what was the reason? Aug 8, 2023 at 17:47
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    @Piper The recent change to the upvote/downvote buttons was a classic example of pointless change for the sake of change that degraded usability. Another example was the short-lived, horrendously ugly change to watched tags. Skepticism about your "vision" stems directly from SO's history of things like that. Aug 10, 2023 at 16:39
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    @Piper another puzzling change is the introduction of hyphenation in question titles. I could see that it would be useful to reduce the number of lines a title requires, but 90% of the time it doesn't do that. If one line says "why is this algorithm run-" and the next says "ning slowly?" you have decreased readability compared to "why is this algorithm" ... "running slowly?" The only reason I can see for this is the common problem of engineers providing "solutions" to problems that do not exist simply because they can, thereby in fact creating problems that hadn't existed before.
    – phoog
    Aug 15, 2023 at 13:24
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    @phoog it's unclear whether that change is actually intentional. We had a similar situation where words were getting more aggressively hyphenated than was reasonable and a dev checked it out and I think it turned out that we have two different hyphenation systems and they'd used the more aggressive one. Is there a bug report mentioning the change? I can imagine the aggressive one being specifically intended for titles on narrow viewports like phones but is being used for all views accidentally.
    – Catija
    Aug 15, 2023 at 22:47
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    I can't spot a single use of a "shadow" (filter drop-shadow or box-shadow) in either of the screenshots. Am I confused as to what a shadow is?
    – Rick
    Aug 17, 2023 at 10:29
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I think what would help us care about this design vision more is if you justified what your frustrations were.

Speaking as an engineer, I value function over form. That's not to say that I don't think that form has no place, but I wouldn't sacrifice function for form, or make changes dedicated solely to form without some kind of reason.

You highlight:

The aging design has become frustrating for me, for our designers, and for our audience. We all deeply care about the sites and want the visual aesthetics to reflect that, in addition to making the site(s) feel welcoming and less intimidating.

In part:

  1. The design is aging, sure. But this is something that I feel is highly subjective, and neither here nor there when it comes to the utility of a site. Hacker News hasn't had much in the way of "improvement" to its site or layout since inception, and it's still a very serviceable and usable site. One of my favorite game series - Pokemon - has in its fandom the venerable site Serebii.net, which is still stubbornly Web 1.0 as proclaimed by their webmaster, and while yes it's an ouchie to deal with on mobile, the site still functions. Why does the age of the design matter in your vision?

  2. Who is the actual audience here - the people that use the site on a daily basis, helping with administrivia and getting people to their answers, or those fly-by agents who just copy and paste their code from the site to do their job? This needs to be defined precisely, and I make no joke of this - if the people who actually keep this site running and relevant can't use it anymore, then it doesn't really matter how pretty y'all want to make it.

  3. What is the quantum leap you're making between welcomeness and design? This really needs to be spelled out with some data. We've made too many visual changes to say that "we're welcoming", but if we keep having to make visual changes to the site to say we're welcoming, it's not the visuals that are the issue.


Maybe could I just borrow some of this energy on design to ensure that y'all focus on shipping a global dark mode instead? This is something that's actually been requested from up and down the stacks, and the company even created a whole new visual design library to try to accomplish that. Can y'all get this done first before you commit to whatever "vision" you're coming up with out of thin air, please??

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    You are making the assumption that we will be sacrificing function for form without giving the team a chance. I understand your fear, but this team has a great plan in place to ensure that it is not what happens.
    – Piper Staff
    Aug 8, 2023 at 16:57
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    Ease my fear, @Piper. Share your plans. Don't just announce change for the sake of change.
    – Makoto
    Aug 8, 2023 at 16:59
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    I did under "next steps" in my post. Designers have 3 posts coming to ask you about how you use those components in the next week.
    – Piper Staff
    Aug 8, 2023 at 17:05
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    Sure. Maybe the order was off and I'm still a bit concerned about what's going on. I'd still want to understand the justifications beforehand, but maybe this is just me still feeling a bit raw with some of the communications of the company. Would've been nice to have this up front, IMO.
    – Makoto
    Aug 8, 2023 at 17:09
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    @Piper Taken alone, the substance of how you're communicating here meets my expectations. If the next three posts are like this, I will be happy. In the context of the past few years of company communications, however, it is just words (and ominous words, at that): it'll take us quite some time to move past that. You'll receive a lot of criticism (and have, already), and while that criticism is valid (and maybe even actionable by you, as here), very little of it will be about you, the plans you've made, or the actions you've taken (as here). Please take personally only what's personal.
    – wizzwizz4
    Aug 8, 2023 at 20:38
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    +100 if I could. It looks like this main post is an effort to gather stakeholder input, but the "vision" images sort of suggest that the redesign is at too advanced a stage to make stakeholder input as valuable as is should be. Aug 12, 2023 at 15:16
  • What is this "dark mode" people talk of? Dark backgound with light foreground?
    – Martin F
    Aug 14, 2023 at 19:41
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    @MartinF, in most cases, dark mode is something you set, and then wish you can remember how to turn off. Aug 15, 2023 at 23:49
  • a lack of global dark mode is extremely frustrating for me: someone who uses the site for code & snippets, where most people who do that kind of work have everything else on their system in dark mode, while globally stackexchange does not.
    – RoelDS
    Aug 17, 2023 at 23:07
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Selection of the topbar from the "vision" in the question, showing the user section with avatar, rep, and badges, followed by a moderator diamond, the review icon, the notification icon with a green dot, the inbox icon with a blue dot, and the hamburger SE icon.

What's going on with this section over here? At a first glance, it looks like all of the icons have been re-ordered for some reason, and the help button removed.

Why is it necessary to move these icons? What's the motivation behind shuffling the order?
The inbox and reputation dropdowns used to be on the left side of the topbar, but then when review became a dropdown icon and help became an icon instead of a word, the inbox and achievements dropdown were moved over there as well.

In this mockup, the moderator inbox has been moved to be with everything else instead of visually separate like it is now. (I also don't see where the flags count is.) This feels like a bad idea; I don't want the stuff in the mod inbox getting mixed up with my personal inbox.

Also, the reputation and inbox numbers appear to have been changed into a dot. Please, please, please do not remove the numbers here. It's simply removing useful information for no reason. The dot for notifications is how things works on Teams and it is so frustrating to not know how many items are unread there (along with my poor experience in general of how the inbox works in Teams). Please do not remove information that is currently being displayed.

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    I'm curious what that down arrow does
    – Kevin B
    Aug 8, 2023 at 16:30
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    I agree. I leave notifications in the inbox unread because I'm not going to act on them yet. The number is how I keep track of whether or not I have new notifications. Removing that number leaves me unable to see when I have new notifications. Instantly removing the entire "update" icon once I've opened, but not read, the notifications, makes me forget that I have stuff to do. Aug 8, 2023 at 16:31
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    Just to reiterate, this is not shipping. This was a visual exploration that didn't take into account all the requirements and use cases. Top nav isn't being looked at by any designer at the moment and when it eventually is, it will start by asking questions around usage.
    – Piper Staff
    Aug 8, 2023 at 16:48
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    Thanks for the clarification, @Piper! That's reassuring, but I just wanted to make sure that my concerns around this mockup were out there clearly and documented for taking into account in the future :)
    – Mithical
    Aug 8, 2023 at 16:54
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    +1 keep the +15-etc Aug 8, 2023 at 16:57
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    I just wish to contribute by providing feedback on those icons, @Piper. As I saw those icons in the screenshot in this post, immediately Jakob Nielsen popped in my mind, and how he warned about the downsides of flat design. I feel those icons take this concern a notch even further. I feel that that wireframe style takes away from the recognizability of those icons (vs the superior defining power of the currently in-production silhouette), and I fear that it may demand cognitive effort on each individual occurrence of interaction with them.
    – Levente
    Aug 8, 2023 at 18:18
  • I don’t actually mind the icons being reordered so that the most commonly accessible icons (achievements and inbox) are on the right. It might help not disturbing muscle memory when new icons appear, thereby shifting the more common icons to the left, when you gain privileges or move between sites where you have different privilege levels. Aug 9, 2023 at 17:55
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    The "audience" appears to be SO users. Where can I find comparable information from the SE community? Also, some of this seems to be change just for the sake of change. So: if it's not broken, please don't fix / break it ;)
    – Rick
    Aug 10, 2023 at 10:30
  • I'd personally prefer a complete overhaul of the nav experience. IMO Top nav should only contain search, notifications, the user icon, and the supercollider to visit other network stuff. Per-site stuff (Reviews, Help, Chat, Meta, Tour/Privileges/Badges, and 10k/20k/Mod tools) should ALL be on the left nav (obviously some tools hidden for users without those privileges)
    – Robotnik
    Aug 15, 2023 at 5:06
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What happened to Ask Question button?

I cannot believe I am going to say this, but where is the "Ask Question" button?

That people ask questions too soon is one thing, but that they cannot easily ask questions because you have hidden the button is something completely different.

Also the "Add Question" is extremely confusing terminology when you are looking at existing questions as it suggests that the question must somehow be connected with the one you are already looking at.

Only 5 questions on a page?

I truly hope this is just your proof of concept design, but only 5 questions on a page is an extremely low number. I am using 50 per page as a default.

When we are at question lists, your new design is extremely wasteful in vertical space. It is not suitable for fast browsing and inspecting a large number of questions.

The current design is fine, thank you!

I am saying that the current design is fine, but actually, it is not completely fine. It was fine before it was modified for mobile. And even then it was already ruined by some color changes.

Constant changes just for the sake of change just ruin the workflow for frequent users that need to adapt and find their way around again, and again, and again. And when you break something or ruin some functionality, you only fix it halfway and leave it until the next major redesign that makes it even worse.

I still cannot read numbers on reputation notifications because you have changed colors to too light green and made font thinner, several years ago.

Please fix the colors first. And don't change things that don't need to be changed.

And keep in mind that function is imperative, not the looks.

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    If anything the button should say "New question". There is no context on the SE network where we would ever "add" questions.
    – Lundin
    Aug 14, 2023 at 14:00
  • I was about to post the same question : the "Ask" button should be where it is now, and is nowhere to be seen on the "vision" ones. I find it really disturbing! Aug 21, 2023 at 8:25
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    "Constant changes just for the sake of change" is the definition of 2.0+ web design.
    – rebusB
    Aug 23, 2023 at 15:34
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I am very apprehensive about the information density of the new design. Your image depicts a list of merely 5 questions at a screen height of 1540 px, while the current design permits 8, with 100vh = 1280px AND scaling at 125%.

Being able to browse through more questions with less scrolling is concretely positive towards finding interesting ones, which your new design clearly goes against. The addition of a question excerpt seems superfluous to me, as any argument that "it gives a glance of the question body" is countered by "this could - and should - be solved by educating users to write more meaningful and informational titles".

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    We are going to have a post come out some time next week looking at this exact component. This was an exploration, but the designer working on it will be coming to you with questions only and starting their discovery process of this component from scratch. FWIW, I agree with you. To actually have a default like this, it would need controls that allow our curators, mods, etc to have more compact options.
    – Piper Staff
    Aug 9, 2023 at 13:14
  • The post Piper mentioned asking for input on that component is now up! I've noted the information density issue you brought up, but feel free to head to that post if you have more to say.
    – Chloe
    Aug 16, 2023 at 14:35
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I appreciate you sharing the overall direction and vision with us. I'm married to an artist and I understand that it can be difficult to share things that are in progress and likely to change :)

I know I am a broken record about this, but please keep accessibility in mind. It is so much easier to create something beautiful and accessible if you plan for accessibility in advance. It's a lot harder to retrofit accessibility and maintain the aesthetic.

There is a community around accessibility in video games who are very willing to donate their time and expertise to help anyone interested in learning more about what sorts of design choices can end up being obstacles for some gamers. I'm not sure if the same type of community exists for web applications, but if it does it would be worth tapping into.

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    There is an accessibility community for web development, which even has some active users on meta. There are dozens of posts documenting various problems too: snippets/ask question page/toolbar, elections, other QoL features. Unfortunately, most of the emphasis recently has been on changes increasing contrast, which has been superficial and in some cases made the site worse (e.g., ignored tags).
    – Laurel
    Aug 8, 2023 at 18:52
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    Exactly, very much to the core: retrofitting with accessible features is waaay more hard than starting concept ideation with a11y principles as part of the bottommost layer of the foundation. Through a remote metaphor, it's how it's more simple to code CSS with the mobile-first principle (adding complexity (pleasant)), than with the desktop-first principle (trying to subtract complexity (cumbersome)). A11y-first, one may end up designing a product that will work and feel totally differently, but 1.) it will nevertheless be able to fulfill its function, and 2.) it will be truly inclusive.
    – Levente
    Aug 9, 2023 at 15:37
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    With that said, one must acknowledge that an accessibility-first mindset needs initial investment, getting accustomed to the principle, and getting familiar with the tooling. Addressing it the first time, it may appear like a profession within a profession. And when building up the initial momentum (initially adopting the philosophy), it needs to be budgeted for appropriately. Where this specific insight is missing, that may present a significant stumbling block that may chronically undermine accessibility-oriented efforts.
    – Levente
    Aug 9, 2023 at 15:49
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Put the stuff new users need to see where they'll see it

I'm really in desperate need of help because I look at Reddit and see that their basic rules are right there on the sidebar on every page above the fold (at least on desktop), no clicking through multiple menus trying to find some information that you know exists in one of those Help Center pages that haven't been updated in years because mods can't find them either. Reddit's design is far from perfect (I hate accordions without an "expand all" button), but it makes me self reflect. Where are our rules for what's supposed to be in questions and answers? Would you know if you didn't look it up just now? How is a new user supposed to know it exists and get there?

Quoting Jeff Atwood:

When it comes to user interface design, I'm no guru, but I do have one golden rule that I always try to follow:

Make the right thing easy to do and the wrong thing awkward to do.

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    i made a new user account recently, and there was a big block on the right sidebar specifically for new users explaining what SO is. however, it seems to be gone now on that account, so I'm curious now how long they display it for.
    – Kevin B
    Aug 8, 2023 at 20:57
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  • 4
    "... Help Center pages that haven't been updated in years because mods can't find them either." is inaccurate. Moderators can only edit a very small number of pages in the Help Center. The vast majority of the Help Center content is entirely controlled by the company, not moderators.
    – Makyen
    Aug 9, 2023 at 23:54
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I don't wish to sound repetitive, but it's important to recognize that you have a specialized sub-site with over 100,000 users, at least 1% of whom have significant experience in high-profile Fortune 50 companies. Specifically, I'm referring to UX Stack Exchange.

Rather than leveraging this valuable asset, it seems you continue to engage in time-consuming tasks that that take weeks or months when they could be resolved in a day and then yes, use time FOR TESTING. I don't say design isn't important (it is very important), but you need to confirm its effectivity by means of user testing, A/B or multivariate tests, work with ANOVAs, regressions, and other fundamental UX research methodologies. When I read your post and it's all about looks and basic web design, it's really frustrating.

I'm not sure how long you've been in this position, but historically, every redesign on SO has been a disaster requiring subsequent fixes. This is because basic UX principles are often ignored, principles like the ones I've mentioned above. Moreover, SO has a policy of not seeking the guidance of some of the most skilled professionals in the field, adhering to a philosophy of taking without giving back.

While I'm aware that SO might disregard my concerns, I still feel compelled to ask for essential accessibility, proper testing (and no, asking here is NOT testing!), and a touch of common sense. I'm uncertain if you'll heed my advice (based on history, you likely won't), but I need to voice my thoughts for my peace of mind. At the very least, I know I've done what I could.

PS: what vision? you didn't even mention it!

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    "Moreover, SO has a policy of not seeking the guidance of some of the most skilled professionals in the field, adhering to a philosophy of taking without giving back" ? more like taking without taking what else we want to give.
    – starball
    Aug 16, 2023 at 20:23
38

I think four things need to be said:

  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

    Please don't make change for change's sake. It's worrying that you think the design is aged. What has the age of the design got to do with its effectiveness or usability? YouTube forced changes on users some time ago and they were not an improvement in any practical way. One of the worst changes was taking up more screen space per video preview, and it seems like you're doing a similar thing here. Also keep in mind that the people who complained about features were what proportion of users. Is the idea of change being driven by a noisy minority compared to a silent majority who want it left largely unchanged? Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Dark Theme first.

    This would seem to be the most significant change that most users would actually want. It's a demand that users of many, many sites on the Internet want and it seems to be the last thing people get. Let's try this first. And that's dark theme as one option, not the only option, please.

  • Small changes can make a big difference.

    It's worrying when people talk about redesigning a site's appearance because the fear is that this means completely altering the design rather than making important but small changes. Often, far more often than not I would say, it's small changes that make a huge difference. I'd suggest trying to identify the small changes that are needed rather than trying to completely alter the appearance.

  • A mobile-specific UI.

    Yes, I know you dropped the mobile app a while ago, but a version of the site with a mobile-friendly (and streamlined) UI would seem a more useful long-term investment than a redesign of the desktop format. Leave the desktop format alone and expend effort on a mobile UI. If anything is "aged" about SE/SO it's this. Notably visiting a specific sub-site has a reasonably usable UI (which could possibly be improved), but visiting SE's home page produces the full desktop page squished into my phone's screen, making it very unfriendly to phone users.

12
  • 4
    The reference supporting users being frustrated with the design was a survey from 2019, which was a few significant design changes ago, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    – Kevin B
    Aug 9, 2023 at 16:38
  • 2
    "visiting SE's home page produces the full desktop page squished into my phone's screen" – I assume you're talking about stackexchange.com?
    – V2Blast
    Aug 9, 2023 at 17:14
  • @V2Blast Yes. For reference purposes I'm using Firefox on Android 10.QkQ1.191014.001 on a Redmi 8 phone using MIUI "Global" 12.5.3. Aug 9, 2023 at 18:16
  • 4
    @StephenG-HelpUkraine: I think the code (and design) there hasn't been touched in a while. I know the individual sites were made responsive a while back, but that hasn't happened yet for stackexchange.com – so that's (unfortunately) the expected behavior for now.
    – V2Blast
    Aug 9, 2023 at 18:22
  • 4
    The thing is, there are several key features which weren't broke, and they "fixed" them, i.e. broke them.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 14, 2023 at 11:14
  • I don't code on mobile and I don't read SE on mobile. Just sayin'
    – cloudxix
    Aug 22, 2023 at 21:27
  • 1
    @cloudxix The issue is not what you do but improving what other people try to. I suspect SE/SO (and there's more going on that coding here) would be more popular on mobiles (and tablets) if the UI was a bit better on those platforms. It's not by any means trivial to do these things, but I'm suggesting that (long term) this is an area that would be a good investment for SE/SO. I'm also suggesting that it's a better investment than changing a desktop UI that works pretty well already. Aug 22, 2023 at 22:09
  • @StephenG-HelpUkraine: it's not what I do, it's what most people do, and most people don't use stack exchange on mobile. the reason they don't is because the general use case does not lend itself well to mobile. not everything on the web has a place 'on mobile'. but, go ahead and spin those wheels...
    – cloudxix
    Aug 29, 2023 at 0:41
  • @cloudxix I use SE all the time on mobile, even though I prefer desktop for most use-cases. There’s plenty of reason to visit SE sites outside of the work/hobby, especially the non-SO sites. There’s also plenty of reason to still use mobile, even when you use it for a project that takes place on desktop. Aug 29, 2023 at 0:51
  • 1
    If it ain't broke don't fix it +1 for that. SE and SO have grown by adapting to what appears "broke" over the years. Make a list of what you see as "broke" and prioritise.
    – MT1
    Sep 6, 2023 at 5:09
  • I don't code on mobile either, does anybody code on their phone? What does happen perhaps is that certain sites may have a significant mobile user population, for example Travel SE.
    – MT1
    Sep 6, 2023 at 5:29
  • @user10186832 I personally know several people -notably, lower-income people- who learned to code on mobile and have gone on to careers in tech. Sure, that's anecdata, but for me it's proof positive that it's a non-null situation. Sep 7, 2023 at 17:49
29

IMHO there are other concrete things that could be improved before worrying about nebulous "Design Visions".

Here's one example. I read SO on an iPad, when it is in portrait orientation, and I look at my own profile page, most of the real estate is wasted on "StackOverflow" and "Products" which I never click, and there's no room for the "Search" box:

enter image description here

This makes it a pain to check my own previous answers.

If I rotate my iPad to landscape mode, suddenly the "Search" box is the most important box in the world and gets half the screen:

enter image description here

3
26

A few quick thoughts - the help button is missing, and for a new user all those icons are cryptic. It's worth exploring how to ease someone with no SE experience into the broader network. I started off with a simple top bar with words. It was probably easier than what we have now, and I think there's a certain value in looking backwards as much as forwards for inspiration

There's also been an unfortunate trend of nibbling away at the horizontal space for content for advertising. SE does need to make money but I literally have only a third of my screen in use by SE. Considering larger viewports in responsive design would be appreciated too.

Also bring back the non sticky top bar please!

There's also a backlogged wishlist to consider - and specifically, if collectives can get space there, the other two constituents of most sites, meta and chat could earn a spot. It would be especially helpful for smaller sites.

4
  • 8
    Adding a link to chat would be very nice-- as an active SO user I currently have very little understanding of how to navigate to different chat rooms from the main site. Aug 8, 2023 at 18:31
  • @Feathercrown note: chat is under the stackexchange bubble icon at the right of the top bar.
    – starball
    Aug 10, 2023 at 3:03
  • The discoverability of chat and meta isn't very good @starball, which is one of the things that I feel need addressing. Aug 10, 2023 at 3:08
  • 1
    @JourneymanGeek yes, I don't disagree. meta.stackexchange.com/a/392122/997587
    – starball
    Aug 10, 2023 at 3:09
24

Unfortunately I think this was one of the design team's less effective communications. I say that because there are a lot of comments by both design team members and community managers which amount to "wait, that's not what this is about!" Now that we're getting more of the specific design vision posts I think I'm getting a better idea at what this introductory post is for (it wasn't even clear originally that it was meant to be introductory in that way!) I'd like to suggest a few areas of constructive criticism, and it's not too late to edit the post to reduce future confusions.


Firstly, I was quite disappointed that the post reads ableist. The main meat of the post is two screenshots followed by "As you can see..." I don't know if the design team is ultimately responsible for website accessibility, but it is surely intimately involved in implementing accessibility measures. The community have been asking for accessibility improvements for a long time. While I'm sure some of them are on the cards for the future, it is upsetting to see it overlooked here. I'm not visually impaired, but if I was I would've been insulted by how this post overlooked my needs.


Next, you briefly explain what a design vision is, but you don't set forward what the team's design vision consists of. This is a great paragraph:

A design vision is intended to provide top level inspiration and guidance for the design team. It helps designers create a unified experience when working on different projects. With new features coming down the pipeline for both our community and Teams products, it is imperative for us to align on a visual direction. We can build new components in our existing design language, but we’d like to use this unique opportunity to evolve.

But instead of describing it (or even copying the text I assume the team has) you just show us the screenshots. While it may be clear to the team how the screenshots show the design vision, it's not to us. And I think that's why there's a lot of mismatch between the feedback community members have been giving, and what you were seemingly expecting.

  • Is it just about "visual identity" as a later paragraph says?
  • Does User Experience come under the design vision?
  • Does the design vision have principles like accessibility-first or mobile-first?
  • Does the design vision concern questions of optimising for the first time user vs the regular/power user vs mods, or is that out of scope?
  • Do site customisations come under the design vision (for example, is there an intention to increase, decrease, or maintain the level of customisation offered to a site?)

All of these are things which could well come under the heading of a Design Vision, but we don't know if they come under the team's current design vision or not.


Lastly, the purpose of this introductory post. It wasn't really clear that this post is just introductory, and that many future posts concerning specific areas of changes would be made. Yes you did mention future posts would be coming, but we didn't know what they'd look like.

My guess is that in this post you'd most appreciate general comments on the design vision itself, rather than raising particular pain points or detailed feedback on the screenshots. (As several staff comments have said, the screenshots are not meant to be ready for final comment, and have mistakes and incomplete things in them.)

I'd suggest you do this:

  1. Set out a textual description of the design vision. Ideally just copying in the team's official design vision statement if there is one.
  2. Remove the screenshots - at this time they're actually more of a hindrance. They don't seem to represent the final state you're moving towards, and are confusing the community about what changes you're thinking of making.
  3. Explain in slightly more detail what feedback you'd like in this post, compared to the follow-on posts.
21

I am concerned about the community bulletins. These redesigns are taking up a lot of space and blend in to the point where I see the blog posts displayed very prominently and then the meta posts are overwhelmed with the sidebar add and another list of questions. The meta questions lose the distinct separation that currently exists. The bulletin is visually distinct from other items and noticeable.

Current CB with background coloring

My other concern is with the question list. It is very visually sparse. Your screenshot shows 5 questions before your scroll. The current page shows more than double that. Why add all that white space? On Stack Overflow 5 new questions will show briefly. According the stats provided at the WeAreDevelopers conference a new question is asked every 14 seconds.

In short - a lot of information is being spread out. I assume to make things less visually dense, but at the expense of hiding that information through either fewer questions on the list or by pushing down the meta posts the community is interested in for blog posts that are less relevant to site maintenance.

A few other questions:

  • Are watched tags moving some place else? They don't appear in your current iteration.
  • Are the "Recommended for you" and "Related questions" (current design) the same thing?
  • What does the side bar look like with 8 items (like my screenshot above)?
2
  • The detail vs. space issue reminds me a bit of the original pitch for the (then new) responsive user activity page. It's a hard balance to strike, and I think it's completely reasonable to feel like the current front page is too cramped– but it would be a shame to see that problem "solved" by removing a bunch of detail, or by making existing items take up so much new space that the page feels less useful at a glance.
    – zcoop98
    Aug 8, 2023 at 22:29
  • 3
    "According the stats provided at the WeAreDevelopers conference a new question is asked every 14 seconds." - 6k questions per 24 hour cycle? No; but we do get about that many posts (i.e., including answers). That slide is simply mistaken. Aug 9, 2023 at 1:09
18

Bring back the pre-2017 feature of showing the count of pending suggested edits in the top bar

Before the top bar received its current design in 2017, it formerly showed the number of pending suggested edits to users with the privilege to review suggested edits. However, the 2017 design changes saw this always-shown number being removed and replaced with an occasionally-shown alert dot. Immediately after the changes, there was a sudden increase in the amount of time it took for edits to be reviewed, and the queue began to pile on and reach its maximum size. I also noticed that the time it took for my suggested edits here on this site to be reviewed went up from 6-8 minutes to 6-8 hours after the new top bar was deployed here.

In response to the slowdown in suggested edit reviews, the team removed the site-specific override on SO to require three reviews to approve or reject instead of only two and increased the edit queue size from 200 to 500. However, while these band-aid fixes did stem the problem for a while, the fundamental issue of edits taking much longer to be reviewed still remains. Also, for about a year now, the number of pending edits has frequently reached the maximum of 500, preventing all site users from suggesting edits.

In response, I filed a feature request asking that the count of pending edits be reinstated. It was declined in February as doing so would require the top bar to be fully redesigned. However, as the top bar is being fully redesigned due to these changes, I hope it can now be reconsidered for implementation, if not permanently, as a temporary experiment to see if it undoes the slowdown.

16
  • While I generally agree that addressing concerns with low participation in review queues is something worth investigating, your answer neglects to acknowledge that one of the primary reasons the number was removed was because people who were active reviewers, particularly on smaller sites, were often confused because the number can only show how many posts are in the queue and is not aware of whether any individual can actually review at any given time. On SO, this is rarely an issue since the queue is always full but on other sites it would alert people to review when they could not.
    – Catija
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:31
  • 1
    @Catija then just don't show it to people who can't review in that queue?
    – starball
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:35
  • 2
    @Catija That's kind of why I filed the original request on Meta.SO rather than here. It was really the only site to be massively negatively affected by the changes, but the same issue with time taken to review is still an issue on other sites (including here per my experience). Even the same issue, about the prompt showing for review items one can't review, is still an issue today with the modern review dot. The best way to resolve this is to fix that background issue. Aug 9, 2023 at 20:36
  • 2
    @starball My understanding is that checking whether someone can review every time the page loads to ensure that indicator count is correct is something that we've consistently been told is too expensive to do. Querying the state of the queues or even the quantity of reviews in the queue is a significantly lighter lift than having to cross reference that count with whether or not the person has reviewed any of the items in the list.
    – Catija
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:38
  • @Catija so... a client-side check is too expensive? In that case, why not do a server-side check? Actually, I really cannot understand why a client-side check or a server-side check would be too expensive. Can you explain? All you need to know is the rep threshold for the edit queue for that site, and how much rep the user has. The first is pretty (relatively) static info, and the second is already going to be retrieved to display in the user's top bar...
    – starball
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:42
  • 2
    I can't speak for this project regarding what is in or out of scope and I do honestly hope that we can improve how we draw attention to the review queues across the network but I would caution that since there are far more changes needed than merely converting a dot to a number, it is likely out of scope. I've been trying to do get this adjusted from the time Jon and Shog first made these changes and I think the issues go far beyond the suggested edits queue alone.
    – Catija
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:44
  • 2
    @starball It's not just what the total count is, though and I'm not sure how the reputation threshold is related. If a user has done 8 reviews in the suggested edit queue and four of those are still in the queue waiting on a second reviewer, we have to subtract four from the total number of items in the review queue if we want to display a number that aligns with the actual count of reviews a user could actually do if they click on the review icon. If it's four out of 200 reviews possible the user will run out of reviews before noticing the discrepancy.
    – Catija
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:46
  • 3
    If those four reviews are the only review tasks remaining in the queue, the user will be notified every hour that there are four review items but see none when they get the queue page. In order to accurately show 0 and not 4 or -4, we would have to know that the user did 8 reviews and that 4 of those reviews are as of yet unresolved - this requires querying which reviews exist and which the user has already participated in. And that already ignores the fact that other reviewers may have "checked out" the last items in the queue at times.
    – Catija
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:50
  • 1
    @Catija that explains it. thanks for taking the time to help me understand! accounting for what the user has skipped seems like the particularly tricky bit (I can't think of how to tackle that). the number of reviews they've done in a day could be cached and reset each day.
    – starball
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:58
  • @Catija I'd be OK with this being only enabled on a site-by-site basis, starting out only on SO, since as you said, your concern is rarely an issue on SO, and as I said, it's the only site to be massively affected by the 2017 changes. By the way, I didn't see any staff post stating that the reason for removing the number was because it wasn't taking into account whether or not a user can review tasks; could you please point me to that post and quote the part of that post that says so? Aug 9, 2023 at 21:06
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog the reasoning is at least hinted at here
    – Kevin B
    Aug 9, 2023 at 21:13
  • It's here which you can find linked from Jon's introduction to the new indicator (bullet 3). Since I now have all of these links handy, here's all of the other ones related to the 2017 change I could dig up.: Top bar improvements, my discussion, adjusting logic.
    – Catija
    Aug 9, 2023 at 22:26
  • I'm actually still of the opinion that changing the link from text to an icon did more harm than anything with the indicator (which has never worked well in its entire history). Not that there's anything wrong with the icon... There just isn't a picture that represents what we need here to as many people as we need it to. Needless to say, this is never going to get changed back - so I'd recommend aiming for fixes that put review callouts somewhere else.
    – Shog9
    Aug 11, 2023 at 23:39
  • @Shog9 What makes you certain that this isn't going to be changed? The February answer declining my MSO request said it could be done if the top bar were completely redesigned, which is happening as mentioned in the question. Also, one thing to note is that the old top bar which had the number still showed only a number with no context, and that was enough to entice many people to review. Aug 11, 2023 at 23:41
  • The new mockups are still icons, and for good reason: they're more space efficient, especially important on mobile. The old top bar had a number if you could review suggested edits - for folks under some much larger threshold (IIRC 10k), there was no indication that other queues had anything to do. IOW, it shouldn't have worked at all, and yet... It mostly did. Paradoxically, the indicator seems to have discouraged the "check and see" impulse that kept involvement high on larger sites and is still required on smaller ones. UX is full of fun surprises like that. 😡
    – Shog9
    Aug 12, 2023 at 4:34
17

In discussion elsewhere, it came up that, well, we're not designers.

What is a design vision in this context? I get that nothing is set in stone, and the deliverables are separated out by content - but as an end user, what do the images I see mean, and how do they reflect the final product?

What's meant to be communicated to me, and what's the value add, and my expected input at this stage of the design process?

0
15

the only things that are finalized right now are our colors and the items we’ve already shipped (like buttons)

(emphasis mine)

I find it troubling that one of the few changes that are apparently set in stone are buttons. The recent change to the styling of the voting buttons was found unhelpful by 685 people, helpful by only 127 users. Here is a recent question at Cross Validated:

Enter image description here

Since the change, I have been needing to look twice or more often just to figure out whether I have already voted on a post or not.

Please increase the contrast on voting buttons again.

3
  • 2
    I am referring to the removal of border and inner shadows on our button style, not the voting action.
    – Piper Staff
    Aug 10, 2023 at 15:58
  • 2
    @Piper: thank you, that is good to see. So there is a chance that this change will be rolled back, right? (I'm not sure I'm serious about this question, my hopes are low. I can't see how SO could have decided on this in the first place, and there has been no movement on this, in spite of the overwhelming feedback at that linked thread.) Aug 11, 2023 at 7:12
  • 3
    I have been needing to look twice or more often just to figure out whether I have already voted on a post or not - even worse in dark mode.
    – QHarr
    Aug 11, 2023 at 14:33
12

Dark theme and general accessibility of the network's sites is something that has been requested several times by the community over the years. Can you speak to how these will fit into this vision?

Is this vision somehow related to a desire to solve technical debt and move on from bad practices, like the overuse of !important? I would be interested in understanding if there are such technical motivations for the changes too, since for technical users to accept an interface refresh it is usually easier if it can be tied to making underlying code better, rather than just "the old design felt aged."

6
  • 3
    I've edited your answer to focus on what I perceived to be the core concerns it contained. It may not read in your voice, though, so feel free to adjust it to do so if you please — but please try to focus on your core concerns, and to avoid being overly snarky and assigning ill-intent to actions. It makes for a much more constructive discussion if we can focus on the actual concerns, which are legitimate ^_^
    – JNat StaffMod
    Aug 9, 2023 at 9:49
  • 3
    @JNat, thanks for your time and attention! I'll let it stay the way you edited for now, because at the moment I don't feel like I can lower my snarkiness to acceptable levels, and probably wouldn't be able to add anything constructive in this state of mind .
    – markalex
    Aug 9, 2023 at 9:55
  • 11
    I am (at my core) a designer leading a team of designers and unfortunately solving large scale technical debt is outside our abilities. We are trying to help evolve the site in a way we are best suited to do so. I know it can be frustrating to see something you deem as less important be prioritized first, but we are trying to improve what we can with what resources we have available at this point in time.
    – Piper Staff
    Aug 9, 2023 at 13:11
  • 2
    @Piper Could you share the whole team's current list of priorities? That would help the community know if things some think are major pain points will be addressed soon, or if they'll still be off the table for a long time. Aug 10, 2023 at 22:03
  • 1
    Well list of priorities is probably a bit too much, but general roadmap would certainly help with transparency, cc @Piper.
    – markalex
    Aug 11, 2023 at 6:10
  • 3
    @Piper Aren't there developers hanging around somewhere? Can't they be coaxed onboard this project? Why does this have to be an effort made exclusively by the designers? To me that seems to strike at the heart of some of the criticism here. Why a design overhaul, why now, and why not with the collaboration of developers who can pace UX and functionality changes with your vision?
    – Robert M.
    Aug 12, 2023 at 10:37
12

As this announcement is intended as a high-level, overview, of the current version of the vision, I'll focus on some high-level aspects.

Overall, part of the "vision" I am gathering is a shift to the "Modern" or, iirc, "Material" style of controls and layouts. Especially in the reduced "design" of the right-hand side nav-bar icons. Looking at the pages as a whole, I still see inconsistencies between "zones". Some are bordered, and other are not. Inside the zones, some have content divisions and some don't. For controls—nav-bar and left-hand side—I prefer to have the "target" area defined such that I know when my cursor is, or is not, in the "hot zone". This is a usability and accessibility issue as well. More so if the background changes color on mouse-enter, yet the "link" isn't activated unless the click is closer to the icon or text. The background changing on mouse-enter can help define the zone, and is not accessibility compliant. Success Criterion 1.4.1, a Level A requirement, prohibits using color alone to present meaningful content or instructions. It reads:

Color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element.

Play with the colors as much as you choose, but just remember to check contrast values and check for color blindness variations. And keep the ability for other "eyes", such as JAWS, Orca and the like to "interpret" the information correctly.

The second request: keep the id="" in HTML for sections unique (that is the "rule" in HTML after all), so that user content CSS can alter display attributes, such as display: none; for selected content. In a similar thread of thought, coordinate all, I mean literally every single instance, font-size settings. Use of the rem units would be a good basis. This allows users to scale up or down the font in either the full page, or targeted areas such as the Q&A content section. Users with less than ideal vision appreciate the ability to set the browser's default size and have well-behaved sites honor that. Users with massive displays (55-inch perhaps) might be better served with a smaller baseline font size.

The third request, and probably a "not gonna happen," but I have to ask. (You all can't say "yes" if I don't ask.) Make the excess data zones collapsible or removable. Nobody wants to see the "Advertisement" boxes (I don't think so anyway). I never want to see the "Popular Network Questions", "The Overflow Blog", "Recommended for you", and "Trending Questions" boxes. Except on two sites, I also don't want to see the "Featured on Meta" box. In the left panel, the Collectives and Teams sections are useless as well. I am not in, and never will be in, either of those projects. Aside from the advertisement zone, many users will have different opinions as to what they don't, or do, want to have. Give the option rather than forcing us to use CSS to "take out the trash."

The fourth request, which seems to have already been considered: test early and fail fast. Maybe even find users, excluding me for the record, willing to be early-alpha testers. Please pay attention to accessibility-oriented users if you do. Hopefully you can find users who are not only opinionated, as I'm sure we humans tend to be, but also able to give neutral feedback outside of their personal preferences. Perhaps, as an extra measure of external evaluation, get involved in the UX/UI design site on your own network. It might also be helpful to investigate the Graphics Design site. Either of both sites could serve as a place to get answers in general, on their subjects, as well as a potential source of early-alpha testers.

Lastly, unrelated to what the new vision is, rather how that vision is expressed, I wish to emphasize, or reiterate some of what has been said by others. Yes, please, give me a wall of text. Use the pictures if you wish, or need to, for clarification, but don't make them the "communication". A picture is worth 1000 words. A picture is also subject to 1000 interpretations. I visit enough of the sites other than Stack Overflow that I've adapted to several styles, themes, colors, and what-nots. I applaud the differentiation in sites, and would like to see more of them get a face-lift (if and when the team can spare a moment or two from the big 'vision'), but this also means that comparing the supplied screenshots with "memory" leaves me 90% clueless about why it "feels" different. (Incidentally it also feels worse, but I don't know the "target" either.) Perhaps as an older generation, I have a different view of things, but the (okay, unkind word) "cheesy" icons on the nav-bar feel less "inviting" than fully drawn graphics. Almost like the designer didn't have the time, or concern, to make "real" icons.

Just a final note, as a reminder. The sites which must now be rebuilt in line with the new "vision" are, to you, a job. Perhaps a project, or maybe even a passion (the best kind of job.) For us, as users, they are more like home. We don't just see the question list and the answer pages; we see all the dark corners, such as the edit pages, review pages, tag wiki's, etc., all the rest of what makes the sites "work". For drive-by search engine readers the two pages are enough. If SE wants to convert these search engine users into contributing users, they need to paint the restrooms as nice as the parlor.

3
  • 2
    I don't know if it's a Stack Overflow thing, but I never have the left column uncollapsed on eg MathOverflow, where I spend my time. I second wanting to be able to maximise real estate on the things I will spend most of my time looking at. Aug 9, 2023 at 2:47
  • 4
    I love your third request because in the future we want to be more personalized. We want to say you spend your time doing x, y, and z on the site so these are the most relevant modules for you. Unfortunately, that is out of the scope for this particular project. For background, this project is owned by designers and being built primarily by designers so amazing ideas like yours are simply outside of our ability.
    – Piper Staff
    Aug 9, 2023 at 13:05
  • 2
    @Piper As a designer you may not have the ability to implement those ideas. What you can do is envision what changes that would mean in you layout and what "controls" would allow that. The controls can be designed, if developers get to that aspect, and the design will already be able to handle what they implement. The more "connected" sections are, the harder they are to move around. Someone might want the "recommended" and "meta" sections on the left above the collective and teams. If the developers get a wild idea, make your vision able to hold their vision.
    – Chindraba
    Aug 9, 2023 at 16:52
12

Plan for enough time for bug fixes before making any changes

It is a consistent pattern for changes in SE that you will come up with some shiny new things, but once they get deployed, remaining problems often won't get fixed.

For example the new inbox was deployed just before the winter bash, the community members report a lot of problems only to get told that you currently don't have the bandwidth to fix the problem due to winter bash/holidays/whatever. Fast forward 6-8 months, there are still open problems.

For your design vision, please include enough follow-up time in your planning before you start working on things.

2
  • 3
    also basic feature-requests. exhibit A: saves. or even finishing a project. exhibit B: staging ground. or even getting preliminary thoughts from the community at all: exhibit C: genai site.
    – starball
    Aug 16, 2023 at 20:19
  • 1
    Underrated post. Meta has tons of bug reports that haven't been fixed for years, and on this one a design change sounds like rearranging beds in a hotel. Pay the programmers and only then do the redesign.
    – kirogasa
    Sep 4, 2023 at 20:45
11

Will we also be looking into implementing long-standing feature requests related to the components that are being redesigned, or is this more of just a visual overhaul?

I do like the new /questions design, as it brings us back to a layout similar to what we had before, emphasizing what matters on the left and moving views below. Denoting "Hot Question" in the tag area is nice, would also be interesting to see other similar statuses there like "Protected" and maybe "Wiki", or "Official Post" on meta for company statements. Could these become too noisy once collective icons are shoved in?

I like the consistency of the components on the right, but noticed many of them have a menu icon. What's that about? Surely there's nothing we'd be able to "configure" there for ads, so that's probably a report button but for the blog? Featured on meta? Possibly a way to configure/filter things coming down the road?

4
  • 3
    Mostly a visual overhaul. When a component is being worked on and if you have a relevant feature request, please feel free to share it in that venue.
    – Piper Staff
    Aug 8, 2023 at 16:51
  • 7
    So… just another redesign, got it. 🙃
    – Kevin B
    Aug 8, 2023 at 17:03
  • The problem is not mainly the communication, but the content being communicated :-(
    – einpoklum
    Aug 14, 2023 at 11:15
  • @KevinB RE: the menu on the ad widget - Some ads can be toggled on/off (off by default for users above the privilege threshold, but they can toggle it back on if they wish to continue to see ads). Bringing that toggle out of the profile and onto the main advertisement widget would be a good way to make that feature more noticable/accessible, and therefore that menu button would make sense.
    – Robotnik
    Aug 23, 2023 at 5:22
11

please evolve functionality first

I believe in good design. Functional design. Beautiful design. But for obvious reasons, especially for a site like this, underlying functionality needs to come first, with visual design's role is to surface it, make it easy to grok and to use, and at its most ideal, make it a joy.

search and filtering need to get much better

It's hard to find answers:

  • Which is bad for obvious reasons. But also:
  • When a user doesn't find an answer easily, they'll ask a new question.
  • This leads to lots of dupes and noise, making answers ever harder to find.
  • It also sucks up moderator time.

It's hard to find questions:

  • I hardly ask questions. I come to SO to help people. I often take a look, get overwhelmed, and then close SO, because it feels so unproductive having to sort through pages of questions that I can't answer or feel uninterested in answering.
  • The current question filtering is useful, but it needs to be taken to another level. You'll get a lot more answers if people like me don't give up.

I have ideas, but they could be crap. But this is a large community, with a lot of brains. I'm sure there are golden ideas out there. Tap into it. Not just for feedback, but for innovation. This could take the form of a regular Meta question, e.g. "Does anybody have any great ideas on how to improve search and filtering".

But I have a better idea:

a Netflix-like Stack Overflow Challenge

For those of you unfamiliar: The Netflix Prize

What initially made Netflix's challenge such a big deal was the prize, $1,000,000. I'm sure that drove a lot of interest and spurred some people who otherwise wouldn't have bothered.

But the real innovation was Netflix releasing enough data that people could actually develop algorithms and measure them. If Stack Overflow could release enough data in an easy to consume format, I've no doubt that you'd get countless people who can't help but want to take a stab at coming up with new search and filtering algorithms.

This will be easier for SO than it was for Netflix, because you don't have to worry about anonymizing the data.

As to measurement, I'm sure we could some up with some way to do so (I don't know what kind of ancillary data SO has that might be used for this). Worst case the measurement would be subjective, or SO could test the best candidates using A/B testing.

4
  • you might benefit from being more aggressive with your ignored tags
    – starball
    Aug 12, 2023 at 1:00
  • @starball trust me, i am. But that feels like a game of wack-a-mole. Something like A proposal for tag hierarchy might make filtering much better. There is so much noise. I'm not trivializing the problem; I know search, filtering and ranking are the Internet's biggest problem (covering even things like "fake news" and AI-generated junk). But I think SO can find a focused solution that works for it.
    – vas
    Aug 12, 2023 at 1:10
  • 4
    I am very much with this request, but just in case you haven't seen it, please see piper's comment here: meta.stackexchange.com/q/392048/392202#comment1311532_392069.
    – starball
    Aug 12, 2023 at 1:15
  • 11
    @starball In response to piper's response, I asked why the design team is working on this alone. Aren't there developers? Couldn't they be evolved? "We're just designers and can't address technical debt," raises more questions than it answers IMO.
    – Robert M.
    Aug 12, 2023 at 10:40
10

I appreciate that the extra space is important to avoid overwhelming new users, but please allow for a compact view of the questions if we opt into. While it's only an extra line or two per question, but when you're scrolling through many questions, it adds up quickly. Here's a sidebyside quick draft of the space we're losing.

The right side is from the question's original preview image of the question list, and the left is a scrunched up part that minimizes space lost.

Looking forward to seeing what's coming next!

enter image description here

0
10

Are there any plans to utilise more space on larger screens? On any screen larger than 1100px wide, there's just so much wasted space. There's plenty that could be done with it, for example;

  • Widen questions, allowing more information to fit on one line and therefore show more questions on one page
  • Failing that, show more columns - perhaps two columns of questions. Again, allowing for more questions on a single page.

The sites in general use a 3 column layout which feels very cramped/restricted. There's no reason for it to feel that cramped on 2k (2650px) or 4k screens (3840px), for example.

image included to show illustrate how much whitespace is wasted (on a 4k screen) - note that I have the left sidebar disabled in my settings.

enter image description here

10
  • 1
    I don’t think you’re supposed to have that wide screens if you only browse Stack Exchange sites. :P Aug 9, 2023 at 20:04
  • @AndreasdetestsAIhype You're not wrong :P Although that's probably in the context of having only a single monitor or for someone that is using the network while working / doing other things. I occasionally just like to browse during downtime =)
    – Lewis
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:15
  • Extra wide? That looks like even more wasteful than mine Aug 9, 2023 at 21:07
  • 2
    I wholly support this issue. My screen is only 1980px wide. Why is irrelevant, but it makes using SE on my desktop look like an old non-letterbox DVD watched on a modern entertainment monitor. Right now I have 2 inches of wasted space on the left and 6 inches of wasted space on the right. If you want the site to look old, ignore screen widths.
    – JBH
    Aug 9, 2023 at 21:07
  • I use an ultra wide, and have to say I am hard against this suggestion. To me it is not "wasted space", it is padding to make reading easy and comfortable. There should only be a limited amount of width to make lines of text not too long and easy to get lost in. Christ, they write articles on this stuff. And adding multiple columns just makes the reading direction more disjointed and annoying. Yuck. Aug 10, 2023 at 22:04
  • @Nickistired I'm not proposing that they make it full width, but there's certainly room to expand it a little, particularly if things like snippets are being added to the cards. Might as well make some use of the horizonal space rather than just the vertical. I certainly wouldn't be against it being a choice in the user profile, similar to the ability to hide the left sidebar.
    – Lewis
    Aug 10, 2023 at 22:47
  • Why would you maximize your browser window horizontally? Most of the advantage of having a large screen is being able to see multiple things side by side. Like your code next to a terminal next to documentation next to stack overflow. Sep 6, 2023 at 15:41
  • @StephenOstermiller I can think of a few reasons. First - and probably most common - is having dual/multiple monitors. Secondly, the monitor I use is 5120x1440, so even having it fill half or even a third of my screen is still a tonne of empty space.
    – Lewis
    Sep 6, 2023 at 16:17
  • I have multiple monitors. My browser is on my biggest one, It is 1400px wide and takes up about 1/3 the monitor's width. I don't regularly use any sites that use space wider than that effectively. For the few sites that do like the AWS console, I'll make the browser full screen while browsing that site and then put it back to a narrow column. I get more annoyed by the sites that expect you to have a 4k monitor than the sites that have blank space when maximized. Sep 6, 2023 at 17:56
  • That's valid. However, I just think it'd be nice to have the option for a more compact layout for someone who shares your preferences, and a more open layout for mine. It's never a bad thing to have choices that would please both of us.
    – Lewis
    Sep 6, 2023 at 19:37
9

In my humble opinion, any redesign should have its primary focus on user experience, especially the ability to find useful answers. I don't really need SO or SE to be pretty.

1
  • 7
    "The aging design has become frustrating" vs. "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" Why do Apple, Web designers, Microsoft, and real estate people think they have to constantly change how things LOOK? NEVER make a change that requires a user to learn a new way to do the SAME thing. Now if functionality or efficiency is actually improved, that's a good change—unless a huge learning curve outweighs a small benefit.
    – WGroleau
    Aug 13, 2023 at 6:43
7

The post-menu in the mockup only shows share, edit, and follow. What happened to the flag button?

enter image description here

(I still see the comment-flag-button, though.)

2
7

Why exactly is the filter-box from the homepage included between the question and answer? It doesn't really make sense for it to be there- is there a reason?

enter image description here

2
  • 2
    I think it's meant to filter (or sort) the answers, but I guess that was a bad copy+paste. Aug 9, 2023 at 14:21
  • 2
    something something needs more dogfooding. or talking to users familiar with the platform. pretty silly that a slip up like this is made. I know- people are human and humans make mistakes, but still...
    – starball
    Aug 10, 2023 at 23:16
6

Will Watched Tags and Ignored Tags still be possible from right hand side? I use this as an easy shortcut all the time.


Also, as others have said, please don't forget what we have already requested for dark mode.


Please don't place an ad between a question's title and body

enter image description here


User controls should not be between questions.

enter image description here

If this represents some form of pinning, please provide an opt-out facility.

3
  • 1
    Those banner ads already exist in that placement today.
    – zcoop98
    Aug 10, 2023 at 16:14
  • 1
    And I believe they've existed since 2008.
    – wizzwizz4
    Aug 10, 2023 at 20:15
  • Ah. I remove all ads. So, perhaps the perfect time to rectify such an odd design choice?
    – QHarr
    Aug 10, 2023 at 22:53
5

Will Chat get a redesign as well? As a fairly active user of Chat on Code Golf Stack Exchange, I and other users often rely on userscripts and custom stylesheets to make Chat usable and decent looking. In my opinion, its current design is ancient and hard to use. I feel it's only right to include Chat as part of this vision.

I think this is something that people have asked for a lot in the past, but if you're going to be redesigning Stack Exchange, I would say that this is point in most dire need of a redesign. Not saying I speak for everybody, though.

3
  • 2
    While Chat is definitely on my top ten list of things that need work, it's not currently on the roadmap. However, I'd like to change that, and I've been advocating for that for 2 and a half years now. Hopefully someday soon....
    – Philippe StaffMod
    Aug 11, 2023 at 19:51
  • I'm going to be that guy and say... imagine how we feel - We've been trying to get attention to chat and other things rather longer than that ._. . Aug 13, 2023 at 13:09
  • 1
    If it helps, @JourneymanGeek, I've been advocating for the value and need for investment in chat for the five years I've been a CM and before. I take at least partial credit for Philippe's advocacy. 🤣
    – Catija
    Aug 15, 2023 at 23:10
4

The save icon in lists seems useful

I think I would use this a lot if it showed up in searches.

For example, looking back at this hand-created list of related questions, I must have gone through dozens of similar, overlapping searches and hundreds of questions (many with poor or generic titles) to make this list of about 25 questions. It would have been very helpful to be able to:

  • Save the questions that I wanted to review without having to visit them directly. It would be easier to remove it from the list of saves when reviewing them all later.
  • See that I saved them without having to look at each individual question (again). Fun fact, did you know that two titles can exist that differ only in punctuation or capitalization?

I don't know what the other icons are supposed to represent, and I can't think of any other buttons that would be useful. If they were informational icons (showing that I've already voted on it, alerting about new activity), that might be useful.

The only thing to keep in mind is that the questions shouldn't take up too much vertical space. (Yes, this was mentioned before.)

3

In the first screenshot...

  • I kind of doubt many people will have a reason to save or share a link to a Q&A they haven't even opened up and see what it's really about. I think I would never.

  • Where's the listing of custom filters, watched tags, ignored tags, and recently awarded badges in the sidebar?

  • What's the rationale for moving the view count from the left to the bottom of the post card? It seems like a weird choice to me. The current location makes sense (grouping a bunch of stats-related info together on one side).

2
  • "share a link" Oh, I thought that was supposed to be a reply button! You can just copy the link to the post if you need, though that won't include your user id for the badges.
    – Laurel
    Aug 11, 2023 at 18:43
  • 1
    @Laurel actually, you might be right. I can't tell :| It might just be nothing, bolted on to look nice, actually. At this point, I would not be surprised.
    – starball
    Aug 11, 2023 at 19:07

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