VisualEditor/Design/Design questions


Some general, un-ordered questions related to design that the Visual Editor will need to address; these will need input from the design team and some quantitative data (ideally, multi-variate testing) - and may well differ between cultures/languages. The presence of these questions doesn't mean we don't have some answers, and the absence of a question doesn't mean it's unimportant. :-)

Wikimedia's design is to some extent normative given our size, so just because others don't do it or do it differently/less well doesn't mean we have to copy them.


  • Who exactly are our audience?
    • Do we want / need to segment them based on their needs?
    • If yes, how do users transition between different sub-sets as they need to?
      • e.g. I'm a "new" user on this wiki, but I'm a MW expert from another wiki, so drop the labels and show me the move box"?

Visual cues[edit]

  • What colour scheme is good, and for what bits (toolbar vs. "save" vs. enter-edit-mode vs. ?
    • (Anterior question: What do we want in mood from editors? Calm / serious? Trivial / challenging? etc..)
  • How do users understand that they're in "editing" rather than just reading mode?
    • This is particularly acute if we move to a model where the view interface is the edit interface
  • Accessibility for disabled users or those who use alternate access methods (e.g. screen readers).

Controls and in-edit interactions[edit]

  • Discoverability of controls - How do users understand what a button/control does; the ?
    • Affordance of icons
    • How do users know that the context menu exists?
      • How to enable editing for no-context-menu systems (e.g. Mac (ish); touch-based devices - mobile & tablet; ...)
    • How do users know that keyboard shortcuts exist?
      • Which set of keyboard shortcuts do we support, and why?
  • Consistency of interactions
    • Internally within the tool (does pressing 'enter" do similar things in different contexts?)
    • Externally - does the way we work match 'similar' systems elsewhere (what are our benchmark systems? GDocs? MS Word? etc. When is it OK to ignore their patterns?)
  • Consistency of output
    • Given we're bound by HTML to a large extent, how can we make the in-built design paradigm more obvious but not intrusive?
    • How to push users down the direction of "good" / consistent design for article consistency? What is the target design anyway?
  • Simplicity but not stupidity
    • Should the toolbar's icons be labelled? Optionally?
    • How to enable all users but not overwhelm new ones - how many buttons on a toolbar before you have to pull up an 'advanced' one?
    • Is "click on bold switches current context to bold if you've no selection, but if you do have one just toggles the bold-ed-ness of the current selection" an obvious rule to our target audience?
  • What will an inspector for XYZ look like, how will it work, and how will it be 'obvious' to new users and just as powerful to existing ones? (Or will we not support this and so deprecate their use?)
    • ... Images (& galleries?)
    • ... References
    • ... Categories
    • ... Definition lists
    • ... Tables
    • ... Templates
      • ... esp. templates with micro-data formatting - e.g. the succession and language-translation templates
    • ... 'Special' formatting commands e.g. NOTOC or DEFAULTSORT
    • ... code-like systems e.g. Commons's POTY pop-up JS or auto-collapsed boxes


  • How do users understand that saving an edit publishes it for all time?
    • Wikia's (old) visual editor renames the "Save" button for "Publish" - is this (a) OK legally (JF to check with legal) and (b) supported by evidence?
  • How to make diffs work
    • We've discussed a 'playback' mode - how to best control this, make it apparent, etc.?
    • If we're doing before/after some other way (e.g. flip between) how is best to cue users on which is the prior version? How to revert? How to partially revert and then edit? How...

Longer-term worries[edit]

These are not all specific to Visual Editor ;-)
  • How do we integrate with...:
    • ... Lua scripts
    • ... (before Wikidata is live) interwikis
    • ... Wikidata
    • ... cross-wiki assets (templates, media files, ...)
  • Do we want to highlight how recently something changed (either at article level or lower)?
  • Do we want to change images to be light-boxes rather than File: description pages?
    • If so, how do we expose the licence/attribution meta-data? Would an automatic line work - e.g.:
[[Image:Wm2006-gm arbcom1-James F.-cropped.jpg|250px|thumb|center|Part of the ArbCom panel at [[m:Wikimania 2006|Wikimania 2006]].]]

...rather than...

[[Image:Wm2006-gm arbcom1-James F.-cropped.jpg|250px|thumb|center|Part of the ArbCom panel at [[m:Wikimania 2006|Wikimania 2006]].<br /><span style="color:grey; font-size:75%">© [[m:User:Gmaxwell|Greg Maxwell]] 2006, released under GFDL 1.2.—''[[:File:Wm2006-gm arbcom1-James F.-cropped.jpg|details]]''</span>]]
Part of the ArbCom panel at Wikimania 2006.
© Greg Maxwell 2006, released under GFDL 1.2.—details