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DannyH (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Today, we released a new Flow feature -- a side rail, which holds the content that was previously in the header, at the top of the page. You can choose to close the side rail on a board, which gives you an almost-full-screen width for the board.

There are two problems that the side rail is intended to address.

First, we know that it's important to have announcements, warnings and metadata easily available at the top of the page. At the same time, the header boxes can get very long on an article talk page, pushing the conversations well below the edge of the screen. This is baffling for new users, and it can be a hassle for experienced people, too. Putting those templates and instructions in the side rail keeps them visible, without getting in the way of the discussions on the page.

Second, we've had lots of feedback about the fixed width on Flow. Some people like the fixed width and some don't, and we wanted to give people more choice. The side rail gives us an opportunity to add a toggle that changes the display width.

There's one piece that's coming soon -- the toggle should remember the last state that you've chosen, across all the Flow pages that you visit. Right now, it gives you the default on every page, with the side rail open. We're going to add that preference in a few weeks.

So what do you think -- helpful or not?

Tar Lócesilion (talkcontribs)

Strong support. It's extremely helpful. To be honest, I'm looking forward to enabling it on other namespaces, too. Probably, we -- volunteers -- need to adapt some templates to the new width, but I'm going to do it gladly, since the feature is really useful.

I think the smaller font size looks inconsistent and thus a bit confusing. #accessibility #typographyrefresh

Diego Moya (talkcontribs)

That is... an elegant solution to the original controversial decision to have a fixed layout. Well done, team.

DannyH (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I'm glad to hear it looks good to you. I've been excited to get this out.

I've been wondering about the font size in the side rail; I'd like to know what people think of it. Does anyone else have thoughts on that?

Tar Lócesilion (talkcontribs)

Another problem: the side rail doesn't show up in a single thread view, and I think it should do.

Imagine a frequent case, a new notification about a response, or a ping. The user isn't necessarily aware of the discussion, whole page itself, maybe its generic rules etc. (An example? One's first article and articles for deletion.) The user can see one, pure thread, no documentation. Unless he is a regular user, he's likely to get lost without documentation provided by the side rail.

Sänger (talkcontribs)

Yes, it should. But as a design premise of this forum impersonation is, that single threads should be available on different talk pages, at least that was given as one advantage of this enterprise, what side rail should be shown for those threads that are on more than one talk page? Perhaps a listing of all pages that it's on? Or all side rails in chronological order?

DannyH (WMF) (talkcontribs)

That's a good question -- we will be working (maybe next month) on the first version of a page that includes threads from different pages. It'll be a personal feed -- all of the conversations that you're currently subscribed to on different pages. I'm not sure what to do with all of the side rail content in that case.

@Tar Lócesilion: I think articles for deletion conversations are just single pages, unless they're being transcluded somewhere. What would the important side rail content be in that case?

Tar Lócesilion (talkcontribs)

My simple idea was to include side rail from the parentpage. There's always one and one only (wp:subpage). Unless you want to change the system.

As for AfD, it depends on your definition of single page. If it still had a parent page, we could put there info about the purpose of AfD, how to discuss etc. Something similar to that ombox, but visible in the reading mode. For now, newbies don't know what's going on with their first input until they click on "Edit". This is a huge problem.

Quiddity (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Yes, the plan is to change the system, so that Topics can appear in multiple Boards, and even multiple wikis (so that this announcement for example, could appear in multiple places, without the discussion getting fragmented between every individual location as it currently would).

In the Topic view, one proposed idea is to add links at the top, for each of the Boards that it appears in. So at the top of this topic's page, it would say something like

< Talk:Flow     &    < qqx:Wikipedia Talk:Flow    &    < m:Talk:Flow


There are some other good suggestions in this topic. I've filed phab:T101577 for now.

Diego Moya (talkcontribs)

Showing a list of links to articles where the conversation is embedded seems a very good idea. Showing the content of all the side rails would be overwhelming though - maybe they could be included, but folded so that the user can read just those that look relevant?

Risker (talkcontribs)

I do appreciate the ability to expand to the width of the page; thank you for adding this option. However, it only seems to work on the main talk page, not if one is viewing a topic directly - which is where one would tend to go if following a link from one's watchlist or from an emailed notice. Is this intentional, or is this a bug?

Federicodip (talkcontribs)

I see that side rail working very good and appreciate that we can use preferences in it ( I mean $wgDefaultUserOptions['flow-side-rail-state'] = 'collapsed';)

I think that side panel will contain an important and high visible description of the various topics in the page, do you think to give specific user rights to change what is written in it?

The button "Modify Description" is at the moment visible for all users, also anon... is it possible to make it visible only for those who have edit rights on that description?

For now I'm using this without parsoid and i works like a charm, so another time Great work and thank you so much!

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