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


Photography home page

Photography question page

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ A question: does this change the constraints for Photo of the Week? It'd be awesome if we could now accept portrait-orientation images. What about pixel size limits? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 12:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm Initially it won't change the constraints but that is something we could consider after we've rolled out all the new themes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe Friend
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Any chance of custom badge icons as part of the new theme? photo.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4777/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm We can consider these kind of improvements after we move everyone to the new theme and give themes to those who don't have anything but the sad basic one. So, be patient. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe Friend
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, I can be patient. We've been waiting for a response to that one for three years already :) \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sigh. Not under my watch FWIW. ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe Friend
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 21:09

3 Answers 3


I don't have anything to add that hasn't been said by others (in other SE sites), but I like the direction the new theming is going. In particular:

  • +1: Keeping an area for the Photo of the Week contest. Thank you!
  • +1: Better use of top space on the site. Real estate matters.
  • +1: Not covered in your mockups, but in Left nav, responsive design, and theming next steps at Meta.SE, my main concern was addressed: Hide/collapse left nav: status/completed. I like to use split fullscreen on my laptops. I was concerned that the responsive design limits of when the left & right navs go away might not be "responsive enough" for my tastes. But collapsible left nav handles that. Thank you.

Go forth and re-theme. I hope it goes as smoothly as possible.


I put up an answer about an issue with the theme customization that is likely site-wide.

Specifically the effect on our site is that the Mod's selected 'Site Message' ("Please participate in Meta and help us grow.") and the links associated with the photo: Submit your Photo and Hall of Fame are missing from the new design.

Since we're first out of the gate we need to speak now or forever hold our peace. Other sites probably want some customization to the site-specific area too.

Update: Our friend Joe Friend has edited my post on Meta and approved both these requests.

Status-Completed: "Please allow 2 links and accompanying text associated with the: Submit your Photo and Hall of Fame." and "A line for the moderator-selected 'Site Message' ("Please participate in Meta and help us grow.").

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ We can add in the submit and HOF links. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe Friend
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 22:02
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ RE: MOD selected "site messages" Can you give me a visual example of that. I'm not familiar with that feature (sooooo many features in our Q&A engine), but I'll make sure we keep support for it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe Friend
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 22:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm. Your site is just different enough that I'm not sure how that text is getting there. Have you seen an example of it on other sites? \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe Friend
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 22:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoeFriend - Buddhism has: "Help us grow this site!" and four links (right side, beneath where an AD sometimes appears). \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 22:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ On the issue of differences English.SE has fancy borders on their 'right-side CSS' area, complete with Fleur-de-lis - not that we need that, just that it's a 'right-side customization' to add to the Yes/No list. --- I'm drawing a blank for another SE site with a weekly changing event featured on the right side. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 23:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Those nifty borders are a no. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe Friend
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 23:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the 'planned' and 'review' update over at Meta. I noticed those borders on at least a dozen sites while I was trying to find somewhere else with a unique area like Photo.SE has, no luck on a few dozen sites checked thus far - other than the seemingly generic 'Help us grow + four Share links' that over a dozen sites have set up (maybe there's a switch in the Mod Tools to activate these extras, otherwise it's by special request to get a Dev to tweak the site). Had to delete a few prior comments to silence the chat warning - I presume you can still read them. Thanks for everything! \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 0:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoeFriend - Example of 'Mod selected site message' text (upper right) on Mi Yodeya.SE (thanks Monica Cellio): "Like any library, Mi Yodeya offers tons of great information, but does not offer personalized, professional advice, and does not take the place of seeking such advice from your rabbi.". \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 2:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was afraid that Mi Yodeya was using that mechanism for their disclaimer. We are going to need to add special support for those since they play an important role and need to be visible even when the right side bar collapses. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe Friend
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoeFriend - Glad to assist. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 20:03

My only observation would be to see if there is any way to get some more color in to the background of the site logo line. I like the placement of photo of the week on the main page and saving the real-estate on Q/A pages, but it results in a very dark site feel with the slightly textured grey.

This feels very sterile and drab for a photography oriented site. I don't have any specific suggestions for how to add some more color, but something to break from the pure grey would be helpful I think.

Otherwise I love the cleanliness though.


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