Reading/Web/Accessibility for reading/Repository/Community prototype testing/Analysis

Tl;dr edit

  • 632 Wikipedians submitted designs to inform the new typography on Wikipedia
  • The majority of designs have font-sizes and line-heights that are bigger than current defaults
  • As font-sizes increased, designs became relatively denser
  • A clear group of participants prefer current defaults over any change in typography
  • New default typography should probably be slightly bigger than current defaults
  • Current defaults should probably be preserved as a future "compact" reading option
  • A large-text option should find a compromise between dispersed community designs and academic best-practices.

Basics edit

Screenshot of the prototype

As part of the Accessibility for Reading project, the Web team asked logged in users on 13 Wikipedias to use a dynamic prototyping tool to send us designs of their ideal reading preferences. The Wikipedia language editions were: Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Georgian, Hebrew, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

Wikipedians could see Central Notice banners, and they also received messages on their village pumps (cafés, bars, etc.) with links forcing the banners. Via the banners, Wikipedians could enable a tool allowing them to control font-size, line-height, and paragraph margins. This tool was limited to the main name space (articles). Wikipedians sent us 632 designs.

Analysis edit

A defined cluster of designs showed a preference for existing defaults. This came as no surprise because we recruited participants for this activity from places where they were more likely to be experienced Wikipedia editors and power users, and thus accustomed to using the current defaults on a daily basis. As we learned in our initial research, negative transfer effects might lead the most experienced participants to prefer existing defaults over any change at all. Of the 632 designs, 177 prototypes had exactly the same typography as current defaults. For now, we'll call this cohort of participants "Traditionalists."

While a clear cluster of prototypes showed a preference for current defaults, the majority of prototypes (329) had bigger font-size with more line height than we have today. This aligns with our research findings and the current academic consensus, which recommends larger fonts with more line height to improve readability. The question remains: how much bigger?

Cohorts of prototypes

As we mentioned, the largest single cohort were "Traditionalists" who sent us designs that are the same as our current designs. The next largest cohort sent us designs with slightly bigger font and/or slightly more line height. There was also a "Large text" cohort who clustered around 18 px font-size, and a "Magnified" cohort, designs than ranged from 19-24 px. On the other extreme, a small cohort preferred designs that are even smaller than current defaults.

As participants increased their font size, they tended to proportionally decrease the line height of their designs. This means that, as the font-sizes grew, reading experiences became relatively denser compared to our current defaults.

The data also shows the font-size/line-height combinations "spreading out" as font sizes became bigger. The larger the font gets, the less defined the clusters become. Put another way: consensus about ideal typography decreases as font-sizes get bigger.

Distribution of font-sizes across prototypes grouped by cohort
Line-height vs. Font-size across all responses

Conclusions edit

  • Participant designs, as well as several free-form text responses, support a customization experience with a small, medium, and large size for typography on Wikipedia.
  • The new default typography for articles on Wikipedia should probably be slightly bigger with slightly more line-height than our current defaults. This aligns with the design preferences of the WMF design team.
  • A clear group of people prefer current defaults, and we should probably keep those settings as a "compact" option in our new typography.
  • Bigger typography options should get relatively denser as they get bigger, which supports the our research findings about scanning reading patterns.
  • Preferences for a "large text" option are the least clear, and we may want to think about using an average for that setting or fall somewhere between the community designs and the academic recommendation, which has a font-size of 24px (very large).