Is this something that will be forced on us as a SE site
Yes. Long story short, they own the site, they get to decide the
gimmicks features to implement on the site. What we can do is express constructive feedback in response to that meta post. Don't expect them to act upon every feedback though.
For example, I noticed that all the links found on the left bar are also found at the bottom of the page, making the whole left bar redundant. There are also as many as four links to StackOverflow on the StackOverflow page, which I found amusing, considering good web design principles and all that. I posted these and some other observations here. I also made another feature request here, which IMHO would be quite useful to a lot of users.