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 years, 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 will 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).
Initially, on most wikis, only logged-in users will be able to opt-in individually. On selected wikis, our changes will be deployed for all by default, and logged-in users will be 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.
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.
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.
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.
What is our purpose?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 will be made
We will not touch the content. We will not remove any functionality. We are inspired by the existing gadgets. We will not make major changes in single steps. We will not touch other skins than Vector.
- 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.
- Elements of the interface might move around, but all navigational items and other functionality currently available by default will remain.
- 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.
- 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.
- Skins other than Vector are out of the scope of our adjustments. We have freezed Vector to Legacy Vector, and begun deploying our features as parts of the new default Vector.
Deployment plan and timeline
- It is our intention to test our improvements in collaboration with a diverse set of volunteering early adopter wikis, both Wikipedias and sister projects.
- Both prior to development and after deployment, we will be collecting data (via A/B testing, prototype feedback rounds, etc.). In the case of significantly negative results, we will roll back our changes.
- First three features (the new header, collapsible sidebar, and limiting content width) were deployed in July 2020. Our hope is to develop a few more features until the end of 2020.
- We are hoping to increase the set of early adopter wikis gradually, until our improvements are default on all wikis in 2021.
|Initially (in 2020)|
|the majority of wikis||early adopter wikis|
|editors or readers
don't see our changes by default
|editors and readers|
see our changes by default
|only editors can opt-in
(from user preferences, by unchecking Use Legacy Vector in the Appearance tab)
|only editors can opt-out|
(using Torna al vecchio aspetto in the sidebar, or directly from their users preferences)
List of early adopter wikis (test wikis)
- Wikipedia in basco
- Wikipedia in francese
- Wikizionario in francese
- Wikipedia in ebraico
- Wikipedia in persiano
- Wikiversità in portoghese
- Office Wiki
What features will be added
We have not created a complete, detailed product specification. Each feature will be 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.