Disclaimer right up front: I have no privileged information or special authority. I don't know when, or whether, the results of this question will be used. But I want to start collecting input.

The new site design has rolled out to all sites on the network, which means that SE can now customize the look of each site. Obviously there's a long list of sites to do, but a CM said they'd probably do them in order of age, which puts us fairly early on that list.

This post on Meta SE outlines the things that are customizable. The most visible design elements are colors, the logo, and the header graphic. The header graphic, in particular, can be anything from scenic art (1 2 3) to banners (1 2) to more abstract patterns (1 2 3). Logos can be lots of things, so long as it's possible to do something favicon-sized as well as something larger.

If we are able to get some design customizations, what would we like to see? How do we reflect the range of content that Writing SE welcomes?

SE is starting to work on designs for graduated sites now. This meta post on one of them gives us a preview of how they'll approach communities. We're in line behind a bunch of other sites, but read that post, think about how you'd answer it for our site, and share your thoughts in answers here.

5 Answers 5


A site header and/or sidebar that illustrates writing.

I'm thinking something showing off not just a traditional fountain pen (no site on writing should be without one), but also a computer keyboard and a pencil. My idea here is to illustrate the variety of ways in which writing can be done, and that neither writing nor Writing is specific to any given medium.

Those might be placed atop a piece of paper with some writing on it, if there's room for that to work out reasonably. (Lorem ipsum, anyone?) If so, to my mind the text should be part longhand or calligraphic, part written on a computer, again to illustrate the wide range of possibilities.

Maybe a few books off to one side, for the finished, published works?

For how having it in the sidebar might work out, compare Worldbuilding which has the girl and robot in the left sidebar. We'd need to tread carefully in that case though to not end up with something too large or distracting.

  • 2
    I'd like to find a way to reflect technical or academic writing somehow -- something that looks like reference doc on a screen or the typical layout of a conference paper or something. Jan 24, 2019 at 15:10
  • @MonicaCellio Yes, incorporating the various styles of writing would absolutely be nice. I'm not quite sure how much room we have, though; we don't want the header to be too cramped.
    – user
    Jan 24, 2019 at 15:23
  • Yeah, we don't get a lot of room for detail (the header has to scale to phones), so we need to figure out how best to use the space we get to convey the message we want. Jan 24, 2019 at 18:28
  • 3
    I think Wordbuilding is pretty good in terms of "immersion". The background doesn't distract you from reading the questions, yet it gives the site its own unique vibe and look. From a Web Design point of view, it seems almost seamlessy integrated with the body of the site. We should aim for something like that if possible.
    – Liquid
    Jan 25, 2019 at 14:46
  • 1
    As long as you're not volunteering me to be the site mascot, @aCVn. :D Jan 28, 2019 at 19:40
  • 1
    @LaurenIpsum I wouldn't do that unless you change your display name. ;-)
    – user
    Jan 29, 2019 at 16:48

Is it possible to have a quill in the sidebar not only floating, like Worldbuilding's robot, but to move like it's writing, when one is scrolling down?
If we can't, a sidebar with a pattern that looks like something handwritten could be awesome.

The shape of the badges: can we have them shaped like the nib of a fountain pen?

I like @aCvn's idea of a few books in the header, but how about filling the footer with crumpled paper?

  • 4
    Crumpled paper in the footer would be great! The handling of Worldbuilding's robot is a little constrained; I'm not sure what's possible there, but I don't think the image can vary as you scroll. Jan 24, 2019 at 15:02
  • 5
    I love the idea of crumpled paper in the footer.
    – user
    Jan 24, 2019 at 15:22
  • 2
    If we did finished text in the header and crumpled paper in the footer, with the sidebar being the tools of writing...
    – Cyn
    Jan 24, 2019 at 15:28
  • Crumpled paper +1
    – NofP
    Apr 10, 2019 at 21:57
  • Also a +1 at the crumpled -- but let's make it at the top, in the header perhaps? Aug 30, 2019 at 13:17

I like a lot of the other ideas. Typed words on a page would make a nice background for areas that need some filling in. Similar to Galastel's handwriting example. It can be faded so it doesn't interfere with other things. Not everywhere, but if there's some "dead" space. From a classic, family-friendly, public domain novel.

  • For some ideas on how faded text might appear in a site header, check out the header on TeX - LaTeX.
    – user
    Jan 24, 2019 at 15:33
  • @aCVn Pretty. It could work here too, depending on the rest of the design.
    – Cyn
    Jan 24, 2019 at 15:41
  • 2
    @aCVn Pretty. Maybe we could incorporate bits of different writing - something that looks academic, something that looks handwritten, a bit of something classic and public domain? That would merge in Monica's reminder that we deal with all kinds of writing. (BTW, why on earth do TeX - LaTeX have "One Ring to Rule them All" on their header?) Jan 24, 2019 at 16:32
  • I like that idea a lot, @Galastel. That would be an easy way to show the range, much more effective (and smaller) than showing all the tools of writing (not that I'm rejecting that idea).
    – Cyn
    Jan 24, 2019 at 16:41
  • I love the cream color in the LaTeX site, too. (I always set my Kindle to Sepia tone - and it just makes me think of slightly yellowed paperbacks.) Aug 30, 2019 at 13:16

I'd like something, presumably the banner art at the top, to reflect the wide range of types and media for writing -- novels, poetry, blogs, software documentation, science journals -- and computer screens, paper books, e-readers... something that communicates all this breadth.

I'm not a graphic designer (talk about understatements...), so I'm not quite sure how to bring these elements together. Maybe we have a (virtual) table with books (somehow conveying fiction? poetry?) at one end transitioning to computer screens with something that looks like the format of online documentation? And maybe (to build on another suggestion) there are pens, a keyboard, and a little crumpled paper along the way?

Maybe we can use the banner to show the physical tools and artifacts of writing, and use the left-sidebar background to show different types of writing, sort of the way TeX-LaTeX does in their banner? So, scanning down the left column, you'd see something that looks like poetry, something that looks like a page from an ACM paper, something that looks like a blog, something that looks like a screenplay... it'd all be subtle because of the saturation constraints, but it feels like we could do something there.


Suggestion for a sidebar image:

Assemble a bit of a collage from the mods or users who want to contribute, using screenshots showing Word Track-Changes (or GDocs with multiple people editing).

Examples from my work:
Snippet from Word Drafts-Mode, Track-Changes-On showing some text, narrow snip
Snippet from same doc PrintMode, TrackChangesOn, showing full width of top of page

Smaller, of course, and faded to not be too distracting. But since we are writing.SE, I like to lean into the verb - the action of writing, less than the gerund (the writing I have produced)

I suggest a collage, to demonstrate the breadth of the types of writing -- this was some tech writing that was actually just a revision from one form to another (DOCX to be read by JAWS, to an HTML/Human-Audio combination) , so there aren't as many revisions as we really are dealing with.

If you don't normally use Track-Changes, you can turn it on and just not have it SHOW you the changes (Reviewing ribbon - the "All-Markup" drop down or the Show-Markup drop-down. My Snipping Tool has frozen completely, so I can't include that one useful screenshot!). Then turn the View All Markup mode back on to grab a screenshot.

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