Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements

< Reading‎ | Web

The previous default Wikimedia skin (Vector) was deployed in the year 2010. Over the following decade, the interface was 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, evolved. It was 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.

Our goals are to make Wikimedia wikis more welcoming and to increase the utility amongst readers and maintain utility for existing editors. We have measured 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 more and more wikis, though, our changes are deployed for all by default, and logged-in users are able to opt-out. We are increasing the number of wikis where Vector 2022 is the default, until our improvements are default on all wikis.

Updates edit

November 2023: Visual changes, more deployments, and shifting focus

Before (?vectorzebradesign=0)
After (?vectorzebradesign=1)

New styling inspired by Zebra prototype

As part of Zebra #9 prototype, which we wrote about in the last two updates, we introduced two kinds of visual changes: color-based area separation, and other CSS modifications. As we reported previously, the A/B test didn't prove that the color-based separation was an improvement. We focused on the other CSS modifications instead, and we're implementing these changes now. To preview the difference, you may use URL parameters: ?vectorzebradesign=0 (without the changes) and ?vectorzebradesign=1 (with the changes). The changes are:

  • Dropdown menus (the sidebar, table of contents, user menu, and tools menu when not pinned) have a lighter outline and drop-shadow.
  • The "move to sidebar"/ "hide" buttons in the dropdown menus have a gray background instead of the square brackets.
  • The main menu no longer has a gray background when it is placed in the side column (when it's pinned). Instead, all menus have the same appearance when placed in the side columns.
  • The left and right columns have equal width.
  • Due to the change above, the content width gets slightly narrower when menus are pinned in both columns.
  • The gap between the table of contents and content area is smaller.

In mid-November, we shipped these changes to the following Wikipedias: French, Catalan, Hebrew, Polish. We are planning on introducing these changes across all the wikis within 2-3 weeks. These will enable future modifications, like the Accessibility for reading menu.

Continuing deployments of the Vector 2022 skin

A video about Vector 2022

Since our last update, we have changed the default skin on a few Wikipedias: Dutch, Hindi, Hungarian, Norwegian (bokmål), and Swedish. We have also released a short video about the skin. In addition, after receiving all logos from our Design team, we were also ready to continue the wide-scale deployments on sister projects.

  • The Vector 2022 skin is now the default on all non-English Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquotes, Wikiversity, as well as on Meta-Wiki.
  • We are continuing conversations and scheduling deployments to the remainder of sister projects, beginning with non-English Wikisource, Wiktionary, and Wikivoyage.

Some of these projects may need adjustments, like default settings for limited/full-width at namespaces unique to Wikisource. Gadgets or user scripts may need to be updated, too. We gladly make fixes or assist in making them, depending on whether changes need to be made in the skin itself or a community-controlled code. Reach out to us on the Desktop Improvements talk page or write directly to SGrabarczuk (WMF) if you have any questions or requests for further changes.

Focusing on further desktop and mobile readability improvements

The team has shifted focus onto the Accessibility for reading project. We will work on improvements in typography and introduce dark mode to the Vector 2022 and Minerva skins. Please visit the project page for more details and information on how to get involved.

September 2023: Results from the Content separation (Zebra #9) A/B test edit

In June 2023, we ran an experiment which compared different content separation layouts of the interface. This prototype shows the tested design; we're calling it "Zebra". The goal was to improve readability and focus on the content of the page. The experiment tested the prototype design and compared it to the current all-white Vector 2022 design. The results of the experiment showed:

  1. A 3% increase in pageviews per session in the treatment group attributed to Zebra
  2. A 3.4% decrease in edits per session in the treatment group attributed to Zebra
  3. A 17% decrease in the click rate of the table of contents
  4. An 87% increase in the page tool pins per session

After reviewing the settings of our test, we did not find any issues that would result in data inconsistencies. Next, we studied other factors which might affect the results of the test. We noticed that a significant amount of the decrease in edits and pageviews came from screen sizes narrower than 1200 px. We combined these results with the results of our user tests. These did not indicate significant differences in readability between the test and control designs.

Our conclusion was that the prototype did not, in its tested form, improve readability and could negatively affect edits. We decided not to proceed with the deployment of this prototype in its tested form. Instead, we plan to improve readability and focus on the content through the following:

  1. Introducing changes to the typography, focused on improving readability and content comprehension. This is the goal of the new project, Accessibility for reading
  2. Introducing improvements to Zebra, optimizing for narrower screens, and repeating the tests.

What was our objective? edit

Imagine a wardrobe edit

Before, the interface… edit

…didn't match the expectations. …was cluttered and not intuitive. …didn't highlight the community side. …wasn't consistent with the mobile version.

  1. The desktop interface did not match the expectations created by the modern web platforms. It felt disorienting and disconnected. Navigation and interface links were organized haphazardly.
  2. There was clutter that distracted users from focusing on what they came for. It was challenging for readers to focus on the content. It was not possible for them to intuitively switch languages, search for content, or adjust reading settings. New editors were unable to use their intuition to set up their account, open the editor, or learn how to use non-article pages for moderation purposes.
  3. A very small percentage of readers understood how Wikimedia wikis functioned. Many readers were not aware that the content they were reading was written by volunteers and updated frequently, or that they could potentially contribute as well.
  4. The large difference in experiences among our desktop interface, apps, and the mobile web, made it difficult for readers to connect our products. There was a lack of unity in the concept of Wikimedia sites.

How the changes are made edit

Principles edit

We do not touch the content. We do not remove any functionality. We do not change skins other than Vector. We are inspired by the existing gadgets. We do not make major changes in single steps.

  1. We work on the interface only. No work is done in terms of styling templates, the structure of page contents, map support, or cross-wiki templates.
  2. 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.
  3. Though our changes are easily noticeable, we have taken an evolutionary approach and wanted the site to continue feeling familiar to readers and editors. Each feature has been discussed, developed, and deployed separately.
  4. We have tested our improvements in collaboration with a diverse set of volunteering early adopter wikis, both Wikipedias and sister projects.
  5. Both prior to development and after deployment, we collected data (via A/B testing, prototype feedback rounds, etc.). In the case of significantly negative results, we committed to rolling back our changes.
  6. We have analysed many wikis and have noticed many useful gadgets. Some of them definitely deserved to be surfaced and be a part of default experience.
  7. Elements of the interface have moved around, but all navigational items and other functionality available previously by default have remained.

Deployment plan and timeline edit

The skin is now ready to become the default on any wiki.

The timeline

List of early adopter wikis (test wikis) 

First group of wikis (marked as ※ on the timeline above):

Second group of wikis (marked as † on the timeline above):

Third group of wikis (marked as ‡ on the timeline above):

Fourth group of wikis (marked as § on the timeline above):

First group of small wikis (marked as ¶ on the timeline above): 

Get involved & Contact edit

  • Subscribe to the newsletter
  • Translate: help us translate related pages:
Priority translations 


  1. Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements
  2. Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Frequently asked questions
  3. Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Features

Other priority translations

  1. Template:Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Talk page intro
  2. Template:Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Features/Navigation
  3. Template:Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Header
  4. Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Updates
  5. Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Repository
  6. Template:Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Office hours announcement

Direct link to all translations

What features have been added edit