Refining the user experience:
Wikipedia undergoing desktop design refresh

Wikipedia was intentionally created using a software design that emphasizes text over images, so that it is easy to load on any device—which is one reason why Wikipedia incorporates wiki, the Hawaiian word for “quick.” This design choice has made Wikipedia simple and straightforward to read from its start in 2001. But our last major revision of Wikipedia’s desktop design was in 2010—and in the past decade, design best practices have continued to evolve, reflecting changes in how people use websites and what people expect from online resources such as Wikipedia.

That’s why, through 2021, we continued to expand on our ongoing project to improve the desktop user experience for Wikipedia. The work, which began in 2019, introduces design elements that allow Wikipedia to be more intuitive for today’s internet users. We developed these improvements in close consultation with our global community, piloting a range of changes on different language Wikipedias to develop compelling features that improve both the reading and editing experience. 

One example of Wikipedia’s desktop refresh that logged-in users began beta testing in 2021: We made searching easier by making the search box bigger and moving it to the top-left side of each page—a prominent spot that aligns with the placement of search boxes on Google, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines. We also improved searching by increasing the context around search results. Beta testers now can see images and article descriptions in searches, and not just article titles, which makes it faster to find the correct results. When work on these modifications is complete, all Wikipedia users, whether logged in or not, will be able to use the new features. 

Another improvement: We moved the language menu to a more prominent place on the page, which will give users an easier, more noticeable way to read Wikipedia in their language of choice. Wikipedia is in more than 300 languages, so this particular redesign will give multilingual contributors around the world an easier way to translate articles—and a faster way to contribute knowledge in different languages on Wikipedia. 

Over the past three years, we have piloted these and other myriad new features across different language Wikipedias and improved and iterated based on community feedback. We expect the newly redesigned desktop version of Wikipedia to be completed later this year and made available to all users. This project is another example of how we work in close collaboration with our volunteer communities to improve and innovate how we serve free knowledge to the world.


Photo credits

Wikipedia under construction GIF

Screenshots by AHollender (WMF)