Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Research and design: Phase 2

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The research activities and conversations in phase 1 helped us develop a better understanding the desktop interface (e.g. the design considerations, how it's used, how it has changed over time). It also helped us develop potential focus areas to further investigate and develop in phase 2, while still remaining open to new ideas. Our goals for phase 2 are to dig deeper into the focus areas through sketching, prototyping, and most importantly conversations with the community.

Research and design activities

In order to develop a deeper understanding of the focus areas we did the following activities for each:

  • Understanding past work, research, and experiments in respective focus areas
  • Obtaining general usage data about the respective focus areas
  • Sketching out and prototyping early ideas to help facilitate conversations
  • Forming early hypotheses
  • User interviews and other feedback at Wikimania
  • Community feedback via MediaWiki (happening soon)
  • User interviews with newcomers and casual readers (happening soon)
  • User testing on usertesting.com (happening soon)

Regarding the structure of this page: I think it makes the most sense to have each focus area as a section, and then include the relevant information from the research and design activities within it.

Intended output

The output from phase 2 will include: sketches of specific interface improvements, reactions to sketches, a refined (i.e. more opinionated and informed) sense of which improvements are worth pursuing, a proposal for the sequence in which we could implement proposed improvements.

Main sidebar navigation

The sidebar takes up a considerable amount of space in the interface (if you are reading Wikipedia with a browser width of 1275px the sidebar takes up roughly ⅐ of the interface). Aside from language switching the links it contains are used by a small number of people (see general usage data below). In what ways does the presence of the sidebar affect the reading environment? If the majority of people aren't clicking on any of those links might it be considered clutter? Since it is used by a small number of people would it make sense to collapse/hide it for most people (e.g. logged-out users)? Which links in the sidebar are most used, and by whom? Would it make sense for the various sections of links within the sidebar to be collapsible themselves (accordion style)?

Past work, research, and notes

General usage data

Only about 0.5% of all logged out users and 1.6% of all logged-in users clicked on one of the pages linked in the sidebar. Note this is an approximation based by grouping by the client_ip and user_agent. See full analysis.

Sketches & prototype

To begin with we sketched out a version of Vector where the sidebar is collapsible. The idea is that for logged out users it would be collapsed by default, and for logged-in users it would be expanded by default. And it would remain in whatever position (open or closed) while you used the site.

Link to prototype

Sidebar with collapsible sections

We also sketched out a version of the sidebar with collapsible sections:

Notes:

Early hypothesis

  • Making the sidebar collapsible and setting it to collapsed by default for all logged-out users would be an improvement to the reading environment, in that it removes a large amount of distracting navigation.
  • Making the sidebar collapsible and setting it to expanded by default for all logged-in users will not have any negative impacts on their workflows. Considering many logged-in users don't use the navigational links we may see them collapse the sidebar and leave it collapsed.
  • Collapsing the sidebar by default for all logged-out users could result in other links on the page (such as Talk, History, and Edit) becoming more noticeable.

User interviews at Wikimania

We discussed the main sidebar navigation with 13 editors at Wikimania.

  • There was general support for this idea. People agreed that this capability is useful and that a collapsed sidebar makes a lot of sense for readers.
  • The links in the sidebar are currently disorganized and many of them are rarely used by readers or editors, though that’s somewhat of a separate issue.
  • Tradeoff between a focused reading experience and the opportunity for people to explore areas they might not otherwise
  • Is the hamburger icon globally recognizable?
  • By showing fewer entry points for contribution, maybe the ones we do show (e.g. Edit, Talk, etc.) will get more engagement

Quick score: support (9 support, 3 neutral, 1 dislike)

Community feedback via MediaWiki

(happening soon)