Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Features/Language switching/pl

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As a part of the Desktop Improvements project, we are introducing a new way to switch to a different language wiki. Our goal is to make the language switching functionality easier to find for all users. Our secondary goal is to improve the overall understanding of Wikimedia projects by allowing all readers to learn about the vast numbers of languages available for each project.

  1. Language options will be available via a clearly-marked button on the top of the page, in-line with the article title.
  2. Selecting the language button will open the list of languages that will contain the suggested languages for each user, as well as a full list of all available languages for that article. The list will also contain entry points to language display settings, and language input settings.
  3. The original language list will no longer appear on the sidebar.
  4. The new location of the button will require changes to the header of the page, in particular, some changes to the location of page indicators.
  5. We will have a non-JavaScript fallback which will display the full list of all languages for users that do not have JS access.

Design requirements and guidelines

Comparison of the old and new locations of the language switching functionality

User testing

Initial testing on

We performed user testing comparing the current placement of interlanguage links (in the sidebar) with the proposed location in the article header. The goal of these tests was to determine if people can find and use the language switching capability faster than the previous location. The results of the tests confirmed our hypothesis - participants in the test group (new location) we able to find the language switcher quicker than participants in the control group (old location). Based on these results, we plan on continuing to explore moving the language selector to this location as a part of the desktop improvements project. More details are available in our full report.

Icon testing

As far as we know there is no "standard", globally recognized language icon. The icon that we use currently in Vector, Minerva, and Timeless features a Latin "A" character and a Chinese "文" character (which means "language"). On Phabricator, there is a discussion, including some history, about the icon.

After further discussion we determined that the only other strong candidate for a language icon is a globe 🌐 . We ran a simple test on to try and understand if the globe icon is more or less obvious as a language icon than the one we currently use (we can call it the character icon). Out of 40, multilingual participants: 35 guessed the character icon was for switching languages, and 13 guessed the globe icon was for switching languages (people were able to guess that both icons were for languages, thus the total number of guesses is more than the number of people in the test). These results are not statistically significant, however they help inform two assumptions:

  1. the globe icon is probably not more obvious as a language icon than the character icon
  2. we should use the label "languages" whenever possible in addition to the icon (since ~13% of people did not guess the character icon was related to switching languages).

Conclusion: until further testing is done we will continue using the character icon.

Testing with editors

In December 2019, we published a prototype of the first few features of the desktop improvements project for community feedback. The prototype presented a collapsible version of the sidebar, a max-width constraint on the content, and a more prominent location for the language switcher. We received detailed, thoughtful feedback from over 200 logged-in users, across five languages.

Overall, most users preferred the new location of the language selector - they reported it was easier to find than the previous location. People who used the language selector often reported that it would be faster for them to switch languages. A number of users also reported that the new location is more intuitive as it follows a pattern that other multilingual sites use.

While many people noted that the new position of the language switcher was easier to find, they also expressed concern about having an extra click in order to switch languages, especially for cases where people expect to switch frequently. We are currently considering adding single-click functionality for the most-frequently used languages. The sketch below represents some of our current ideas:

Language links in the article title bar

Testing with readers

In January - May, 2020 we worked with Hureo, a user research firm based in India, to perform a user study on how new and casual readers use the desktop interface of Wikipedia. The study was separated in two phases, with the first phase focusing on primarily English readers, and the second phase on bilingual and non-English readers. The goal of the study was to understand the experience of new and casual readers and to identify the main issues new and frequent readers had with the current site.

Both the group of participants reading in regional languages, as well as the group of participants reading in English, were overall unaware that we provide language switching functionality within the page. Most of the readers surveyed would access articles on multiple languages by searching for the article via a search engine.

When interacting with a prototype of the new location of the language switching functionality, both new and casual readers preferred the new location.

More details available in the full report.

Quantitative testing

First A/B test

An was performed to compare the rates of languages switching for logged-in users with the new button on top of the page (the test group) with the previous location (the control group).

The analysis of the results showed that there was an average 44.57% decrease in total clicks on language links by logged-in users on the early adopter wikis in treatment group compared with control group.

The decrease is contradicted with our hypothesis.

After further evaluation, we hypothesize that the main reason for the decrease to be a lag in feature adoption, mainly among users that are accustomed to the previous location of the language switching functionality and users that tend to switch languages across multiple wikis.

In the latter case, this created a situation where the language switching functionality was available in different locations depending on the wiki used and whether that wikis was a part of the early adopter group for the Desktop Improvements project.

Based on the results of the A/B test, the team has began iterating on the feature to improve discoverability for the user groups identified above.

Iterations after the first A/B test

See Quantitative Testing section below for more details.

In July 2021, we moved the language button to a more convenient location at the top of the page. However, the results of our A/B test indicated that the new location of the button might be difficult to discover, especially in the following use cases:

  • For users that are accustomed to the previous location of the language switching functionality
  • For users that tend to switch languages across multiple wikis. In the latter case, this created a situation where the language switching functionality was available in different locations depending on the wiki used and whether that wikis was a an early adopter of the Desktop Improvements.

To improve on these issues, we will iterate on the implementation of the new language button with the goal of making the button easier to find across all scenarios.

List of proposed improvements:

  • Providing direction to the new location of the language button from the previous location by placing an alert in the sidebar informing users where the new location of language links is
  • Making the language switching functionality more noticeable by changing on the visual styling and appearance of the button
  • Providing direction to the new location of the language button from the current location using guided tours that will present users with a notice on where the new location of the language links is
  • Improving main pages to make it possible to present the language switching functionality in a more prominent location

These success of changes will be measured via quantitative testing across various pilot wikis.


  • Main pages don't have page headings. As a result, by default, the language selector is placed at the bottom of the page. Communities can request to place the button at the top of the page by making a Wikimedia site request. This change requires communities to display the header and make changes to their main page. See our FAQ for more information.
  • Currently, the setting for the compact language list will not be functional on the new version of the vector skin, as the language functionality introduced via the button makes this setting irrelevant. We will be removing this option for the new version of the vector skin in phab:T282149.
  • Coordinates: On pages where coordinates are displayed at the top of the page, the language button would look best if the coordinates are displayed as page status indicators. Please see the main page for page status indicators for instructions.

The Language Team is working on the Universal Language Selector. Once they have finished we will be replacing the current ULS with their updated one. The updated ULS will, among other improvements, feature support for language variants.

Release plan

We have been working on these changes throughout Q3 and in Q4 of the 2020/2021 fiscal year of the Wikimedia Foundation (January - April 2020). We are hoping to deploy our first iterations in May 2021. We will be deploying the changes by default to our early adopter wikis. The changes will also be available to all logged-in users that have opted into the new experience.

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