Stack Overflow faces backlash for its new homepage that made it look like it is no longer for the open community

4 min read

After facing a device fingerprinting bug and security breach, Stack Overflow was again in the news on Thursday. This time it was about its homepage that showcased its new proprietary products while hiding away the primary feature it is widely known for: open, public Q&A.

How the updated Stack Overflow homepage looked like?

The updated homepage showed the various products Stack Overflow provides. However, it did not show any straightforward way to reach the Q&A site. Here is how the updated UI looked like:

Source: Stack Overflow

A Stack Overflow user wrote, how he felt when he first saw this homepage:

  1. Private Q&A. Oh, this one of those exclusive sites, maybe a forum, where you get to discuss stuff in private, probably need to pay for it, it says coworker, flagship, those are pricey words.
  2. Jobs? Oh, this must be like LinkedIn. Probably only professionals and such that only elevate themselves and talk boring stuff. You probably need to pay for exposing your account or something, as you need to on those other job sites to stand a chance.
  3. Create an account? And next they’ll ask for my credit card, right? No thanks, I’ll move on to TechNet or wherever.

Other regular users also found this abrupt change frustrating and confusing. A Stack Overflow user compared the updated homepage to that of Facebook and LinkedIn where you require to have an account to post things. He wrote, “Today before I logged in I saw the new home page, and it immediately felt the same to me as going to Facebook or LinkedIn before you have an account. There’s a big wall of gibberish that essentially says, “You can’t do anything here until you start handing over information about yourself.”

It is understandable that Stack Overflow is looking for new avenues for revenues. In 11 years of its existence, it has become much more than a Q&A site with voting and editing functionalities. It provides Stack Overflow for Teams, a private place for your team members to exchange questions and answers about your proprietary software. Another one is, Stack Overflow Talent that helps employers post job listings and discover talents around the globe for their organizations. Stack Overflow for Enterprise provides a platform for building a standalone Q&A community.

Despite these new incredible offerings, for most people the Q&A site is what Stack Overflow is, rest all is just an addition to the main product. Hiding the actual feature for which developers visit the site behind a hamburger, while giving the actual screen space to proprietary products is what has turned off many developers.

How Stack Overflow responded?

After facing backlash, Stack Overflow responded with a workaround for the moment and is currently reviewing the feedback it is getting from the users. Stack Overflow said, “Overall changes in design will not be made at this moment (we are still collecting the feedback you are all posting – thanks for that). And we are carefully reviewing it and will make them later if it’s necessary, however, we do want to make it easier to get to the open Q&A as fast as possible, and that means not changing the design right now.

To make it somewhat easier for the users to reach the Q&A section, it has hyperlinked the “open community” in the description. Also, the blue button which was earlier called “Create an account” now goes directly to the Q&A page.

Source: Stack Overflow

Developers also suggested what Stack Overflow can do to fix this problem, while also showcasing its proprietary products. Here’s what a user recommended:

If you’re really serious about improving it, then I have some recommendations. 1) reduce the size of the hero banner by ~50%. 2) Remove the “for developers, by developers” section and have the “Developers” button at the top go straight to 3) Remove the section on SO for Teams pricing — that belongs as a click-through page via the “Private Q&A” link on the “For business by developers” section. On that subject, “Private Q&A” should say “Teams (Private Q&A)”. 4) Remove redundant .talent-slope div and .py64 div below it.

Providing teams and enterprises a private area to discuss their coding problems is an incredible idea and there is no wrong in advertising these products to people who love using Stack Overflow. However, it does feel a little overboard to make it the main centerpiece of the homepage, when Stack Overflow is mainly known for its free Q&A feature. Also, considering the huge user base, the whole outcry could have been avoided by a little consultation from the users.

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