As mentioned on meta.stackexchange.com several months ago, all network sites will be getting updated themes. TeX is one of the first sites that will be updated. As such, I'm posting the design here so you can see how the new theming will be applied to your site.

I want to acknowledge that this will be a painful change for sites that have rich, custom themes. I want to reinforce that the theme changes are a required step to deliver ongoing value to the sites with as little friction as possible. We released changes for tag watching (aka favorite tags) this week and will be releasing a beta of custom question list functionality soon. The only way to make sure Q&A improvements are quickly available to all Q&A sites is to fix our themes.

To recap from the original post on themes:

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

In order to deliver the left nav, responsive design and future improvements to all sites we've created a more standardized way to support theming. This will reduce the burden of supporting designs as we make Q&A improvements. The result is that most sites will see an improvement in the level of theming that they can get. While some sites will see a reduction. All of Q&A (Enterprise, Teams, etc) will standardize on this new theming scheme.

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

Next steps

Schedule

  • Early July: Collect and respond to feedback from this post
  • Late July: Update the site

Feedback

Please review the mockups and feel free to provide constructive feedback in answers below. We aren't going to revisit the choices we've made around simplification, so it would be more productive to keep feedback focused on the application of the new theme scheme.

Note: I'm leaving on vacation later today, but didn't want to delay getting these designs posted. As such, I'll have limited time/ability to respond to feedback and comments until I return.

Enough talk, show me the money

You can click on the mockups below to see the image in a larger format.

TeX

TeX home page

TeX question page

  • 9
    On a quick look, it appears that the ":new" category has vanished. That will mean that reviewing the queue will take a lot longer for some of us. I'm also deeply disappointed that the header has been so greatly simplified -- the curly brackets are very meaningful to some of us who have been involved with TeX for years and years. Just reinstating them would mean a great deal. – barbara beeton Jul 9 at 19:54
  • @barbarabeeton Can you clarify what you mean by ":new" category? Also, when you say curly brackets are you referring to the way tags are rendered? – Joe Friend Jul 9 at 19:59
  • 4
    When I enter the present site, the screen shows the active questions. I then click on the "Questions" block in the line "Questions | Tags | Users | ..." and am presented with the new questions, at which point a link "newest" pops up in the row of options. That's the "active" feature I would miss most strongly. As for the curly brackets, these are an intimate part of the TeX syntax, used for grouping and scoping, and lend an implicit recognition factor not necessarily obvious from the name "TeX" alone. – barbara beeton Jul 9 at 20:07
  • @barbarabeeton New will still be there. The image your seeing shows the home page, not /questions where New resides. – Joe Friend Jul 9 at 20:09
  • 11
    I understand what is going on. But some things around the world shouldn't change! TEX.SE layout is one of that... lol – Sigur Jul 11 at 13:31
  • @barbarabeeton They are there, I think. They are just so near to being invisible you can only see them if you look very hard. – cfr Jul 14 at 2:16
  • 7
    The background image just looks like a dirty smudge: better drop it altogether. Without the horizontal bar, it doesn't really make any sense anyway. On the other hand, most people will probably just give their screens a rub and ignore it. The blue boxes in the middle column look really weird - blue just shouldn't be here at all. The right hand column stands out more than the middle one, but surely the middle one should be the focus here? – cfr Jul 14 at 2:21
  • 5
    So we're losing the customized upvote/downvote pen nib images? That's a shame. I like them. – Nicola Talbot Jul 24 at 16:53
  • I must say I'm a bit disappointed that we did not hear anything back before the new theme went live (though I am grateful that the colours turned out less blue than I had initially feared). Do we log issues with the new theme (in particular code highlighting colour, the meta theme cuts off a wee bit on the left side of the badges, the meta theme uses sans serif headings, so is not just the main theme in grayscale) in separate questions or here? – moewe Aug 9 at 15:24
  • @moewe With the number of sites we need to update it is simply more efficient to make the changes in code, gather feedback and then make updates. Any issues or requests can be posted in the here: tex.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7781/… – Joe Friend Aug 9 at 15:49
  • I understand and appreciate that you have a lot on your hands, but I would have considered it a sign that shows that you care about the community if you had warned about the concrete date of the switchover (and had maybe given a short status update re the suggestions below). – moewe Aug 9 at 15:55
  • 1
    @JoeFriend You added status-completed, but only the titles are serif. It's not what I asked for. I mean, SE owns the sites and they're entitled to do what they want, but then, why asking users? – egreg Aug 9 at 19:49
  • @egreg Can you point me to the specific item. I've updated a bunch of items with status all over the network. I'm happy to revisit if I got it wrong. – Joe Friend Aug 9 at 19:51
  • 3
    @JoeFriend Just ugly. A white rectangle on a yellow background, without the graphical elements of the old design. »Top questions« in sans serif that doesn't fit any other item of the page. A good example how not to do it. – Keks Dose Aug 9 at 20:09
  • @JoeFriend You edited my answer here an hour ago. – egreg Aug 9 at 20:14

After further discussion we have decided to keep the unified design for tags. While we appreciate the desire from communities who have them to keep them, it does add to the support cost. - Joe

Tags

Curly brackets

In case the tags can be customised I would love to see the curly brackets come back

{foo}

instead of the bland blue rectangle.

Colour

We have allowed the color of tags and links to be modified so that it matches better with the site colors. - Joe

The blue of the tag buttons does not blend in particularly well with the warmer colour scheme of the rest of the site.

Links in the right column/sidebar

In the screenshot the links are blue and don't match the colour of other links on this site. I'd prefer links matching the link colours in the middle column.

We will take another run at the top site banner and take into account the feedback below where possible. - Joe

Background image

The placement of the background picture looks odd.

For all who don't understand what I am talking about because the contrast is too low for their screen, here is a higher contrast version of the image from the question:

enter image description here

For me the most important point:

  • it seems to be much smaller, making it impossible to recognise any of the writing/symbols. I think it would be better to make it a bit wider, even if this means cutting of even more of the image.

    enter image description here

Some other comments which might be harder to address:

  • the alignment on the right hand site looks like the background image is trying to hide.

  • The slightly darker shading of the triangle in the centre was previously used to emphasis the {TeX} logo which was aligned on top of it. Now most of the background image is basically invisible - besides a inexplicable darker region at the top right. Without knowing the background image, I'd think that my screen is broken...

    Quick and dirty mock-up without the dark triangle:

    enter image description here

  • Previously the background image was used behind text and other elements. For this purpose the very low contrast was ok, but for its new usage as pattern (like in https://i.stack.imgur.com/yz4ll.png) the contrast is too low.


In the way it is currently used, I'd say it would be better to leave it completely out, unless you can fix some of my points above.

  • 9
    I vote for leave it completely out! – CarLaTeX Jul 10 at 6:01
  • 3
    The background image is great as a background, but judging by other site's planned designs the new image should be more of a banner on the right. In its current form that is not really what the image was designed to do. Apparently Photography.SE still has a full-width image, while most other screenshots show have them only on the right not even reaching the middle of the screen. But even then the current background wouldn't quite fit since the TeX isn't centred any more. – moewe Jul 10 at 15:48
  • We've shipped a new potential header to production. How do we feel about this one? – Aaron Shekey Aug 15 at 22:05
  • @AaronShekey Much better! Thanks a lot for taking the feedback into account! – samcarter Aug 15 at 22:06
  • It's all a work in progress, folks. Thanks for your patience! – Aaron Shekey Aug 15 at 22:07

Please, decide whether:

  1. The design is professional typesetting-looking as it was before, i.e., not using sans-serif fonts, not using rounded corners, not using button-like things, boxed links etc.

Or

  1. The site looks like SO in dark pink.

The thing you propose is a mess between the two that looks like nothing. Note that in the old design, originally, basically every little bit was well thought out. This is being lost slowly and this big change will simply make it disappear. Just to mention a few that are in the old one:

  • There are no prominent boxes. All boxes are very subtle in toned colours, without borders. This is lost.
  • There are moreorless no vertical lines and no rounded corners. The header is designed in such a way that it looks like a table header from a well-typeset book. This is lost.
  • There are almost no cold colours. The first introduced was the black top bar (yes, black looks cold in this context), and there's the bounty stuff that's bright blue. But that's it. This is lost.
  • All text larger than paragraph size is sans-serif, giving a printed-like look. This is lost.
  • The header contains a well balanced showcase of interesting typographical examples possible in (La)TeX. Moving it to some corner and giving it a very little space means this is lost.
  • There are beautifully and well drawn pen-like vote arrows. This is lost.
  • I think I could continue for quite a long time if I saw more screenshots.

Request

Since it seems you are not willing to take variant one from the options above, go for variant two. Simply drop all the stuff that resembles professional typesetting, especially:

  1. Drop the warm colours. Choose a neutral SO/SE-complaint colour scheme in which all the bright green and blue does not stand out.
  2. Drop serif fonts.
  3. Drop the header images altogether (the ones now on the right), just maybe keep the {TEX} logo, in newly chosen colours. However, drop the mechanical print effect on the logo as it doesn't make any sense any more.

Bottom line

The site will necessarily lose it's unique look that distinguished it from other TeX support sites out there. Nobody else than SE designers and TeX.SE users have ever put that much effort into having a professional-looking TeX site, and it's gonna be a big loss. I'm just saying.

So basically we go back to Area51.

Why don't you just delete the CSS file altogether? That would save you a lot of time and money and we would hardly ever notice it.

The image below was a joke but thanks for taking it seriously.

enter image description here

  • 1
    It is unbelievable that it matches perfectly with the new design,\ – percusse Aug 9 at 21:23

Type

The sans serif type in the main column (center, with the question links) should be serif like in the current model. The “asked/answered/modified” tags can be sans serif like now.

Rectangles

There are too many boxed rectangles, whereas the current model has none. The proposed shape is too much “Stack Overflow” alike.

Tags

They should continue to be braced.

  • I don't really follow the serif point: which element are you looking at? I still see serif in the question links. – cfr Jul 14 at 2:24
  • @cfr I see sans serif in “Top questions” and in the numbers next to the question titles. – egreg Jul 14 at 5:59
  • Oh, I see. I didn't realise that was in what you referred to as the 'main column'. I thought 'Top Questions' would be headerish and the numbers seem to be left of the centre bit with the question links. Thanks for clarifying. – cfr Jul 15 at 0:22
  • 2
    The status-completed tag is a joke, isn't it? – egreg Aug 9 at 19:50
  • Are you asking me? – cfr Aug 9 at 23:41
  • Declining the 'Tags' point is especially nasty. The 'status-completed' bit is surely a mistake, isn't it? Maybe they meant 'status-declined', which is bad, but at least in line with reality? – cfr Aug 9 at 23:43
  • @egreg Can you include an image showing which type was previously serif that you want san serif? I think I misunderstood what change was needed. Happy to re-evaluate that one. – Joe Friend Aug 13 at 17:59
  • 3
    @JoeFriend Of course not. The site has changed, you should be able to provide an image. – egreg Aug 13 at 19:08

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