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]

21 September 2022[edit]

Topic Container (desktop) Deployment

Screenshot with new changes marked

Today, Topic Containers became available on desktop at the English and German Wikipedias to everyone who has the DiscussionTools beta feature enabled. More details about this deployment can be found in T315625.

In the coming weeks, we plan to:

  1. Offer Topic Containers on desktop to volunteers at the Japanese Wikipedia who have the DiscussionTools beta feature enabled. See T318127.
  2. Offer a new appearance for the [ reply ] links that appear on desktop talk pages at the Arabic, Czech, and Hungarian Wikipedias. See T315626.

1 September 2022[edit]

Topic Container (desktop) Deployment

On Tuesday, 30 August, Topic Containers became available on desktop as a Beta Feature at all Wikimedia wikis except for English, German, and Japanese Wikipedias.

Reason being, we are running a central notice campaign at these three wikis to gather feedback about suite of usability improvements. Once these campaigns have finished running and we have understood and responded to the feedback, we will offer desktop Topic Containers as a beta feature at these three Wikipedias.

22 August 2022[edit]

Design of a new "Add topic" button are ready for you all to review.

A mockup showing a new "Add Topic" button that could appear on talk pages on desktop for people who have the Vector (2022) skin enabled.
A mockup of the proposed "Add Topic" button design.

This change is designed to make it easier for people to notice and access the "Add Topic" button on desktop talk pages where people do not have access to the new site-wide sticky header and the "Add Topic" button that now appears within it.

Please visit the talk page to share feedback about the designs.

The design you see here are inspired by ideas projects like cs.wiki, en.wiki, fi.wiki, and fr.wiki have implemented to make it easier for people to identify and access the "Add topic" / "New section" link, especially on longer pages. See more in T267444.

18 August 2022[edit]

Making Topic Containers (desktop) available on more wikis

Yesterday (17 August), Topic Containers became available as a Beta Feature on desktop at all Wikimedia wikis except de.wiki, en.wiki, and ja.wiki.

In the coming weeks, following additional prototype testing, we will offer Topic Containers on desktop at the remaining three wikis mentioned above.

4 August 2022[edit]

Second deployment

The initial desktop Topic Container deployment seems to have gone well. Accordingly, we are planning to make Topic Containers on desktop available as a Beta Feature at all Wikimedia wikis except de.wiki, en.wiki, and ja.wiki before August is over.

If/when this timing changes we will share an update here.

22 July 2022[edit]

First deployment

On Wednesday, 20 July, Topic Containers (the new talk page section heading design) became available as a Beta Feature at the first three Wikipedias: Arabic (ar.wiki), Czech (cs.wiki), and Hungarian (hu.wiki).

Over the next few weeks, we will offer Topic Containers as a beta feature at all Wikimedia wikis. This timing assumes we do not discover any significant issues.

In the meantime, if you would like to see what a live talk page looks like with Topic Containers enabled, try visiting hu:User talk:Tacsipacsi (make sure the "Discussion tools" feature is enabled in Beta Features).

8 July 2022[edit]

Design updates

A screenshot showing the design of desktop talk pages in the Vector 2022 sin as of 8 July 2022.
Desktop talk page design (Vector 2022) as of 8 July 2022.
A screenshot showing the design of desktop web talk pages as of 8 July 2022.
Desktop talk page design (Legacy Vector) as of 8 July 2022.
A screenshot showing the design of mobile web talk pages as of 8 July 2022.
Mobile talk page design as of 8 July 2022.

Over the past couple of months, people have shared feedback about the initial designs we published in May.[1][2][3] This feedback has been helpful in leading us to see the need for making a series of adjustments to the design. You can the latest designs in the screenshots that accompany this update.

Some of the changes we have made in response to the feedback you all have shared include:

  • Removing the arrow that previously appeared before each "Reply" link
  • Adding the ability for people to click the "Latest comment" indicator and be taken to the most recent comment in the discussion
  • Removing the icons that previously accompanied the metadata that is shown beneath each talk page section heading

First deployment

Before July is over, we plan to offer the new talk page section heading design as a Beta Feature at an initial set of wikis.

Note: you can see and try the new talk page section heading design right now by visiting Talk:Talk pages project/Usability.

19 May 2022[edit]

A screenshot showing prototype of Usability Improvements designs.
Screenshot showing the Usability Improvements prototype.

A prototype is ready for you all to try the talk page visual changes.

These changes are designed to make it easier for people to understand and use talk pages on desktop and mobile.

Please visit the talk page to find the information you will need to:

  • Try the prototype
  • Share feedback about the prototype

22 April 2022[edit]

A mockup showing the proposed new design for desktop wikitext talk pages.
Annotated mockup of new design for desktop wikitext talk pages.

Mockups are ready for the changes designed to make it easier for people to understand and use talk pages on desktop and mobile.

In the next few weeks, a prototype will be ready for you to try out these changes on a test wiki.

In the meantime, a question for you all: What ideas, questions, or concerns do these mockups bring to your mind?

Knowing this will help the team decide whether adjustments ought to be made to the designs prior to inviting you all, and other volunteers from across the Movement, to share feedback about them.

You can review these designs in more detail and share feedback about them on the talk page.

24 March 2022[edit]

The Topic Containers prototype we mentioned on 11 March is ready for testing.

To try the desktop prototype, please visit mw:Prototype/Topic Containers where you will find a link to the prototype as well as instructions for trying and sharing feedback about the prototype.

11 March 2022[edit]

The team is continuing to iterate on the Topic Containers designs for both mobile and desktop talk pages.

A screenshot showing a proposed design for mobile talk page section headings
A proposed design for mobile talk page section headings that includes new metadata about the discussion.

In the next 1-2 weeks, we will have an initial prototype ready for you all to experiment with and share feedback about. We will also be starting a series of CentralNotice campaigns for volunteers to review and share feedback about the Topic Container prototype which will include:

  • New styling for == H2 == section headings
  • New metadata about talk page discussions. This will include: the number of people who have commented in a discussion, the last time a new comment was published in the discussion, and the total number of people who have participated in the discussion to-date.

17 December 2021[edit]

A series of mockups exploring different ways section headings on talk pages could evolve.
A series of Topic Containers design concepts.

Seeking Feedback: Initial "Topic Container" Design Concepts

An initial set of design concepts for Topic Containers is ready for you all to review (see screenshot).

These Topic Containers are an effort to evolve the way talk page section headings ( == H2 ==) appear, and introduce new information within them, to help:

  1. Junior Contributors easily recognize talk pages as containing discussions
  2. Senior Contributors assess the level of activity on talk pages

📣 We would value you reviewing the design concepts and sharing what you think of them on the talk page, so the team can know what changes to explore in the next set of designs we will share in January (2022).

19 November 2021[edit]

Design work beginning

Design work on Topic Containers – the first intervention we are working on as part of this phase of the Talk Pages Project – is underway.

In the coming weeks, you can expect to see some preliminary sketches posted here for you all to review and for us to talk about together.

In the meantime, if any questions are on your mind about this part of the project, please post them to the talk page.

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.[4][5][6]
  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[edit]

A screenshot showing the new design of level 2 section headings on desktop talk pages at cs.wiki.
Topic Container (desktop) at cs.wiki.

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.

More information can be found in T269950.

Phase 2: Affordances[edit]

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

More information can be found in T267444 and T255560.

Phase 3: Framing context[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.

Mockup of appearance change to Level 1 page title
Current
Talk:Example page
New style
Talk:Example page

More information can be found in T269963.

This set of changes will include:

  • A visual space between the "namespace" and "page" name portion of a talk page's title
  • An indicator that describes, and links to, the latest comment published on a given talk page
  • An "Add topic" button that will appear in in the sticky header Vector (2022) introduces (desktop only)
  • Information within the new table of contents Vector (2022) introduces about the number of comments within a section

Design[edit]

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 [7][8][9][10][11][12][13], usability tests[14][15] the Talk Page Consultation (see: #Newcomers, #Confusion, and #Design), and academic research[16] 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]