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11:29 AM
Nov 25 at 8:41, by Martin Sleziak
The post about new site theme might perhaps contribute to add a few Reversal badges - the first of them went to Carlo Beenakker.
@MartinSleziak At the moment there are three reversal badges for that question.
3 hours later…
2:51 PM
@DenisNardin You probably noticed, but still perhaps I should mention that I linked (and quote) your message in this recent question on meta: How can I customize site in my browser to get “old feel” look of MathOverflow?
4 hours later…
7:18 PM
A: How can we visually differentiate MathOverflow from MathStackExchange within the constraints of the new design themes?

Federico PoloniI suggest that we leave the job to Stack Exchange's design team. I'm not sure why we are supposed to come up with a solution ourselves; we are not professionals, and surely SE has someone on staff whose job is coming up with good site designs. I like many of their designs that were on other sites...

> I'm not sure why we are supposed to come up with a solution ourselves
@FedericoPoloni The way I read the post on Meta Stack Exchange, the input what to change form the current theme is supposed to come from MathOverflow.
> If your site's users feel like there are ways we can help re-establish some degree of now-missing identity to your site, create a meta post and start talking about it on your site. Consider focusing your meta post on a specific part of the design - the background, the header content, the logo, etc. - as this will help limit the discussion so that it's not "everything is awful".
Yes, you're right in saying that we do not have the necessary knowledge to suggest implementation. That will be done by Stack Exchange developers.
But some suggestions are supposed to come from local community.
For example, if the MathOverflow community suggests some light color background instead of completely white, we get the response that the colors which can be chosen can be seen in the Stacks project.
Let's just say that the members of MO community that join the discussion then agree on one of the colors (let us say @powder-100, then probably somebody from SE team who does this professionally will know what everything has to be changed and will be able also to suggest changes in other elements which are needed for the overall color scheme to look good.
BTW the comment you're quoting in your answer is probably mainly the response to the previous comment about colorblind people.
7:46 PM
@MartinSleziak I disagree. SE employs professional web designers; why should we do their job instead (and worse than them, for sure, since we are not design experts)? In my head at least, the solution is supposed to come from them. We may offer suggestions, in case.
Of course, it is possible that I misunderstood how the whole process should work, but my impression is that what Tim Campion is trying to start on meta is along the lines of what is expected from the MO community.
@MartinSleziak Even if that comment is about colorblind people, it confirms that site design changes aren't at all in SE roadmap, which is why I quoted it.
The local community made their suggestion and identified the problem, which is "those two sites (which also overlap a lot in content) look too much the same". How to fix this, is 'implementation' that I'd rather leave to a design expert.
Calling this a suggestion is a bit too generous.
Saying that two sites (or 10 sites) look the similar is not really a suggestion, it's identifying something the users dislike.
I would call a suggestion something which offers some specific thing which should be changed.
Thanks for checking on this room, Catija.
7:58 PM
Sure. :)
How can I help?
If you read a bit back in the transcript, it seems that there is a bit of misunderstanding about how much input is expected from the MO community and what is actually stuff that SE is suppose to do. For example, if you look at the most recent Federico Poloni's message.
To be more specific, is it sufficient to say: "We want the site to look differently than Mathematics site, since it is confusing." And then to expect that somebody from SE with more experience in site design will suggest what to change.
Or is the output from the ongoing discussion on Meta MathOverflow to be something like, for example: "We would like to have some solid background in light color instead of plain white."
I hope I have not misinterpreted too much what Federico Poloni suggested above.
Looking at discussion at some other sites, it seems that the suggestions given there were often quite specific, for example, this answer discussed some customizations of top bar: Role-playing Games's updated site theme is live!
I think it can be either... We absolutely have an amazing team of designers who are happy to work on improving the site designs.
We do also have several sites that want changes. What's important for us to know is what you want changed. And this can be somewhat of a dialogue.
What I've run across in a few different cases is that we come up with something and the site doesn't like it, which is sad... But that happens. Different people have differing ideas of what makes for good design.
The problem comes when the users on sites have ideas of what they want so nothing we come up with will be that without them telling us what they actually want, which we can make a version of.
It's not a matter of y'all creating the full design that we then make a reality. It's about getting some specific thoughts from you of things that mean something to your site.
When our designers in the past were creating site designs, they'd take a month to figure out what the site meant and what would be a good design for that site.
We have ~60 sites that have just gotten design overhauls, and several of them aren't 100% in our court about them so if we want to work on those sites, it makes it easier for us if we have an idea of what you have in mind to start out with.
We're not going to ship your exact design (in most cases) but our design team will consider the thoughts you've had about it and come up with something that works.
Does that help?
8:14 PM
So, to name just one specific example, currently the top upvoted answer in the Tim Campion's post is the one about three different colors for background for number of answers. (Depending on whether here there is no answer, some answers, accepted answer).
Is it reasonable to expect that at some point there will be some response whether or not this is possible? (And if it is possible, some suggestion how the new design with that change might look like?)
I've talked about that specific example... somewhere... There's a concept for the network to have certain elements that are consistent everywhere. Headings, for example... they're the same size and font and everything on every site. It is supposed to give the network a feeling of unity, which was lacking in the past as the only repeated element on every site was the top bar - for the most part.
So, those boxes are one of the elements that are the same on every site. Same shape, same indicators, same colors, etc.
Yes, so answer to this specific suggestion is that this is not customizable in the new design, right?
That's the answer right now. Yes. Whether that remains the case a year from now, I don't know.
We may also find a better way to indicate the three states that's network wide but also more obvious than the current one.
Probably it might be useful to leave a comment mentioning this under the answer I linked, so that that users here are aware of this. (Perhaps with an advice to post that as a separate feature request if that is a reasonable course of action.)
So maybe I picked a wrong example, let us think of something which is customizable.
I see that you have left comment on the answer about background suggesting a separate question about this.
Yeah. I need to. I don't like saying "no", which is part of the problem. I want y'all to like your site and find it useful, so it hurts to have to deny things. I also know that MO is sort of special... or has been in the past.
8:23 PM
Both this and the artwork are great options. Feel free to start new questions/discussions for this and we'll look at what you come up with... Please note that for the background, it must be light enough that black text is clearly visible on it (for the left navigation). I outline some of this in my Meta.SE post but if you have any questions, let me know. — Catija ♦ 3 hours ago
So let us assume (hypothetically) that there will be a separate question about background or that somebody posts and answer suggesting some specific background in the already existing thread. And that the upvotes show that some such suggestion has at least some support among users.
So if something like that happens, the CMs will communicate what has been consensus here on the site and at some point some of the developers/designers will show us a suggestion of customized design which reflects the outcome of that discussion. Is it approximately how this is expceted to work?
Q: Suggestions for a better headline graphic

Paul WhiteAn answer to DBA's updated site theme is ready for testing! suggests that the headline graphic ought to be more reminiscent of an ERD diagram. Before: Now: In a comment, Catija asked us to come up with a rough sketch for an improvement: I'm not sure this can be changed now but if one o...

This is the sort of discussion that other sites have had. Now we know what they're thinking about, so the design team can look at that and come up with something similar that works for them.
@MartinSleziak That's how it's worked in the past, yeah. I'm not sure it will be quite that way specifically - if we have a general idea from y'all, we may just push it live. We may also have a similar testing phase the way we did (briefly) with this new theme. I'm hoping we'll retain that ability to roll out a testing theme for users to give feedback.
But I think what's important to remember - which I think may be missed - we see that y'all want to have something different about your site than Math.SE... but it may take us a few weeks/month to actually do it because we have other stuff we need to work on and, well... it's the holiday season, where lots of people are vacationing and all.
Thanks, I hope that what you said might be helpful to clarify the whole process a bit. (I'll admit that I do not really have entirely clear idea, but probably what I should do is to look at some examples of discussions on other sites that you linked and that I am able to find.)
And also thanks for coming here - possibly it might be useful that you're pingable also here in chat in case somebody has some question.
I'll just add a ping also for @TimCampion - so far he seems to be the most active user in the discussions related to redesign, so probably it might be good if he sees the discussion above.
Think about what makes MO what it is. What about Math makes y'all MO.
For Chemistry, they have glassware with colorful liquids... Photography has cameras and other photographic equipment.
If you want to be different from Math.SE, the only limitation you have is "not graph paper".
I don't know enough about math to help with that. Maybe it's cool graphs of mathematical functions...
8:49 PM
As far as I understand, "let the users tell the designers what they want" is not a good plan, according to many people in UX design. See for instance akendi.com/blog/its-true-users-dont-know-what-they-want uxmyths.com/post/746610684/… ux.stackexchange.com/questions/53828/…
Finding a good design for a site is a difficult job, I realise, and it's difficult to have everyone agree. But that's why designers exist. It really seems like you are eager to offload their work to us.
> When our designers in the past were creating site designs, they'd take a month to figure out what the site meant and what would be a good design for that site.

Please go ahead -- that's exactly what I am asking here!
> What worries me, though, is that everyone has been complaining about these two sites looking the same for days here and yet there does not seem to be any interest on their part on fixing it.
I've been posting on MO Meta for the last few days...
I'm not quite sure what you want.
We have a good number of sites to get to... if we had to spend a month on each, MO might stay the way it is for a year or more.
Well as far as I understand you are a community manager, not a designer. Is a designer working on our site (even for something very simple like adjusting the colors)? Is it in your roadmap to assign one to MO?
I don't mean to disrespect your work, but it does not feel like we are getting closer to a solution.
I think a lot of people are still in the "denial" stage and just want things to go back to the way they were. It's a kind of difficult message to communicate : 1) things are not going back to the way they were 2) there are options for customization 3) it's partly on us to discuss these options 4) it's not clear exactly what our options are right now 5) there might be more options in the future.
Judging from this question I think it might help a lot to have a clear list of what options are currently available for customization
@Catija well I guess it's a business choice for you to have so many SE sites. I guess it makes sense to open so many even if they all look vanilla and have no customizations, because more sites = more users. But then if you have no resources to redo the design of them all it's just part of it.
9:04 PM
My mental image of what you're working with now is that for each site you can open up some kind of "customization options" file and select, say, the tag color with the click of a button, and you're considering adding more options to this file as we go along. Is it not quite as structured as that?
@Catija Now I found your comment about accepted answer/some answer distinction - it was under Carlo Beenakker's answer. I have missed that comment before.
@Catija This was partly the kind of "timeline" information I was looking for in this question
@FedericoPoloni I don't assign people to stuff. I collect information and present it to the DAG team and they assign people to stuff based on priorities that I don't know. :) I'm your friendly neighborhood middle man.
@TimCampion I tried to do that in the Meta.SE post that I think you've seen. It's not 100% but it's a pretty good start.
@FedericoPoloni You give us a lot of credit. The size of the network is actually somewhat of an accident. It's pretty much free for us to host these sites - they're blips when it comes to activity compared to SO, so if users are interested in a subject enough to get through the A51 process, we'll host it and give them some moderators... but we're realizing that maybe wasn't the best choice for a variety of reasons...
@Catija I guess you mean this one?
While hosting and moderation are free, other elements aren't quite so free - CM time, Design team time, etc... so we're trying to balance ~170 sites with a very small team of devs, designers and CMs.
@TimCampion Yep.
9:14 PM
@TimCampion I do not know about this to say something half-competent about the whole thing, but it seems that the whole thing is called Stacks: stackoverflow.design/product/guidelines/using-stacks and github.com/StackExchange/Stacks
It also has a section called Customizing Stacks, but it seems too technical for me to be able to get enough useful information from that. (I'm sure Catija will correct me if I am talking complete non-sense here of if these links are completely irrelevant.)
That said, we made getting a site into beta much harder and we've only had one make it through the process in that time, I think... so we've curbed the number of new sites we're adding.
@TimCampion Changing things like tag colors or font colors or that sort of thing is a pretty quick change, I think... I don't get to see that side of things.
If it's just changing tag colors, I can probably get that done quickly. If it's creating artwork for a background or banner... that will take more time.
@MartinSleziak Yep ! That's the one.
@MartinSleziak Stacks is a major part of what we're working on to simplify the sites, yes. It makes creating new elements easier and also keeps them in line with specific site design outlines. I don't know a huge amount about it, though.
Oh, I see. From what Martin linked to, not only do you have a new infrastructure, but that layer of infrastructure is a product you sell independently. So if we want a new customization option to be implemented, you have to change a product that you're also selling to customers, so you have to think through not just your own use cases but also those of your customers.
The upshot for me is that the list of customization options available to us is pretty cut and dried in the short term. So it seems like it should be straightforward to make a clear list of what options we have -- basically rendering the link Martin shared into non-technical language. Right?
I think something like that would be very helpful to have in front of us when discussing what we'd like the site to look like
This sentence made me think that the link I posted above might be close to the "clear list" you're looking for: "The parts of Stacks that are always the same across all Stack Exchange sites are called constants. The parts of Stacks that are configurable based are called configurations." On the other hand, in that link I do not see some things which have been explicitly mentioned. (Artwork, tag colors - to mention the ones I've noticed.)
9:52 PM
@Catija My sense on header / background art is that it would be very difficult to find something that 95%, 80%, or even 50% of our users would like. But one possibility which does occur to me is this: What if we just had a plain white background instead of the current gray? (This would be maximally similar to what we had in the past.) Would this be a no-go from a design standpoint on account of wanting to differentiate the left-nav toolbar from the center column?
@TimCampion All the beta sites have white, so it's not a design limitation. We'll put a black bar to separate the sidebar from the content, but that's it... I'm not sure how that makes you more different from math.se, though.
Thanks, that's good to know. I agree, it wouldn't solve that problem, at least on its own
but the current gray really screams "placeholder color" to me. It's what I'd expect to see in a mockup of the site where the background hasn't actually been decided yet.
I get the feeling that y'all generally want something classy... and that something like Photography would be considered somewhat kitschy?
yeah, i think the old design reflected the desire for a very "no-nonsense" look
Whenever I try to think of something appropriate, I run into the same problem: I keep trying to think of something that would "represent" the notion of mathematics. But any particular choice of pattern seems too specific, like it would be representing one part of mathematics but not others.
Probably there are standard design concepts which would tell me I'm thinking about it the wrong way.
10:08 PM
I think the first thought I had was a white board with equations.
But I'm neither a designer nor mathematician.
Yeah, I guess the issue might be "which equations" (also among mathematicians, there's a strong preference for blackboards over whiteboards :)
Yeah, we could do a blackboard (or that green?) in the top bar but not in the sidebar because of the contrast issue.
hm, it would be nice to have something which could blend into the background, since that's what travels when you scroll
The down side of the banner is that it scrolls away, so you only get the distinction when you're at the top of the page. That's not bad, just a consideration.
Yeah. That was my thought.
In case it helps, some images related to mathematics were suggested in an old discussion on Mathematics Meta: Math SE Swag designs.
10:15 PM
@Martin nice, thanks! I've also toyed with the idea of a penrose tiling, but I think it might be either too busy or else too similar to MSE's graph paper.
I find the answer by Mariano Suárez-Álvarez. But I am not sure whether something like that would be suitable for website design.
which one? I think I count 3 or 4 answers by him :)
@TimCampion The Mathematica logo looks like one of those.
Actually, one of their users designed that one.
ah, thanks, that's good to know
And they're having a discussion about it: mathematica.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2389/…
Is it the same thing?
10:18 PM
I did not notice that Mariano has multiple answers there. I meant the one with a combinatorial proof about sum. In fact, in a comment it's mentioned that it was posted also on MathOverflow.
That question might be a goldmine...
1 hour later…
11:45 PM
@TimCampion @MartinSleziak I've written a bit more of a response about the answer indicators here: meta.mathoverflow.net/a/3978/122216

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