It has been 10 years since the current default Wikimedia skin (Vector) was deployed. Over the last decade, the interface has been enriched with extensions, gadgets and user scripts. Most of these were not coordinated visually or cross-wiki. At the same time, web design, as well as the expectations of readers and editors, have evolved. We think it's time to take some of these ideas and bring them to the default experience of all users, on all wikis, in an organized, consistent way. Over the next couple of quarters, the readers web team will be researching and building out improvements to the desktop experience based on research and existing tools.
A series of new features and rearrangements to the Vector skin
Our goals are to make Wikimedia wikis more welcoming and to increase the utility amongst readers and maintain utility for existing editors. We measure the increase of trust and positive sentiment towards our sites, and the utility of our sites (the usage of common actions such as search and language switching).
Currently, on most wikis, only logged-in users are able to opt-in individually. On selected wikis, our changes are deployed for all by default, and logged-in users are able to opt-out. We are hoping to increase the set of early adopter wikis gradually, until our improvements are default on all wikis in 2021.
July 2021: New language switching functionality
Over the past few months, the team has focused on improving the language switching functionality for our projects. Previously, the language links were available at the bottom of the sidebar menu and were difficult to find for readers and new editors. We have made a change that allows the language switching functionality to appear at the top of the page via a button. We have built this functionality based on the input of editors and readers from our prototype and other user testing.
The functionality was deployed to 50% of logged-in users in June of 2021 to allow for the performance of an A/B test that will compare usage to the previous location. Currently, the A/B test is completed and all users on pilot wikis should be able to see the new language switching functionality.
July 2021: Prototype testing report coming up
In May and June of 2021, the team requested feedback from 30 different language communities on a prototype of the latest feature ideas for the project. These were the user menu that will allow for users to have their personal links all in one place, and a fixed “sticky” header that gives the ability to access features (e.g. edit, access to history and talk pages) all the time. Both of these were previously only available at the top of the page. Overall, we received 305 replies from logged-in users on their experience with the prototypes.
The large majority of participants indicated positive experience with the prototype. However, we also received some feedback around the behavior of the sticky header. In particular, there were requests to make it persistent throughout the experience rather than triggered only when scrolling. We are currently implementing these suggested changes.
A full report on the analysis of the feedback we received will be published later this month.
May 2021: User testing report now available
In early 2021, the Web team and Design Research team contracted three independent research groups to study the usage of two proposed features: a fixed "sticky" header and a persistent table of contents. Our goal was to allow frequently used functionality to be available throughout the page, thus reducing the time people scrolled up and down the page looking for the tools they need. We tested new readers, casual readers, and editors in three different countries - Ghana, Indonesia, and Argentina and three different languages - English, Bahasa Indonesia, and Spanish. This report shows the findings of our studies. Overall, both of the proposed features were positively received by the study participants.
What is our objective?
Imagine a wardrobe
Currently, the interface…
…doesn't match the expectations. …is cluttered and not intuitive. …doesn't highlight the community side. …isn't consistent with the mobile version.
- The desktop interface does not match the expectations created by the modern web platforms. It feels disorienting and disconnected. Navigation and interface links are organized haphazardly.
- There is clutter that distracts users from focusing on what they came for. It is challenging for readers to focus on the content. It is not possible for them to intuitively switch languages, search for content, or adjust reading settings. New editors are unable to use their intuition to set up their account, open the editor, or learn how to use non-article pages for moderation purposes.
- A very small percentage of readers understand how Wikimedia wikis function. Many readers are not aware that the content they are reading is written by volunteers and updated frequently, or that they can potentially contribute as well.
- The large difference in experiences among our desktop interface, apps, and the mobile web, makes it difficult for readers to connect our products. There is a lack of unity in the concept of Wikimedia sites.
How the changes are made
We do not touch the content. We do not remove any functionality. We are inspired by the existing gadgets. We do not make major changes in single steps. We do not touch skins other than Vector.
- We are working on the interface only. No work will be done in terms of styling templates, the structure of page contents, map support, or cross-wiki templates.
- Elements of the interface might move around, but all navigational items and other functionality currently available by default will remain.
- We have analysed many wikis and have noticed many useful gadgets. Some of them definitely deserve to be surfaced and be a part of default experience.
- Though our changes are easily noticeable, we are taking an evolutionary approach and want the site to continue feeling familiar to readers and editors. Each feature is discussed, developed, and deployed separately.
- Skins other than Vector are out of the scope of our adjustments. We have frozen Vector to Legacy Vector, and begun deploying our features as parts of the new default Vector.
Deployment plan and timeline
- It is our intention to test our improvements in collaboration with a diverse set of volunteering early adopter wikis, both Wikipedias and sister projects.
- Both prior to development and after deployment, we collect data (via A/B testing, prototype feedback rounds, etc.). In the case of significantly negative results, we will roll back our changes.
- First three features (the new header, collapsible sidebar, and limiting content width) were deployed in July 2020.
- Our second large feature, an improved search widget, was deployed to early adopter wikis in February, 2021.
- We are hoping to increase the set of early adopter wikis gradually, until our improvements are default on all wikis in 2021.
|Initially (in 2020)|
|the majority of wikis||early adopter wikis|
|editors or readers
don't see our changes by default
|editors and readers|
see our changes by default
|only editors can opt-in
(from user preferences, by unchecking Use Legacy Vector in the Appearance tab)
|only editors can opt-out|
(using Switch to old look in the sidebar, or directly from their users preferences)
List of early adopter wikis (test wikis)
First group of wikis (marked as ◇ on the timeline above):
- Basque Wikipedia
- French Wikipedia
- French Wiktionary
- Hebrew Wikipedia
- Persian Wikipedia
- Portuguese Wikiversity
- Office Wiki
Second group of wikis (marked as ◇◇ on the timeline above):
What features will be added
We have not created a complete, detailed product specification. Each feature is built and implemented separately, over time. Features which have been created are still being adjusted and improved. Our decisions are based on community feedback, user testing, and extracted API data.