As part of implementing the new unified themes across the network, we're gradually rolling out updated site themes for each site. As of today, we have enabled your updated site theme for testing.

If you can't see it right now, that's by design! This is a very early test implementation of your design and we need your help finding issues with it before we make it live for everyone permanently. So, keep in mind, there will be things that need fixing! We'll address those things as we can.

If you'd like to review it, here's how:

How do I enable it?

Click here and check the "Beta test new themes" option. This will turn on the new theme for all sites that have one in testing, including this one. Here's more info on how to opt in. You can uncheck the box to revert to the older theme until the site is live for everyone. Note, while turning it on is immediate, it will take a few minutes to revert to the old view - but it will go through!

What type of feedback do we need?

On this post: Bugs related to this site's design elements

Please help us look for issues/bugs related to the theme design and how we have mapped the old theme to the new. This needs to be done within the limits of the new unified theme.

This could include colors of sections of the design or text, problems with JavaScript add-ons (if applicable), the logo or top banner appearance or other artwork.

You can also feel free to ask questions about the new layout if you're unsure how to navigate it.

On Meta Stack Exchange: General concerns about left nav or theming

There are some things that are definitely changing everywhere and can't really be adjusted on a per-site basis. A few of them include:

  • Top banner is shorter in height, so some artwork has to be adjusted along with some logos.
  • Left Navigation is active everywhere (but can be collapsed into a menu by visiting your site preferences - instructions here).
  • Responsive layout is active, which lets the site adjust as browser widths change - no side scrolling (some pages haven't been updated, yet, though). For now, if you prefer the scrolling, you can disable this by clicking the "disable responsiveness" link in the footer.
  • Many site elements including tags and voting arrows are standardized across the network.
  • Link underlining is active. In an effort to make links more visible, they are now being underlined.

If you have concerns or issues regarding the left nav or the overall approach we are taking to theming, then this Meta Stack Exchange post is the right place for feedback.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some unique design elements like voting arrows and tags that are being standardized in this process. Keeping these custom elements makes our ability to maintain the sites too complex and, while we're very sad to see them go, we're in a difficult position of needing to make the site designs work together so that we can continue to address feature requests and bugs that will make your Q&A experience better. This is addressed in a Meta Stack Exchange post if you want more detail.

What new themes?

If you're like, "What the heck are you talking about?", then you should read the Meta Stack Exchange post entitled Rollout of new network site themes (and maybe the posts it links to for the full background). To follow along with the rollout of these new themes, go here.

Thanks so much for your constructive feedback!

Oh, Who am I?

If you don't know me, I'm one of the Community Managers here at Stack Exchange. I'm here to listen to your input and convey it to our Design team for responses and fixes to bugs. I'll do my best to respond to your concerns and explain whether changes we've made are bugs that can be changed or if they're by design and why.

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    $\begingroup$ @gparyani: We've been discussing this change with the moderators and given them a sneak preview for the past week. As always, we are honored to have MathOverflow as a part of the Stack Exchange network. I hope people will provide their honest feedback in the answers below so that we can have a productive conversation about the new theme. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 4:55
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    $\begingroup$ There is so much empty space on the left it almost feels like a bug :P $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 8:52
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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand I do like colors, borders, etc. so I decided to neither up- nor downvote :) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 8:57
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    $\begingroup$ I just noticed it: is having no different background for accepted answers also a must? If yes, I will downvote too >:D $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 9:48
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    $\begingroup$ Can changes be made based on feedback in this thread? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ @მამუკა Concerning the space on the left, try checking "Hide left navigation" on the user preference page. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilJeřábek Then how can I go from my user page to the questions page? I mean, I can do it from the upper right corner list of all SE sites, and MO is usually on the top of the list for me, but... $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @მამუკაჯიბლაძე When left navigation is hidden, it is actually hiding in the left corner of the top navigation bar - so from my User page, or most anywhere else, the questions page is only a couple of clicks away. (On the home page, there's also a direct link at the bottom.) $\endgroup$
    – GNiklasch
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ @მამუკაჯიბლაძე You can click on the large MathOverflow logo on the top of the page. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ Oh god. I was dreading this day. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ @HarryGindi: Yes. I pass along requests to our developers and designers. I can't make any promise that a specific feature request will be implemented, of course. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW, tex.stackexchange.com is one site where a responsive-design theme is already deployed (whether or not one has opted in to beta themes). electronics.stackexchange.com is another. $\endgroup$
    – GNiklasch
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ @GNiklasch I would guess that among the sites where the new theme is already live, many MO users are probably familiar with Mathematics. From the corresponding meta site: Mathematics new site theme is live. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ The green highlight of accepted answers was removed as part of this change. Back when this site was being migrated in from Stack Exchange 1.0, this was an element of the design that the site was allowed to keep. Why is it being removed now? $\endgroup$
    – gparyani
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 9:08
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    $\begingroup$ Having a left nav-bar seems like a giant leap backwards in web design, no? It eats into the screen real-estate needlessly, and interferes with smooth / easy reading of the questions. With a left bar, and a right bar, the space for actual valuable content, aka, the question and answer appears reduced / full of distractions. I wish such changes were not thrust upon the community by fiat like this! $\endgroup$
    – Suvrit
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 17:01

5 Answers 5


The presence of three distinct colours for "unanswered, answered, accepted" was a helpful feature IMO. In the new layout the "unanswered" questions no longer stand out. I regret that change.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm going to agree: the old color scheme was much much better than the new. And I say this as a person that usually does not care about these things. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 10:38
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    $\begingroup$ I find the new scheme to be more clear than the old one, actually. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Emil here. The brown background always appeared to say "something boring here - do not look closer" to me. Now it says "nothing here yet - have a look!". The empty frame says "there is still something missing" which also fits. $\endgroup$
    – Dirk
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ So that I understand the problem, is the concern that it'll be harder to spot questions that need answers? Follow-up question: if so, would something like custom question lists help? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ @JonEricson --- yes, in the old scheme I can spot the unanswered questions at a glance; in the new scheme I cannot. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ We'd like to try leaving the questions list page answer boxes (and the accepted answers) as they are for a little bit (a month or so) to see if your opinions change. Both of these elements are fixed on a network-wide basis (the box shapes/colors used to be per-site) so making them unique for y'all may introduce bugs when we update the sites, which is why we're trying to unify the themes - to avoid bugs and make it easier and faster to introduce features without necessitating a lot of bug fixes on per-site bases. $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 5:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija I can understand taking a wait-and-see approach, but it seems to me part of the beauty of allowing customization of this element would be that it's a very generic screen element shared by all SE sites, so any site could take advantage of it pretty straightforwardly. Plus, because it's one of the most commonly-recurring screen elements on the front page, it has the potential to add a lot of character to a SE site at (what naively seems like) little cost. $\endgroup$
    – Tim Campion Mod
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija Echoing Tim, this seems like it should be nothing more than loading a few hex values. It wouldn't need custom styling. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ So, part of this is that we're attempting to create some network-wide identity. Elements of the network, things that make us recognizable, @HarryGindi . The intention is for these answer indicators to be one of those things. They're part of the core that is Stack Exchange - you're here to get answers. How that's indicated should be consistent on the network... that's the idea. There are a few other design choices like this - for example - headers are the same size/font/color on every site, even sites that use serif fonts. So, by design we want them to be the same everywhere. $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ I completely understand that they seem like a really easy way to make the sites different. And I agree with that. But I also agree and accept that, as a network, we should have an identity, too. I don't know whether this will change in the future or not. If the concern is less for site identity and more for having an immediately recognizable difference between unanswered, answered and accepted questions, we might be able to look at that on a network-wide level. $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ Note, we're also concerned with accessibility and the scheme we have now (no border, border, dark background) is more accessible than colors, which may not be discernible to all users. Using dark colors for all three cases means the user has to rely on the numbers telling them whether the post has been answered or accepted. $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija Then I think it was a little bit dishonest to say that this was only for code portability and ease of updating. I'm not a programmer, but exporting a few numerical variables for configuration is not a serious technical hurdle. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija It seems that as usual when the programmers ask for feedback, they don't really want that. They want cheers, but not complaints. It doesn't matter what we think, you are going to do what you wanted to do in the first place. It would be a little more honest to just say that and forget about this charade of "asking for feedback". By the way, you could also follow the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" maxim... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija OK, maybe it was broken. I should not have included that and then perhaps you would have felt compelled to respond to the main point of my comment. What is discussed in this post has nothing to do with all that you are conjuring up to support your decision. But it's OK, you have the power and you are exercising it. I am just saying that it would be easier for all of us if you didn't pretend to ask for our feedback if you are going to ignore it anyway. Unfortunately, this seems the way it works. I don't even know why I even bother with saying all this... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 2:30
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    $\begingroup$ ...and the rest is silence $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 16:14

Comment. As I was preparing this post, a completely new (temporary?) design with a top nav bar showed up and disappeared again. Perhaps this post is no longer relevant.

Even though I am not a tablet or smartphone user, I appreciate the move to responsive design. Here are some things that catch my eye because they look bad:

Question 1. Why was a sticky side nav chosen rather than a fixed top nav or sticky top nav?

As far as I can tell, the nav typically contains no more than 5 items, and is hidden when the width is below 640px. At that point, the 5 items easily fit next to each other at the top, leaving much less unused space.

Question 2. How were the responsive design cutoffs chosen?

The left nav isn't hidden until you get down to 640px, but the spacing has been uncomfortable for a while in the 641-700px range (specifically: the main content gets squeezed to too small a portion of the screen). To me, 700px (or even 720px) would seem a better cutoff. For example, this is the page at 650px; you look me in the eye and tell me this is good design.

Width 650px

Similarly, the 980px cutoff for the right panel leaves a range (981-1040px) where the main content in fact takes up less than 50% of the full width. For example, at 1000px we get the following:

Width 1000px

Firefox's Inspector reveals that the mainbar div (i.e. question and answer with vote buttons) totals 462px, which is less than half the available width. The actual text only gets 401px out of the available 1000px.

(Note that full screen tablets and smartphones are not the only way smaller window sizes come about, and a website should be well-designed for every window size.)

Question 3. Why are question titles wrapped mid-word?

This looks like a bug to me. At the very smallest of scales I can see why this is helpful given the other design choices (especially the insistence on the 'Ask question' button to stick around), but at intermediate to full scale it's not clear to me that this is helpful. For example, at 320px we get the following:

Width 320px

Here is a question with a longer title at 320px (also raising the question why the 'Ask question' button needs to be there).

Longer title

See also the 650px and 1000px pictures above.

(I did not have to search very hard to get these behaviours to show up. These questions were the first and second that came up on my own 'answers' list.)

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    $\begingroup$ Although the OP specified that questions about the nav should go to the meta SE post, that post reports that it is no longer accepting new answers (given that it already has 86), and encourages us to post on the meta of our own site. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ We have plans for the left sidebar. Custom question lists might be enough on its own to justify the space. I'm actually worried it'll get too crowded over there in a year or two. The cutoffs were designed to avoid overly-long and short lines in the in the content itself. They are certainly open to be tweaked now that nearly all sites have the new design. The final item is now fixed. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for pinning all this down. What is especially apparent from your observations: the "Ask Question" button just screams "place me above the question text!" $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 6:17

With apologies, I'm not sure this is the right place for the following, but the site-wide meta post on these changes is locked, and this is a bit long for a comment. I've been blithely ignoring all the site-wide discussion on these changes to this point, and I'm having trouble catching up, so I have a few questions.

  1. This post indicates that in the old system, there was great variation in the level of customization that different sites had. So I'm curious, was the old level of customization on MO considered a "Cadillac" level of customization, a "Honda" level of customization, or a "Yugo" level of customization?

  2. Regarding the philosophy of the changes: I understand that increased standardization should make developers' lives much easier and lead to faster bug fixes and so forth. But I'm curious about another aspect of this: does Stack Exchange consider it desireable per se to have a more uniform look from site to site, so that people know when they're on a Stack Exchange site etc?

  3. Exactly what customization options are available to us, and how do we use them?

    Currently it's a bit of a shock for MO to look so much like MSE -- I'm used to them being more differentiated. I'm hoping that can be addressed with a bit more customization.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Hard to answer in a comment! 1) Honda. 2) Network uniformity is certainly a consideration. We want people to have hints that one site is similar to another when it comes to how the various features are used. Obviously there's a balance: every site is different too. Which brings us to: 3) As we near the end of theme rollout, we're beginning work on what customizations will be available and how they will be managed. More details coming soon, but there will be ways for the various sites to distinguish themselves in the design. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ I also think visually differentiating MSE from MO is important. People have enough trouble already knowing which is appropriate for their question. $\endgroup$
    – David Roberts Mod
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ About what can be customized, see also the recent meta.stackexchange.com/questions/319274/… . $\endgroup$
    – GNiklasch
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 16:43

Like მამუკა ჯიბლაძე, I slightly miss the pastel colored background to accepted answers - could this be re-instated in addition to or instead of the check mark?

(But I do not consider this a big deal. I hang out on several other SE sites, and overall I find the more uniform look-and-feel preferable. Moreover, the colored background trades - or used to trade - some small amount of legibility for visibility. And the visibility really matters only when there are several answers of which one has received more net upvotes than the accepted one.)


Could hiding the left navigation be made the site default - accompanied by easy to find instructions for unhiding it, when someone wants to do so - rather than showing it by default, accompanied by easy to find instructions for hiding it?

Having it shown does not, IMHO, add a lot of value compared to the amount of screen real estate it consumes at the expense of Q&A content.

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    $\begingroup$ (I apologise for the second answer in this thread that takes the grammatical form of a question. I have looked at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/307862/… but it is not clear to me what can and cannot be done within the limits of the new unified theme.) $\endgroup$
    – GNiklasch
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ We believe custom question lists (coming soon!) will add considerable value to having the sidebar displayed. For the sake of new users discovering the navigation, it's not really a good plan to hide it in the top bar. The main purpose for providing it is to help ease the transition for active users who aren't used to it. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 5:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Jon Good! Now is it going to add more value for the majority of MO users than what would otherwise fit into the screen area it occupies? - Maybe instead of (or in addition to) the option to hide left nav in the top bar, allowing the left nav to collapse to the left margin and expand on mouseover or click would be useful (and much quicker to toggle than going to the User page and changing a site preference). $\endgroup$
    – GNiklasch
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ Adding an on-screen way to toggle the sidebar is a possibility in the future. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 21:44

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