This page documents and explores design ideas for cross-wiki search results. What are cross-wiki search results? They are search results from different projects, put onto the same results page. So for example, if you search for "pizza" on Wikipedia, you might see results from Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote, Wikinews etc. on the search results page. For general thoughts on this idea, please see Cross-wiki Search Result Improvements.
This is an open discussion and everyone is welcome to add their ideas or designs on this page. Your comments and thoughts are welcome on the discussion page.
Several Wikipedias have taken the initiative and implemented interwiki search features on their SERP (search engine results page). These solutions often use Wikidata as a central source that contains links to other wikis.
Current cross-wiki search implementations
- Cross-wiki search via https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/MediaWiki:Search-interwiki-custom
- Article placeholder results via https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:ArticlePlaceholder
- Wikidata info results via https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/User:Yair_rand/WikidataInfo.js
- Sister project search links via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Sister_project_links
Separate versus Mixed results
A fundamental question about displaying interwiki search results is whether they should be mixed in within Wikipedia search results, or displayed separately elsewhere on the page. Current implementations (mentioned above) all display interwiki results separately on the page (this could be intentional or just out of technical ease).
Sister wiki projects could be treated as separate "search verticals" that are divided by tabs, which is typical for many online search engines.
Mixed results brings search results from different wikis onto the same page, interlaced with search results from Wikipedia. The biggest challenge in presenting results like this is determining search relevancy across multiple projects for the same search term. These mixed search results should be easy to identify, visually, on the page.
A simple solution to make mixed results more identifiable would be to place an icon near each result, like the following:
In current implementations, such as on Italian and french Wikipedia, cross-wiki search results are placed in the sidebar. This layout makes it clear that cross-wiki results are different than regular search results. The drawback to this layout is that the sidebar has less space, and can only fit a few search results. This is not entirely negative, as most research shows people only click on the first few results anyway.
This design show cross-wiki results in the sidebar, with only one result from a few projects. An icon and label has been placed below each cross-wiki result to describe which project it comes from. This design also contains elements of the visually improved search results mentioned in a section below.
Visually distinct cross-wiki search results
Make results from Wikiquote look like a quote and results from Wiktionary look like a definition?
Some search engines change how a search result is displayed, based on which search vertical it comes from. In our scenario, this would mean styling results differently, based on which wiki project they came from. The styling of the following distinct results draws from Wikipedia's own infobox feature, the hovercard, as well as from the mobile view - where smaller "bite-sized" pieces of information are highly prioritized:
There are additional possibilities that could be used. Here are a few examples.
Thumbnails & visually improving search results
Adding thumbnails to search results might help users quickly identify what they are looking for. However, thumbnails might also be distracting if they are not relevant. Given that most people only click the first search result, it might be a good idea to limit the thumbnails to only the first few results. Thumbnails should help identify a search result, but they should not be the main focus of the search result.
Example of an irrelevant thumbnail
Small thumbnails (preferred)
The image below highlights the currently used font sizes on Wikipedia search results. The font sizes do not reflect the importance of an element and fail to establish a visual hierarchy. Font sizes should indicate the order of important of each element in the search result. Currently, the meta information below the description (arguably the least important) is actually 2% larger than the description text.
Revised font sizes
Elements of a search result, by order of importance:
- The title
- Meta information (word count, date published etc.)
The font sizes used should reflect this order. Below is a proposed adjustment of font sizes:
Comparison of current font sizes vs revised font sizes:
Search result metadata & "Explore similar"
Search results currently include the following metadata:
- The size of the article in kilobytes (KB)
- It is unclear whether this size includes images and other media not, if this is the size of the wikitext or rendered HTML, or if this size includes the size of the entire page (including skin), or just the content. Given that this item can cause confusion to many who might not know what KB stands for, this item should be removed on the grounds that it provide little value to readers.
- Article word count
- The date the article was last updated
- The current treatment does not make it clear what this date actually is. Is it the date updated? or created? This datapoint should be labeled.
Revised metadata proposal
Leave the word count and date, add the word 'updated' before the date, like so:
"5,674 words • updated 03:41, 7 September 2016"
It might also be worth revising the date format to conform to ISO 8601
NOTE: This metadata proposal should more deeply consider how word count is interpreted in non-latin languages. There are specific difficulties with the concept of 'word-count' in east-asian languages (a good article explaining the subject).
Adding categories to search results
When someone can't find the exact search result they are looking for, it might be helpful to show them categories related to their search results. This might help people discovery other articles in the subject area they are interested in. Below is a design that adds article categories beside the search result metadata. This tool can act like a dropdown, revealing the categories when a user clicks to expand them.
Because some Wikipedia categories might not be designed for general reading (such as hidden categories) or might be too broad or too narrow to be useful, it might be useful to link to related content in other ways. Asides from categories, Portal pages can also serve as a good entry point for discovering new content. Therefore if an article is part of a portal page, it might be useful to highlight that instead or along with the categories.
The RelatedArticles extension might be another way we can suggest similar content for a search result. Below is a design exploring how related articles can be integrated into a search result, along with a highlighted link to a portal page.