Reading/Web/Desktop Improvements

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It has been 10 years since the current default Wikimedia skin (Vector) was deployed. Over the last decade, the interface has been enriched with extensions, gadgets and user scripts. Most of these were not coordinated visually or cross-wiki. At the same time, web design, as well as the expectations of readers and editors, have evolved. We think it's time to take some of these ideas and bring them to the default experience of all users, on all wikis, in an organized, consistent way. Over the next couple of quarters, the readers web team will be researching and building out improvements to the desktop experience based on research and existing tools.

Our goals are to make Wikimedia wikis more welcoming and to increase the utility amongst readers and maintain utility for existing editors. We measure the increase of trust and positive sentiment towards our sites, and the utility of our sites (the usage of common actions such as search and language switching).

Currently, on most wikis, only logged-in users are able to opt-in individually. On selected wikis, our changes are deployed for all by default, and logged-in users are able to opt-out. We are hoping to increase the set of early adopter wikis gradually, until our improvements are default on all wikis in 2021.

maiatza 2021: User testing report now available

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.

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

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.

urtarrila 2021: New search widget and other general updates

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.

What is our objective?

Imagine a wardrobe

Currently, the interface…

…doesn't match the expectations.…is cluttered and not intuitive.…doesn't highlight the community side.…isn't consistent with the mobile version.

  1. The desktop interface does not match the expectations created by the modern web platforms. It feels disorienting and disconnected. Navigation and interface links are organized haphazardly.
  2. There is clutter that distracts users from focusing on what they came for. It is challenging for readers to focus on the content. It is not possible for them to intuitively switch languages, search for content, or adjust reading settings. New editors are unable to use their intuition to set up their account, open the editor, or learn how to use non-article pages for moderation purposes.
  3. A very small percentage of readers understand how Wikimedia wikis function. Many readers are not aware that the content they are reading is written by volunteers and updated frequently, or that they can potentially contribute as well.
  4. The large difference in experiences among our desktop interface, apps, and the mobile web, makes it difficult for readers to connect our products. There is a lack of unity in the concept of Wikimedia sites.

How the changes are made


We do not touch the content.We do not remove any functionality.We are inspired by the existing gadgets.We do not make major changes in single steps.We do not touch skins other than Vector.

  1. We are working on the interface only. No work will be done in terms of styling templates, the structure of page contents, map support, or cross-wiki templates.
  2. Elements of the interface might move around, but all navigational items and other functionality currently available by default will remain.
  3. We have analysed many wikis and have noticed many useful gadgets. Some of them definitely deserve to be surfaced and be a part of default experience.
  4. Though our changes are easily noticeable, we are taking an evolutionary approach and want the site to continue feeling familiar to readers and editors. Each feature is discussed, developed, and deployed separately.
  5. Skins other than Vector are out of the scope of our adjustments. We have frozen Vector to Legacy Vector, and begun deploying our features as parts of the new default Vector.

Deployment plan and timeline

Test our features individually,share feedback,and join our early adopter wikis!

  1. It is our intention to test our improvements in collaboration with a diverse set of volunteering early adopter wikis, both Wikipedias and sister projects.
  2. Both prior to development and after deployment, we collect data (via A/B testing, prototype feedback rounds, etc.). In the case of significantly negative results, we will roll back our changes.
  3. First three features (the new header, collapsible sidebar, and limiting content width) were deployed in July 2020.
  4. Our second large feature, an improved search widget, will be deployed to early adopter wikis in February, 2021.
  5. We are hoping to increase the set of early adopter wikis gradually, until our improvements are default on all wikis in 2021.

List of early adopter wikis (test wikis)

First group of wikis (marked as ◇ on the timeline above):

Second group of wikis (marked as ◇◇ on the timeline above):

What features will be added

We have not created a complete, detailed product specification. Each feature is built and implemented separately, over time. Features which have been created are still being adjusted and improved. Our decisions are based on community feedback, user testing, and extracted API data.