This is a general overview of what I, Isarra, the Lady Calimonius the Estrange, did for OPW. While there was a less definable project here than for many in OPW projects, all tasks fell within a general scope of general design stuff or more especially Flow-related things - Flow being a project intended to make it easier for Wikipedians and other MediaWiki users to collaborate with each other. A primary aspect of Flow will be a structured discussion system with threads and comments that is intended to eventually replace talkpages, the existing MediaWiki discussion functionality, and the possible designs of which were the bulk of what I dealt with.
There was much argument, considerable consternation, and some amount of threatening with heavy objects, but most of that, especially the latter bits, was directed at the existing MediaWiki codebase and design, not at other developers or designers.
While this was more a quick overview than anything in-depth, I did some research into avatars - what existing documentation and research there is on the impacts of the thing, how they might affect wikimedians, and how very many ways they could go utterly, utterly wrong.
The findings and conclusions can be found at Flow/Avatars, though some of this applies less now than it did at the time. Effectively it sums up to Bad Things will happen regardless of what we do.
Talkpage user tests
To asses new users' impressions of and responses to user talkpages as a user-to-user communication system, I worked on setting up two user tests on the English Wikipedia, for which we had 8 participants total. All in all the users were somewhat confused by several aspects of the existing system and highlighted in particular on a few missing things such as a lack of intuitive reply functionality and no clear way to get a reply to the user to which they are replying. The tests did indicate, however, that as is the case with more established users once someone figures out what to do talkpages are not so hard to use.
For a more complete summary of the tests and results see Flow Portal/Research/User Test Data.
Watchlist micro design proposals
As part of a Micro Design Improvements (MDI) project to improve watchlists, I proposed some possible designs and changes. Given its priority the project is currently on hold due to, among other things, a lack of spare time, however.
- Possible visual styles
Style similar to that of Special:Preferences
From here I also looked into the possibility of a wider special page style cleanup implementing the same principles as proposed for the watchlist.
Because Flow is an ongoing project, I began with an initial mockup to get a feel for the thing based on existing documentation and proposals at the time. (There may have been more, but due to the iterative process these never saw the light of day.)
Because talkpages are so mindboggling scary, I focussed on those. Outside of the existing Flow documentation, I looked into what a structured talkpage/discussion board specifically would entail, broke it down into three main objects, and made wireframes of possible variants of these pieces.
The general thought process can be found on this crankily constructed page.
Borders are included mainly to show the use of space; actual styles may or may not include borders.
Comments may or may not have avatars, may or may not have user information, may or may not use space various ways. Given MediaWiki standards, date format would be determined by the user's preferences, and presence of avatars may also be a preference (or wiki configuration setting).
Three threads are shown per mockup - expanded, collapsed, and closed/archived.
The container is the object containing the threads - if it is a talkpage this would be the entire talkpage, however existing functionality such as Extension:DPLforum has established other potential use cases.
Final mockups (within the scope of OPW)
These were the last mockups I made - they may or may not lead to further iterations as development progresses with Flow, but that is outside the scope of OPW.
Though these initially largely followed some of the better-seeming wireframes, showing these to some Wikipedians resulted in valuable feedback from which further changes were made, hence the visible differences.
I also reported and/or worked on some miscellaneous style and design tweaks for MediaWiki. These generally came up when dealing with aspects of the more central project involving Flow, and in most cases never actually got merged for various reason.
- Added a box shadow to Vector for consistency with more dynamic interface elements - not merged, waiting in part on a CSSJanus fix that was previously merged and then reverted
- Changes to enhanced recentchanges for better style and responsiveness - patchsets are waiting on merge
- Improved button styles to encourage wider use and improve cross-compatibility, visibility and responsiveness on varied forms such as components like Flow would be implementing - in progress
- Other usability issues also came up in the user tests and when navigating various aspects of the projects myself.
The future is open to all manner of insane potentiality. Isarra promises to not break too much. Or to try, anyway. She has a team of angry developers, you know; sometimes these things happen.