On the Stack Exchange network sites, at the front page there are following main nav pages available:
Questions | Tags | Users | Badges | Unanswered
At first, there's no nav tab selected, and displayed as content is a list of "Top questions", with tabs:
active | featured | hot | week | month
where active is selected.
But if the user selectes the "Questions" nav page, another list of "All questions" comes up, this time with tabs:
newest | featured | frequent | votes | active | unanswered
with newest selected. Note that there are two duplicates: Featured and active are both available on either page.
Added to this, there the unanswered tab on "Questions" page, but also the "Unanswered" -page with it's own four tabs
my tags | newest | votes | no answers
The only way to get back to the front page, is to click on the site logo - although a very common and recognized nav feature, it is somewhat obfuscated by the fact that the user has an alternative path to a list of questions, the "Questions" page, which even contains some of the same tabs.
The front page shows on any of the tabs only a limited number of posts, and at the bottom a link to the "Questions" -page instead of pagination. This seems to be profiling the front page as a sort of "Featured" -list, like front pages often are, and the topic of "Top questions" would also point towards that.
But to me it seems this model gets confused by the fact that both of the pages are browsed through filters or sorts, and the "Questions" -page even has some of the same filters.
Now, for the non-logged-in user, the views are different. There the front page has no tabs, and only a small selection of questions, with a "browse more questions" button or other link leading to the "Questions" page. This does make it much more clear, though the some of the navigation tabs are lost (hot, week, month).
It also seems to me the two different pages mix the type of content filtering and sorting they have in tabs. The front page does seem to have somewhat of a time-based model, where there's selections for current (active), for the entire week, and for the entire month. But there's also featured (which I suppose is there to make it prominent on the site) and hot, which is a some kind of a mixture of sort and filter.
The "Questions" page repeats some of the tabs, and seems to use somewhat of a sorting model, with time sort (newest), view-count sort (frequent), vote sort (votes). But this also has featured (again, probably to make it prominent), active which is just a duplicate of the front page and doesn't seem to be sort-based, and unanswered which is more of a filter.
My question: What is the idea behind this navigation scheme?
It seems to me having these mixed models is a not good for usability, and makes the user feel lost in the navigation. I do know the Stack Exchange sites have a strong focus on UX, and show serious consideration to usability in many of the features, so I would assume there is some considered point behind the navigation scheme to.
So, what is the point I'm missing here? Are there some positive UX considerations which I haven't noticed that outweigh the confusion? Or perhaps I'm just approaching this from my perspective instead of the basic user's perspective, maybe the model isn't confusing?
To illustrate my point: The way I see it, navigation would be much simpler if there was one "current" type page for different filter/sort combinations (active, featured, hot, week, month, unanswered) and antother "archive"-type view for unfiltered simple-sorted views (newest, frequent, votes).
This is not a rant. I'm genuinely trying to understand what's the idea here.