Just wondering, since I'm very new to StackExchange sites, how these sites are designed, and how their visual appearance evolves. I'm assuming the 'squared paper and pencil' design is not saying 'remember those maths books you used when you were at school?', but 'we're still working on the site!'?

Some of the other StackExchange sites look very pleasing (I quite like CSTheory and electronics, gaming is quite cute), but others are ugly (English, Unix). It's hard to design by committee, and my idea of a good design isn't yours...

But - how much of Mathematica's extraordinary graphics capabilities will be evident in the final design? Or to put it another way, don't just sprinkle math symbols over the background...

  • The TeX site is quite clear, simple and elegant: they used a wide range typography/typesetting-examples for the background. Commented Apr 22, 2012 at 15:09

2 Answers 2


I'm assuming the 'squared paper and pencil' design is not saying 'remember those maths books you used when you were at school?', but 'we're still working on the site!'?

You assume correctly. The site is still in beta, and until we graduate, we stay with this interface.

When this site graduates, however, Jin the resident SE designer will surely be soliciting ideas from the community on designing the site's look and feel. Until then, stay put.

  • Cool. Thank you!
    – cormullion
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 15:37

To answer the question in the title, here's how the design process for a typical site goes. I'll link to examples from Physics.SE since that's the site I happen to know, but you'll find more or less the same procedure on every graduated site's meta.

  1. Early in the site's development, someone posts a meta question "complaining" about the beta style with the graph-paper look :-P
  2. At some point during the public beta, which could be as early as a couple weeks into it, someone asks a meta question soliciting design ideas. This can be answered with anything from vague inspirations to actual mockups of pieces of the site design.
  3. When the site is getting close to graduation, Jin will make a post with a design proposal. This will draw on some of the ideas offered by the community in the previous thread, but it's entirely at his discretion. Then the community gets to offer feedback and suggest improvements.
  4. Assuming the reaction to the design proposal is not too bad, about a week afterwards, the design will actually take effect. This coincides with the official graduation of the site from beta status.
  5. Any problems with the design that become apparent in the few days after graduation are reported on meta using . They'll generally get fixed as they're reported.
  • Physics is a very good example; in fact it's the only example I could think of where the initially deployed design can be subject to revision based on user feedback. Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 8:34
  • Hmm, I thought there are usually some small changes based on user feedback. Certainly Jin tweaked some things while the blackboard design was still up. Physics is the only case where the design was completely replaced, though.
    – David Z
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 10:02
  • Yeah, that's what I was alluding to; IIRC the initial deployed design was not too well-received, so you guys went back on the "blackboard" design for a while before you got your current look-and-feel for physics.SE. Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 10:17

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