Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements/Updates

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Newest updates[edit]

September 2022: Plans and conversations about the deployment across the Wikimedia wikis

  • High usage on the early adopter wikis. According to the recent study by the Product Analytics team, 87% of contributors active on the early adopter wikis use Vector 2022. Here, active contributors mean users who made at least 5 edits between 1 November 2021 and 31 August 2022. Thank you!
  • Visual refinements. We have completed the list of visual refinements. We planned to complete these before the deployments across more wikis. These changes included work on link colors, icons, and overall look and feel of Vector 2022. We welcome feedback and questions on any of these changes. Write to us on the project talk page.
  • Decision of the English Wikipedia community through the Request for Comment. For the past two months, we have been discussing with the English Wikipedia community. English Wikipedians have identified issues blocking the deployment of Vector 2022 on their home wiki. They have also requested that the decision on the deployment be made through the Request for Comment process. Our draft is now available. We're planning to launch the RfC on Wednesday, September 21. If you edit English Wikipedia, we encourage you to take part!
  • Deployment plans across other projects. We are planning deployment conversations across all of the other Wikimedia projects. We will first begin with the smallest wikis. By the smallest, we mean smaller than top 30 largest active communities. We hope to complete this during the first week of October, 2022. Then, we will begin conversations on medium to large-size wikis. Dates will depend on the consensus across individual communities.
  • More community-facing activities
    • We have posted a new essay on the Diff blog. It has a title Prioritizing equity within Wikipedia's new desktop. The essay is about why and how different groups of users were represented throughout the process of building Vector 2022.
    • We have published the expanded Frequently asked questions page. Take a look and tell us if it's useful. Soon, we will make it possible to translate it.
    • We also display banners encouraging to try out Vector 2022. The banners are only visible for logged-in users having Vector legacy (2010), the current default skin.

August 2022: Wikimania, visual refinements, and more changes[edit]

Slides to our Wikimania 2022 presentation. You may also listen to the recording on YouTube.

Having the structural changes to the features done, we are finishing development of Vector 2022. In particular:

  • We are working on the visual refinements. We will be changing the styles, link colors, font size, content area width, and more. This is based on the results of the feedback we received from our last round of prototype testing.
  • We are releasing updates to the table of contents (ToC) based on the feedback we've received from communities. These updates will make the ToC easier to use on smaller and larger screens. There will be more customization than before. Over the next few weeks, you will see the following changes:
    • The table of contents will be collapsible at all screen sizes
    • Once collapsed, the ToC will be available at the top of the page, next to the article title, as well as in the sticky header
  • The Editing team, whose focus is currently on improving talk pages, has added an "add topic" button to the sticky header on talk pages. This will make it easier to start a new topic on a talk page from any part of the page, without having to scroll to the very top. See their project page for more information on this change and the project overall.

We have also continued discussions on how to make Vector 2022 the default for more communities. Your feedback is helping us make the skin better. We appreciate that. Let's meet again! On Saturday August 13, we are having a session at Wikimania, and a separate meeting for questions and answers right after that.

July 2022: Page title/tabs switch[edit]

Page title & tabs switch - ca.png

We are deploying one of our latest updates. The page title will be displayed above the tabs such as Discussion, Read, Edit, View history, or More.

With this change, we are improving two things. First, we are making it clear that the items in the tabs are related to the the page that's being viewed. It's becoming apparent when we put the page title first. This change also makes switching languages easier. It moved the language button into an even more prominent position at the top of the page. Learn more on Phabricator.

We have been introducing this change in small steps. Since the last days of June, it's been available to all users opted into the Vector 2022 skin, and some early adopter wikis. During the week of July 4, the change will become visible on all the early adopter wikis.

In addition to that, our next office hours will be on July 26 instead of July 12. This will allow us to prepare the communication about making Vector 2022 the default across more wikis. We are also working on better language support for office hours in the future. More information on this coming soon!

Other updates[edit]

April 2022: Table of Contents is available[edit]

We have deployed the new table of contents. It makes it easier to gain context of the contents of a page and navigate the page without needing to scroll to the top.

It is currently available to three groups of users. First, all who use Vector 2022 and are not on our pilot wikis. Second and third - 50% of logged-in users of Hebrew and Basque Wikipedias. Next week, we will be A/B testing the table of contents across the rest of our pilot wikis. We would like to check if there's a decrease in the need to scroll to the top of the page.

Before all that, we prepared a series of prototype tests with both readers and editors. To read more about how we worked on the feature based on feedback, please see the project page.

Now, we are working on the feature based on the feedback from users mentioned in the second paragraph. In particular:

  • ToC on narrower screens. We have increased the threshold for which the ToC currently hides to 1000px. (See T306904 for more context). This was to make it more comfortable to read on narrower screens. This is a temporary fix, though. The conversation about the best solution will continue in T306660. By the end of April/early May we hope to have clear next steps on our preference of the options presented there.
  • We are beginning the work on reducing the margins for screens between 1000px - 1200px. This will make the table of contents smaller and create more space for text. We will track this in T307004 and will probably have the implementation ready within a few days.

March 2022: Development of the Table of Contents[edit]

The results of our 3rd prototype testing showed an overwhelming support for the proposed table of contents. Based on that, the team focused on developing this feature. The new table of contents will be persistent - users will have access to it at all times. It will also make it easier to understand the context of the page. In addition to that, it will be possible to navigate to different parts of the page without having to scroll all the way back to the top. We are expecting to deploy the new table of contents to our pilot wikis in the first half of April.

March 2022: Page tools feedback[edit]

The team is beginning work on page tools (sometimes referred to as article tools). Our goal is to make it easier to distinguish the purpose of individual items within the sidebar. We are currently collecting feedback on our proposed prototype. We look forward to hearing your thoughts! Please go to our prototype testing page and fill out the form.

March 2022: Sticky header confirmed to decrease the need to scroll to the top of the page[edit]

Sticky header logged in.png

From January 5 to January 31, 2022, we ran an A/B test. We wanted to assess the impact of deploying the sticky header. The test ran on 22 of our pilot wikis. Logged-in users who were assigned to the treatment group with the new skin version saw the sticky header. Users in the control group saw the old feature.

The primary goal of the AB test was to test our hypothesis. We had been expecting that the sticky header would decrease the need to scroll to the top of the page. Overall, we saw an average 15% decrease in scrolls per session by logged-in users on the 15 pilot wikis in the treatment group (with the new sticky header), compared to the control group (without the sticky header). On the remaining 7 pilot wikis, there was too little activity and we excluded them. The results indicate that our hypothesis was correct. Adding the sticky header to the page reduced the need to scroll to the top of the page significantly. Read the full report.

January 2022: More pilot wikis[edit]

The Desktop Improvements are default on twelve more wikis. These are, above all: Moroccan Arabic, Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese Wikipedias, French Wikiquote, Portuguese and Polish Wikinews, Vietnamese Wikibooks, and MediaWiki wiki. In addition to these, we have enabled the changes on the Wikimedia Foundation-related wikis: Wikimedia Foundation Governance wiki, Collab wiki, and Strategy wiki. Currently, there are almost 30 pilot wikis. Among them, there are wikis of different scripts and sizes, written on all continents, and run both by the communities and the Foundation. We hope that soon, at least one Wikisource will be added to that list.

December 2021: Sticky header developments[edit]

Sticky header for logged-in users

The team has been working on building a sticky header. It will allow logged-in users to have access to important functionality (search, talk pages, history pages, language switching, and more) throughout the page. We have completed the development of the first version of the sticky header. Now, we are expecting to deploy an A/B test to the pilot wikis by the end of January. The header was based on the results of our user testing and volunteers' answers to the prototype testing.

December 2021: Language switching iteration[edit]

Earlier this year, 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 in the following 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 wiki was a part of the pilot wikis.

To improve on these issues, we are changing the new language button. Our goal is to make it easier to find across all scenarios. We hope to release these improvements in January 2022.

December 2021: Prototype testing for the table of contents[edit]

Over the next few months, our main focus will be on making the table of contents persistent. Currently, the table of contents is available only at the top of the page. It is difficult to gain context on an entire article or page, or to navigate to individual sections, when outside the top of the page. We hope to make the table of contents easier to navigate through a page, as well as to understand its context.

We will be publishing our research, further documentation, and mockups, over the next few weeks. In the meantime, we welcome you to give us feedback on our current prototype on this page.

August 2021: User links menu[edit]

The user menu is now available for all users opted into Desktop Improvements. This menu makes it easier for new editors and readers to identify which links are related to their personal tools. These tools are: user page and talk page, watchlist, etc. It also allows for visual cohesion at the top of our pages.

We are monitoring how the change impacts the number of clicks to these links. Based on the results, we may decide to improve the menu. In addition, volunteers have commented on the position of the watchlist link. We are working on this. Details are available on Phabricator.

July 2021: New language switching functionality[edit]

Changes to language switching capabilities on the vector skin

Over the past few months, the team has focused on improving the language switching functionality for our projects. Previously, the language links were available at the bottom of the sidebar menu and were difficult to find for readers and new editors. We have made a change that allows the language switching functionality to appear at the top of the page via a button. We have built this functionality based on the input of editors and readers from our prototype and other user testing.

The functionality was deployed to 50% of logged-in users in June of 2021 to allow for the performance of an A/B test that will compare usage to the previous location. Currently, the A/B test is completed and all users on pilot wikis should be able to see the new language switching functionality.

July 2021: Prototype testing report coming up[edit]

An early concept of the user menu, January 2019

In May and June of 2021, the team requested feedback from 30 different language communities on a prototype of the latest feature ideas for the project. These were the user menu that will allow for users to have their personal links all in one place, and a fixed “sticky” header that gives the ability to access features (e.g. edit, access to history and talk pages) all the time. Both of these were previously only available at the top of the page. Overall, we received 305 replies from logged-in users on their experience with the prototypes.

The large majority of participants indicated positive experience with the prototype. However, we also received some feedback around the behavior of the sticky header. In particular, there were requests to make it persistent throughout the experience rather than triggered only when scrolling. We are currently implementing these suggested changes.

A full report on the analysis of the feedback we received will be published later this month.

May 2021: User testing report now available[edit]

DIP Collated FInal Reports.pdf

In early 2021, the Web team and Design Research team contracted three independent research groups to study the usage of two proposed features: a fixed "sticky" header and a persistent table of contents. Our goal was to allow frequently used functionality to be available throughout the page, thus reducing the time people scrolled up and down the page looking for the tools they need. We tested new readers, casual readers, and editors in three different countries - Ghana, Indonesia, and Argentina and three different languages - English, Bahasa Indonesia, and Spanish. This report shows the findings of our studies. Overall, both of the proposed features were positively received by the study participants.

March 2021: New search widget live on pilot wikis, A/B test in progress for logged-in users[edit]

We are happy to announce that our new search widget is now available on all of our current pilot wikis by default. The new search functionality optimizes the search experience by providing context on search results, such as images and descriptions, making it easier to find the correct results.

We are also performing an A/B test on pilot wikis, for logged-in users only. The A/B test provides the new widget for 50% of logged-in users and compares it to the old search for the remaining 50%. The results of the test will allow us to measure the success of the feature and to identify areas for improvement and iteration. The test will run for 2 weeks, after which, we will analyze and publish the results.

January 2021: New search widget and other general updates[edit]

Over the past few months, we have been working on the new search widget, which will optimize the current experience by providing context, such as images and descriptions, for searches. While we have experienced some delays with this deployment, we are currently scheduled to deploy some time in February.

We have also begun reviewing some of the data on the Desktop Improvements project as a whole, as well as on individual features. We have published a report on the usage of the collapsible sidebar. According to the data, logged-out users are more likely to keep the sidebar collapsed than logged-in users. These results gave us confidence that our eventual default will be keeping the sidebar open for logged-in users and closed for logged-out users.

In addition, we also have begun looking at the rates at which logged-in users are opting out of the desktop improvements on our pilot wikis. The average opt-out rates for all logged-in users were between 1.78% on euwiki and 4.09% on hewiki. For active editors, the range was between 5% and 14%. We will be looking at this data in more detail in the weeks to come.

Finally, we wanted to give a quick timeline of the next few months:

  • February 2021 - new search widget deployed to pilot wikis. The pilot wiki list will expand to include Portuguese Wikipedia, Turkish Wikipedia, Korean Wikipedia, Serbian Wikipedia, and German Wikivoyage.
  • February 2021 - Second round of prototypes for logged in users. We will be running a second round of prototypes for the sticky header and user menu with logged-in users over the month of February. We encourage everyone to review these and give us feedback!
  • March 2021 - We are currently focused on improving our language switching capabilities. We plan on deploying the new functionality this March to our pilot wikis.

September 2020: New location of search bar now available on all wikis[edit]

We have deployed the new location of the search functionality to all projects. The new location is available by default for anonymous users on our early adopter wikis, and by preference for all other users.

We are also performing an A/B test of the new location with logged-in users on our early adopter wikis. 50% of logged-in users are seeing the new experience, while the other 50% are seeing the old experience. This test will last two weeks. Our hypothesis is that the group with the new experience will search more frequently. Results will be available in approximately one month.

July 2020: Collapsible sidebar, maximum width, and new header now available to all users on euwiki, fawiki, frwiktionary, euwiki, and ptwikiversity[edit]

Basque, Farsi, and Hebrew Wikipedias, as well as French Wiktionary and Portuguese Wikiversity have now received the new version of the Vector skin by default. For now, these changes include the collapsible sidebar, maximum width, and new header. For feedback and questions - please head to our talk page.

July 2020: Collapsible sidebar, maximum width, and new header now available as a preference to all projects[edit]

We have now deployed our collapsible sidebar, maximum width, and new header to all projects as a user preference. To opt-in - go to the appearance tab on your preferences page and uncheck the "legacy vector" option. Once opted in, you will receive all future updates as soon as they are ready. For feedback and questions - please head to our talk page.

Our first change, a collapsible sidebar, allows users to collapse the lengthy menu on the left side of the page. We believe this change improves usability by allowing people to focus on the content itself - on reading, editing, or moderating.

Our second change introduces a maximum line width to our content on pages such as article pages and discussion pages. Studies have shown that limiting the width can lead to better retention of content, as well as a decrease in eye strain. (please review our FAQ for a list of the literature reviewed)

June 2020: Collapsible sidebar on officewiki, new header, and feature descriptions[edit]

We deployed our collapsible sidebar on officewiki and testwiki. You can see it by going to either of those projects, or by appending the url parameter ?useskinversion=2 to the url on any project.

In addition, we have published more details on the collapsible sidebar and header and logo changes, including in-depth feature descriptions and analysis and measurement plans.

March 2020: User Research with Readers - phase 1 report[edit]

Starting in January 2020 we have been working 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 outcome of the first phase of the study is a report detailing their observations from 24 user interviews. Read more

March 2020: Full results from prototype feedback[edit]

In December, 2019 we published a prototype of the first few features of the desktop improvements project for community feedback. We received detailed, thoughtful feedback from over 200 logged-in users, across five languages. We have published a report which highlights the main points raised, both positive and negative, and our plans going forward in response to this feedback. The prototype presented a collapsible version of the sidebar, a fixed-width layout, and a more prominent location for the language switcher. The feedback was mostly positive, with the majority of users seeing the proposed changes as an improvement over the current design. However there were also some areas of concern. Many of the issues raised were due to bugs in the prototype (particularly with the language switching menu), while others exposed areas for improvement that we will iterate on and/or keep an eye on during development.

February 2020: Update on initial features and overall feature sequence[edit]

  • We have began building the opting-in and opting-out structure for the project. The setting for turning the improvements on will be within the user preferences list for logged-in users. For test wikis, the improvements will be on by default, but logged-in users will be able to turn them off anytime via their preferences or a button in the sidebar. Please see the Opting in and Release Plan page for more details and mockups.
  • We have also published the current list of features considered for the project as well as the sequence we plan on building them in. As we will be testing each individual feature prior to building, this list is subject to change based on the feedback we receive.

February 2020: Feedback Round 1 Summary[edit]

We have finished our first round of feedback for the prototype of the first few features of the desktop improvements project: the new header, collapsible sidebar, and improved language switching. So far, the results have been mostly positive, with the majority of users seeing the changes as a significant improvement over the current design. However, we also found a few areas for improvement that we will iterate on and consider during development. Here are a few highlights of the results so far:

  • A majority of the editors who tested the prototype really liked the new location of the language switcher.
  • A few editors raised concerns around internationalization and the ability to switch languages using one click.
  • A majority of the editors liked the collapsibility of the sidebar, especially for readers
  • There were some concerns around the amount of white space introduced with a collapsible sidebar and fixed-width layout
  • We saw many requests for a dark/night mode for the site

We are currently running the second feedback round on English and Polish Wikipedias. If you haven’t had a chance yet, please let us know your thoughts on the prototype page. Once both feedback rounds are completed, we will be publishing a more in-depth report.

January 2020: Language Switching Users Tests[edit]

In December we did some usability testing to compare the current placement of the Universal Language Selector (in the sidebar) with the proposed location in the article header. We tested a prototype with 21 users in order to determine if people have an easier time switching languages given the new location of the language switcher. The results of the test confirmed our hypothesis — participants in the test group (new location) were able to switch languages more quickly 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.

December 2019: Prototype testing[edit]

Between December 2019 and February 2020, we will be performing tests on a prototype for the first few features of the desktop improvements project. We will be gathering feedback from a variety of test wikis by encouraging editors to participate using a central notice banner. We ran the banners and received feedback from the majority of our test wikis during December 2019. In February 2020, we will continue running the banners on English and Polish Wikipedias. So far, the feedback we have received is mostly positive but we have also identified some areas of our prototype that we will iterate on based on the feedback. We will be publishing the results of the first round of feedback over the next few weeks, and of the second, sometime in February. In the meantime, we encourage you to give us feedback (if you haven't yet) on the prototype page.

October 2019: Technical Research pt 2[edit]

We have published the results of our technical research in preparation for beginning the work on the project. In particular, we have focused on gathering more information on the following:

We reached out to all wikis with a MassMessage, and asked for communities to volunteer to be test wikis for this project.

September 2019: Wikimania research report[edit]

Wikimania 2019 research PDF summary (in English)

During Wikimania 2019, we interviewed editors with the goal of sharing the plans for our upcoming Desktop improvements project, and collecting valuable feedback on a number of preliminary design ideas. Our research consisted of user interviews, a free-form feedback exercise, and a presentation with breakout groups for more focused discussion. We have published a report and a PDF summary (in English) of the feedback we received. Overall, we received positive feedback on the focus areas selected, as well as the individual prototypes for ideas. However, we were also able to identify areas for improvements.

We will be iterating over this feedback over the next few weeks and plan on developing a prototype that we can test with a wider audience across wikis.

In the slideshow below is a sample of 19 of the ideas we tested. For more context, please read the full report and then give us feedback on the talk page!

September 2019: Desktop usage and behavior data analysis[edit]

As a part of our research process, we wanted to learn more about the way people currently use the site. In particular, how often they use available functionality such as links in the sidebar, language switching, and search. We have published our results. Overall, usage of sidebar links is low - only about 0.5% of all logged out users and 1.6% of all logged-in desktop users clicked on one of the pages linked in the sidebar. Language switching usage varied, generally based on the size of the wiki, with smaller wikis switching languages more often.

August 2019: Research and brainstorming at Wikimania[edit]

Slides used in the Wikimania session

Wikimania provided us with the opportunity to speak with experienced members of our communities. Over the five days of the conference we were able to share the plans for the project, and collect valuable feedback on a number of design ideas. Our research consisted of user interviews, a free-form feedback exercise, and a presentation + brainstorming session (you can see the slide-deck we used at the side). We will soon be publishing the summary of the feedback, as well as interview session results.

August 2019: Technical Research[edit]

To explore different technical possibilities for the project, the team spent a week hacking on different approaches to a single problem - how to enable the sidebar in the desktop experience to be collapsible. We are hoping to use the results from these experiments to determine the technical architecture for the improvements, as well as the skin we would like to build these improvements within. Here is a list of the experiments themselves: