New user help gadget
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What if there was a more obvious, intuitive, and interactive tool for new editors to request assistance and find information? One suggestion that has been kicked around in many places (1, 2) is a help template, button, or other sort of easier, semi-automated tool that is available to editors when they join Wikipedia.
Keep in mind that these are just ideas. They try to stick to the draft style guide in things such as color and accessibility, but keep in mind these are just mockups of avenues we could go down, not finished plans.
Wikipedia is having serious problems retaining new editors. The major contributing factor to this is the first experience newbies have with editing and creating articles. Good faith editors who have a negative experience by having their efforts to help swiftly removed are very unlikely to stick around. This is a simple attempt to provide quick, easy access to help materials and opportunities for mentoring.
The gadget would be need to turned on for new editors by default, but would not be turned on for all editors across the board (thus sparing experienced editors from annoyance) and could be disabled in preferences like any other gadget. Implementing as a userscript would not work, since only experienced editors know how to use such scripts.
The main blocker to currently implementing this is that we need the ability to turn gadgets on by default, which is currently not possible. (See this bug for more.)
Often in casual discussions people bring up such an idea with one specific use case in mind, but a generalized phrase or symbol for help is preferable if we want this to cover some of the most common situations. A "help I've been reverted!" or "help my article was deleted" gadget would not cover all the bases and would annoy or confuse all the editors who didn't currently have that exact problem.
So if we're designing a general purpose "panic button" for newbies, the first question is: What is the optimal placement?
The lefthand sidebar is the place where the current Help link and other such content lives, under the Interaction dropdown menu. Putting something there, even a large red button, is likely to be missed by many amongst the rest of the clutter, so let's cross that off the list of possibles. It's also generally not a standard practice for userscripts or gadgets to put new content in the sidebar, so it would clash with other gadgets and scripts that users may run into.
As the top tabs are the generally accepted location for gadgets, a focus on that area is preferable. There are generally three options in this area, which are marked in the following screenshot and which are discussed in order...
- The first is the lefthand area dominated by the Read and Discussion buttons. For left-to-right languages anyway, the advantage here is pretty clear. The disadvantage is that fewer Vector gadgets muck with that tab area, probably for a good reason I'm not mentioning.
- The second is the top level area dominated by the usual set of links for logged in users. The gadget would only present itself to registered users when logged in, so this is a possibility. Like the lefthand sidebar though, this area already has quite a few links, so the potential for clutter is distinct. Also, for new users, the two most noticeable links in this area are the pair of redlinks for their talk page and user page. We already know many new users don't see or ignore these; if they ignore red-colored links up at the top, they aren't likely to have a much easier time seeing another one for help.
- The third area is the addition of a new word or symbol-based tab alongside the watchlisting star and dropdown menu. This is how WikiLove does it, and is pretty common for gadgets.
A second key question after placement is: should we use words or symbols to communicate that help is available?
One of the nice things on WikiLove is its emphasis on the symbol as the invitation to use the gadget. Hearts aren't a totally universal symbol for love, but there's as close as we're going to get, and symbols have the advantage of not needing localization. On other hand, the rest of the action items are generally words, so fitting in with that might be good.
Left aligned placement, with a link in a prospective wording, and in both normal and warm color link style.
Right aligned placement with both normal and warm link style.
Right-hand placement, symbols
The following are a variety of ideas for symbols and styles that could be implemented if a simple link is not preferred.
Right-hand placement with alternative interaction methods
With a dropdown with options for choosing which problem you want to address, before preceding to the full dialog.
With an action similar to the watchlist star, where a click and successful completion of help request would highlight the item.
However the button or link style works, what occurs after a click is a modal dialog presenting the user very simplified options for requesting help, particularly in order to address the key editor retention problem of resistance to contributions, as well to give them fast access to finding mentors such as the WikiGuides.
Some example content for this dialog could be...
- Did you need help?
- Choose one of the following options or remove this permanently editing your preferences
- Ask about why your edit was undone
- Ask about a problem with an article
- Find a mentor: other users are available to help right now
- Read our other help pages
That may be overly complex though. Perhaps it should funnel into either simply "Report a problem with an article" or "Request help" (which would go to WikiGuides).
Other questions and possibilities
Some ideas from WikiLove#Process:
- How might email notifications be factored in?
- If this could become an extension, what about site configuration?
- How might usage data be stored for statistical purposes?
- If data is stored, then how can we present that data? WikiLove suggests a Special page...