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EL&U needs rescuing

A few days ago I posted the following:

The new theme still sucks. There I said it, and in American English, too.

enter image description here

There's an overall sense of claustrophobia, oppression, the lines... so many lines… everything at the top is squished and then you have this relatively "huge" space where the words, Top Questions, stand majestically and unfettered.

I hope this graphic raises a smile or two because I don't want to go all melodramatic...I really don't. I'm trying my very very best. But it's awful.

Without my squiggles and the top bar.

enter image description here

The whole thing needs a revamp, a new makeover. Everything needs to be changed, color, decorative elements, and those ugly horizontal poles which are strangling the logo.

But let's agree to keep the Baskerville Italic Ampersand, please. That is sacred.


However, after posting this answer (which I've edited for clarity and style) the Community Manager informed me that I was doing it all wrong.

It didn't change. The whole point of this post is to encourage y'all to take the time and start a discussion about what you want. We're not going to keep changing things and having people like or dislike it. We need some sort of place to start from. Go start that discussion.

Confused, I replied

@Catija I thought I did?

"So, if you think the new logo is horrible, start an EL&U Meta question about it here and come up with a solution - it doesn't have to be a perfectly-rendered drawing of what it should look like." @Catija

I can't come up with a solution, I'm not a graphic designer. I don't know what's possible and what isn't. That should be the job of someone who is. I've identified what doesn't work for me. That's a start @Mari-Lou A

Soon after, user 1006 also posted an answer. Users with less than 10K can now see 1006's wonderful effort here.

New theme: Banner, sidebars, footer

Please, please pay a visit and contribute with ideas and solutions, I know that a number of users are (or were) graphic designers, and EL&U's theme necessitates high-quality professional assistance.

Here is the Community Manager's response to 1006a's post, who had also made the mistake of posting an answer

The other answer [Mari-Lou A] here is, essentially, "the new site theme sucks, fix it" but telling us to fix it - well, we tried to fix it and y'all still hated it. We can't fix it if we don't know what y'all would consider an improvement. We could redesign it a dozen times and you still wouldn't be happy... but if y'all think of something you like, we can make a design that uses what you like and fits our limitations. And if you have questions about what can be customized, you can ask that here

There are a number of things that I find irritating about this reply, it's difficult to know where to begin but I'll try.

  • Firstwe tried to fix it

I contest that the developers tried their best. They enlarged the logo and reintroduced the same decorative poles that had been removed in the earlier version. The space below the logo was reduced and the font used for “Top Questions” is lighter. I'm not sure how many hours of work were required in order to achieve this but I don't think it could have been many. I might be wrong. I am neither a developer nor a web designer.

version #1
version #2

  • SecondWe can't fix it if we don't know what y'all would consider an improvement.

The site provided an abundance of input: here, here, here, and here. Explanations and possible improvements and solutions: here, here here, here, and here from the end of August right through to October .

  • Third “We could redesign it a dozen times and you still wouldn't be happy...”

How about if you (the Community Manager uses "we" throughout, so I am not attacking her personally) had redesigned it with thought, care and some attention to detail in the first place?

Everything was stripped bare. EL&U never had fancy icons for badges. EL&U never had a decorative footer. EL&U never had quirky voting arrows. EL&U never had an image on their banner or in the background to begin with. But what delicate flourishes and small details EL&U had were stripped away until the site today looks flat, unappealing and uninviting.

  • Fourthbut if y'all think of something you like, we can make a design that uses what you like and fits our limitations.”

Is Stack Exchange asking EL&U users to improvise as web designers? I'd like to point out that the many of its users are not computer scientists, engineers, designers or website developers. We're not that kind of site. It says so in the banner English Language & Usage.

UPDATE Monday February 18, 2019

Silence. No communication/confirmation/update whatsoever from anyone on the SE team. If you're familiar with feature requests and constructive criticisms about User Interface, e.g. the many many suggestions to improve HNQ that are posted on MSE (Meta Stack Exchange), this is pretty much the norm.

UPDATE Sunday 23 June, 2019

Still silence, only interrupted by the sound of rustling tumbleweeds. Is it just me or has the quality of questions by new contributors dropped even further? Is there a way to measure this statistic?

Furthermore, speaking purely for myself, I have greatly reduced the number of contributions I make to the site because of LQQs and because I find the site's desktop theme frankly depressing. What about others?

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    A lot of the stuff they took away they aren't going to reinstate. I do miss things like the voting arrows and the blockquotes, so I'm considering making my own userscript to change what I don't like. I'm not an expert in the ENGLISH programming language but I do know some Javascript ;) – Laurel Dec 9 '18 at 18:40
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    I am not a fan at all of the process for site redesign as it's unfurled. I'm particularly peeved that the most recent response was "You guys wrote a lot of stuff, but it was in answers to a question I asked, and that's now how I want it; let's ditch all that material, and you guys do it again, organized otherwise". That plus, "Some things are negotiable and others aren't, but instead of posting a canonical list of those things, you should ask about each one individually". And finally "We tried to redesign, but you didn't like it, so now you redesign and we'll see if we like it". It's nuts – Dan Bron Dec 9 '18 at 18:49
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    The redesign sucks in every way. If you scroll down, you have no idea what site you're on. An actual effort would have addressed this. – Azor Ahai Dec 9 '18 at 23:28
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    Are there any improvements over the old theme? Anything that was redesigned well? Negotiation usually goes easier with compliments. – Pam Dec 10 '18 at 10:42
  • @Pam please tell me what you like about the redesigned theme. I can only come up with the red box that says "Ask Question". – Mari-Lou A Dec 10 '18 at 10:49
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    @Mari-LouA - I didn't even like that red box! Red, to me, means something that I should respond to. The red box makes me jump every time I land on the page. My response to the new theme is "Please put it back". Not because I'm averse to change (I am, but not always), but because I genuinely liked the old style and was apprehensive when I saw the new theme creeping over other SE sites. – Pam Dec 10 '18 at 11:47
  • @Pam so why did you ask me if there were any improvements, etc.? – Mari-Lou A Dec 10 '18 at 12:00
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    @Mari-LouA I was hoping someone else (with more experience than me) had found some! Apologies if that sounded aggressive. The new theme feels like a mild headache right now, but that's often the case with something new for me and doesn't necessarily mean it's all bad. I presume there's some (good?) reason for the new theme, so it must have some advantages that I can't see. – Pam Dec 10 '18 at 12:18
  • @Pam read up on the whys and whats on this link, which has several other links that explain in greater depth what's happened across the network. english.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11878/… and here for a quick summary meta.stackexchange.com/questions/315049/… Hope that helps! :) – Mari-Lou A Dec 10 '18 at 12:21
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    @Pam Yes, I managed to find one improvement. When viewing the site from a browser on my smart phone, the font size in the new layout is larger than with the old layout, and the EL&U title is centered. It's almost as if the programmers were trying to make the page work well in the portrait orientation and simply haven't gotten to optimising the landscape orientation yet. – Lawrence Dec 14 '18 at 14:36
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    A 13 day old, +13 question with 2 answers of near zero worth according to their scores. Apparently everyone thinks it sucks but has no input on how to make it better. Put it back the way it was? – Mazura Dec 19 '18 at 1:15
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    Honestly, first off this is tl;dr. And none of it matters, sorry to say. SE rolled out their (not our) new changes and frankly I'm done giving free feedback to a non-not for profit organization. Any we don't like this post would literally need like 1k upvotes... or more. How come they didn't hold a contest to redesign? Because if they let us choose there'd be freaking cats, tacos, and pancakes everywhere. - No suggestions; only advice: if you're not having fun with this, don't die on this hill. Because no one else is fighting this war and y'all would lose anyway. – Mazura Dec 20 '18 at 0:48
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    This is not going to be helpful, I know. I'm sorry. I literally do not see most of the features under discussion. As long as I can find what I want, I literally do not see what it, or a change in it, looks like. The one thing that irritates the hell out of me are those stupid, asinine binoculars -- oh, and the constant use of "y'all", which I suppose is meant to mean "we are all just friendly, folksy folks, here." I'd rather be addressed as "you termagant" than "y'all", which would have the virtue of expressing honestly the exasperation the Powers That Be are obviously feeling. – ab2 Feb 18 at 19:33
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    Thank you for the bump (there's something that doesn't get said every day!) but I'm afraid that when SE jumped the gun with their awful second go, I rather lost interest. They're not interested in helping this site; why should I be? (That said, I try to be interested but even that isn't going particularly well.) – Andrew Leach Feb 23 at 20:27
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    @MariLou re update 23 June, I've seen another comment from you expressing a similar sentiment. Can I just say I really value you on this site as a positive, fun, and fair person. I'll miss you if you go :) – marcellothearcane Aug 7 at 21:07
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Foundation: When you already have an identifiable 'image' identity, you want to either completely scrap it, or work off of the main familiar iconic elements. The main question/responses here are focused on "Have we done that?". My response is - no.

This banner was pieced together, not designed. Design (at it's simplest base) is about function and ease of usage. The elements used are not current, and have too many small particulates that do not translate well on most (even HD) screens it is seen on. (The overall image is that this site belongs to an outdated library collection.)

Let's see if we can get any agreement first on what is the primary function of EL&U?
Some options are: Is it a broad question and answer community based on bringing clarity and fluidity to members involved in; a) seeking to understand and/or improve their English Language skills?, b) creating contextual understandings of English communications? c) [write your own].

Majority agreement here doesn't mean making everyone happy. It is about attaining efficacy in resolving the question - for now. Should the basic group/site functionality change, it would need to be asked and answered again.

This is from a background of 40+ years of leading groups, being involved in visual branding & designing materials and environments, and connecting group activities to result in achieving desired (planned and deliberate) results.

Foundation: When I was going to Art School, they had a Foundations program which was loosely based on the question - "What do you know about art?" for the first year students to rethink their choices for going to Art school. I also worked at an experimental art/music/video/poetry/dance gallery exhibition space. Getting to the basic question on functionality became the 'go to' starting place for moving forward. :)

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    This is insightful and clearly comes from deep experience, but abstracted to a level that isn’t directly actionable. At this point, what the site (and this Q) is asking for is actionable bullet points or rough mockups for a proposed new design. – Dan Bron Dec 10 '18 at 18:47
  • @Dan Bron The main focus is in the third paragraph. Actionable bullet points and rough mock ups - which I can do easily - getting raked over and combed through by every Meta member is self defeating. Creating an 'action' begins with setting the final results and goal to achieve. There is nothing concrete about 'actions' which end up being redirected by whimsy and a lack of clarity on what fits the group. At its most basic core, this group is an abstraction. I could add possible substitute designs today - they'd only be modifications though. More, better, different -don't lead to good design. – Norman Edward Dec 12 '18 at 14:44
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    When you say "getting raked over and combed through by every Meta member is self-defeating" you meant EL&U users, didn't you? This is a surprising statement from a relatively new member such as yourself and one I disagree with for a couple of reasons. It's always easier to say "What's the point?" than actually do something, which means the majority of users (old and new) will lack the motivation to actually post comments but if the idea is good, in my experience, people will upvote. And if the idea/solution is brilliant, people outside EL&U will take notice. – Mari-Lou A Dec 13 '18 at 6:39
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    The goal is simple, it is to make the design appealing within the strict limitations set by the team of developers. Even changing the palette would be a boost at this point. – Mari-Lou A Dec 13 '18 at 6:41
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    @Mary Lou A. I am really not that hard to read, nor am I used to cloaking what I mean by innuendo. The statement is experiential. Groups can be dogmatic when dealing with changes, even when it suits their operative functions better. Most groups (ELU included) will 'Storm" to sort out where they are going instead of setting measurable parameters out ahead of them. Social Work Group Dynamic Structures 101; Forming, Storming, Norming. – Norman Edward Dec 13 '18 at 14:38
  • About the primary function of EL&U: some would disagree, but the goal stated in the tour is a succinct summary of the group’s charter, and one I’d support as primary function for EL&U. – Lawrence Dec 13 '18 at 15:07
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    @Lawrence Thank you for the link. – Norman Edward Dec 19 '18 at 4:58
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Banner updating This is a processed revamping of the EL&U banner topper. This builds off of the current banner to maintain the 'branded' formulation already identifiable as ELU. The ampersand is set into a Romanesque central arch block icon shape. The block was used for providing structural support to the wall elements which surround it. The rest of the design is crisp and clean with minimal embellishments. I have no direct access to what is available to do full page backgrounds which I have seen on other StackExchange sites, but, that is another option for the group to consider adding.

This group is centered on providing support, guidance and information to both old and new users. That is its clear intention & group mission. I offer this work as both a starting point, and a balancing beam.

enter image description here

  • I suspect the problem is that the ‘banner’ sits below the black menu bar. Having it visually predominantly text makes it feel out of place. I prefer the look of sites that use pictures there - or at least some graphical element that breaks the double text-header look. – Lawrence Dec 13 '18 at 15:11
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    @ Lawrence Thank you. And the dialog begins. (Pom Poms waving as the cheers go up) – Norman Edward Dec 13 '18 at 15:15
  • I much prefer the original Baskerville ampersand character, it's the only saving grace of the theme. It's also the symbol that represents the site on the Hot Questions Network, it's effective b/c it resembles the majuscule script letter E (for English) But I do like the twist about building blocks, looks faintly Romanesque. – Mari-Lou A Dec 14 '18 at 13:00
  • @ Mari-Lou A It is not that simple unfortunately. The current EL+U ampersand is a modification. It is a re-worked italics version of the font. It is not available as Font Type. That means it a piece of art, not type. Take a look at the fonts I added to my Answer. The ELU Banner and the style shown in the font are very different. If, the original 'designer', or, a page moderator, has a version with the elements used in high resolution, it can be copied + reused. – Norman Edward Dec 17 '18 at 22:39
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    Don't forget the other g in Language (two occurrences). – Sven Yargs Dec 17 '18 at 23:40
  • @NormanEdward The header is an .svg file, so isn't that good enough as a high res version? – Laurel Dec 18 '18 at 5:13
  • @ Sven Yargs Lol. The Adobe font site lets you place the text you in the style you intend to use for it. I was so focused on the ampersand, I missed the second 'g'. – Norman Edward Dec 19 '18 at 5:17
  • @ Laurel Thank you for that link. Usually vectors are much better that other files for curves. – Norman Edward Dec 19 '18 at 5:18
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    This contribution, with its fixed spelling, should be posted on english.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11883/…. – Mari-Lou A Dec 28 '18 at 7:14
  • @ Mary-Lou A First - for some reason the notice of your comment went to my Promotions email box, so I didn't see it until today. Second - I will post the banner completed to this thread initially, then create whatever 'save as' file type/version needed to be used on the web page.. – Norman Edward Jan 4 at 21:10
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    Please either fix Lanuage or explain why it is taking so long to fix. – ab2 Feb 23 at 21:42

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