As mentioned on meta.stackexchange.com several months ago, all network sites will be getting updated themes. Ask Different 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


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


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.

Ask Different

Ask Different home page

Ask Different question page

  • I'm so glad we're not losing the grey background behind the content! Can I hope other sites (Stack Overflow) will be getting this too (even if it's to less of a degree)? Also will this apply to Ask Different Meta too where currently the entire page, background and content, is white?
    – grg Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 18:38
  • On the other hand, that sidebar still looks so wasteful to me. Especially without channels here, the limited number of links wastes a massive area of screen (my current CSS setup for comparison). Are more links coming in the future, or the possibility to customise the links à la the removed ‘tabbed custom saved search thing’ on SO?
    – grg Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 18:42
  • @grg Yes, more functionality will be coming for the left nav. More details on MSE later this week.
    – Joe Friend
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 18:47
  • I typically view the newest posts first. I click on Questions and Newest is an option along with Featured, Frequent, etc. Is that going away or is it just not shown in these screenshots?
    – fsb
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 22:01
  • 1
    Doesn't look much different, no pun intended. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 3:40
  • 1
    The old design was so much better on a smaller screen.
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 16:02
    – Matt
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 17:40

2 Answers 2


Complete & utter waste of space.

This was designed to look best on laptops at fullscreen, i.e. 'widescreen, 16:9'. Those of us with large screens who keep our pages in approximately A4/Letter ratio will have to completely rethink.

I'm aware the scales don't quite match, but as an example, old vs new, side by side...

enter image description here

Late edit:
I see this is to at least get an off switch; it's just not there yet in prefs.
Also related - Top bar on SE sites... changed [again] recently?


I appreciate posting the mockups. It's hard to know how that translates to the two extremes of a 27 inch iMac and a 12 inch MacBook so it might be super great and it might need some tweaking.

I do really like how things look on Stack Overflow with the sidebar - so I'm super excited to turn this on here to test or just have it change and then give any feedback once I can use the design on an actual device to interact with the site.

Statically, the things that make me happy like the rainbow treatment under the black top nav bar and the compact sizing of the top bar are welcome. I would always get more space vertically for content over having top nav so for me side nav fits how I use my devices 90% of the time.

I'm especially keen to see how the full design renders on iPhone X and iPad Pro - I spend 85% of my time here on the iPad - 5% on iPhone X and the rest Mac browsers. I almost never use the mobile layout and have pretty much abandoned the iOS app. If your design can impact the hover treatment - please consider making sure you expose all data that hover would show with a single tap on iOS browsers. Working most of the day on iPad - the sites that have critical information only exposed via hover are a big disinclination to me when I decide to use a site.

  • Generally you can look at SO.com or MSE.com to see how the experience will be relative to your screen size/viewport. That is impacted by a combo of new theme and responsiveness which is impossible to show off with static comps.
    – Joe Friend
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 22:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .