Talk pages project/Usability

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This page introduces the work the Editing Team will be doing to help people instinctively recognize and use talk pages as spaces to communicate with people on-wiki.

This initiative sits within the Talk pages project, our teams larger effort to help contributors, across experience levels, communicate more easily on Wikipedia using talk pages. To accomplish this, we are building upon the Talk pages consultation 2019, and existing community conventions, to incrementally evolve the visual appearance of talk pages in ways that ensure backwards compatibility with the current experience.

To participate in and follow this project's development, we recommend adding this page to your watchlist.  We will use this page to:

  • Share and invite feedback on designs
  • Announce deployment plans
  • Share data about how the feature is being used

Status[edit]

30 July 2021[edit]

We need your help

When looking at a talk page, what do you think would make it easier for you to know what conversations are worth reading? Please share what you think on the talk page here.

The thoughts you all share will inform the design of the "topic containers" we will start designing soon. These "topic containers" are intended to help people more easily and quickly recognize talk pages as containing conversations and get a sense for the level of activity happening with them.

Strategy

In June, we published the design strategy and set of interventions we are planning to work on as part of the larger effort to help people, across experience levels, identify and understand the conversations happening on talk pages. You can read more about this strategy here.

22 April 2021[edit]

The team has compiled the research that is informing the approach we will take to help Junior Contributors quickly recognize talk pages as spaces to communicate with other volunteers and locate the tools available to do so and help Senior Contributors can quickly evaluate the level of activity happening on talk pages. More information about this can be found in the Objectives and Background sections below.

In the coming weeks, you can expect this page to be updated with the particular interventions we are planning to work on as part of this phase of the project. Before then, you can review how we are planning and organizing this work in Phabricator here.

21 January 2021[edit]

The team is planning to begin work on the incremental enhancements needed help people instinctively recognize and use talk pages as spaces to communicate with people on-wiki will begin in earnest in ~3 months.

In the meantime, we will be expanding this this page to include the research that is motivating this work and the impact it is intended to have.

Objectives[edit]

This work to make wikitext talk pages more legible is intended to cause:

  1. Junior Contributors to quickly recognize talk pages as spaces to communicate with other volunteers and locate the tools available to do so.[1][2][3]
  2. Senior Contributors to be able to quickly assess what conversations on a given talk page are worth focusing on.

Strategy and approach[edit]

Strategy: "Inch towards legibility"[edit]

We will make incremental and optional changes* to elevate the core talk page components (e.g. topic headings and conversation metadata) and calls to action (e.g. replying to a comment, starting a new discussion, subscribing to a topic, etc.). We will seek changes improve peoples' ability to:

  • Recognize talk pages as space to communicate with other people
  • Identify and understand the conversations happening on talk pages
  • Know what to do to engage with talk pages

*We are using "optional changes" in this context to mean that new functionality will be developed in ways that ensure people retain the flexibility to turn it off.

Approach[edit]

We will work to deliver on the strategy above through three phases, the details of which are outlined below.

It is important that volunteers' needs and expectations are heard and incorporated into the design process. To do this, we will publicize the questions and decisions that guide the implementation of each of the phases below and make sure this information is easy to engage with.

Phase 1: Topic containers | T269950[edit]

First, we will evolve how talk page section headings (read: ==H2==) are visually represented and introduce discussion-specific metadata within these headings.

"Discussion-specific metadata" in this context refers to information like: the last time the conversation was edited, the number of comments in the conversation, the number of unique people who have participated in the conversation, etc.

Phase 2: Affordances | T267444 + T255560[edit]

Next, we will make the affordances for responding to specific comments and starting new conversations easier for people to identify and access.

Step 3: Framing context | T269963[edit]

In this last phase, we will introduce new page-level visual elements to help people immediately recognize talk pages as places where editors communicate and for them to assess the activity happening within the talk page they have landed upon.

Background[edit]

The Editing Team is committed to evolving wikitext talk pages in a way that gives experienced contributors more leverage to coordinate their work and connect with other editors, while making the same communication and coordination practices and capabilities legible and intuitive for newer contributors.

For these wikitext talk pages to be valuable, Junior Contributors need to intuitively recognize them as spaces to communicate with other volunteers and Senior Contributors need to be able to spend minimal effort understanding the conversations happening on a given page.

The trouble is, volunteers across experience levels report the current presentation of wikitext talk pages can make recognizing talk pages, and deciphering the conversations happening within them, unnecessary difficult.

Specifically, user feedback [4][5][6][7][8][9][10], usability tests[11][12] the Talk Page Consultation (see: #Newcomers, #Confusion, and #Design), and academic research[13] have highlighted the difficulties people have reading and using talk pages:

"Talk pages and their current configuration proved confusing...For [some] participants, it took more than 4-5 minutes to understand the Talk page itself which was “disorganised” making it “difficult to take part in the discussion.”
"I don't know what it means really to start a new discussion. Because none of this looks like a discussion."
"I often have trouble visually parsing long discussions on the WP:Help desk, for example. Sometimes, a discussion will involve three or more people and/or have five or more posts. Spacing between posts is not standardized, nor are signatures, nor is indentation, nor is the length of posts. Sometimes, people become confused and respond as if one person is the author of what another user has written."
"I felt I had to scan the page a lot for what i needed, as different elements didn't really stand out. It wasn't really obvious that i was looking at a message from someone..."

By making the components that comprise talk pages conversations (e.g. conversation topics, conversation boundaries, comments, etc.) and the tools necessary for participating in them easier for people to parse, we are striving to:

  1. Increase the likelihood Junior Contributors quickly recognize talk pages as spaces to communicate with other volunteers and locate the tools available to do so and
  2. Increase the likelihood Senior Contributors can quickly evaluate the level of activity happening on talk pages.

History[edit]

Many projects, conversations and research have, and are, working to improve contributors' experiences with talk pages. This project is better off for their existence. Some of the projects the team continues to learn from are listed on the main project page and below. If there is a project you think we should be aware of, please boldly add it here.

Glossary[edit]

The Talk pages project glossary is intended to help us all communicate about talk pages more effectively by making sure we have a shared understanding about the words we use in our discussions and documentation throughout the project.

References[edit]