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What's new, questions and answers

From Wikimedia Usability Initiative

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What's changed?

We're making several changes to the user interface. First, we are introducing a new skin named "Vector". This new skin should make common functions easier to find. We've also introduced a number of improvements to the editing interface, including an improved editing toolbar, dialogs to help with tasks such as inserting links and tables, and a built-in "cheatsheet" to help users access the most commonly used functions. Finally, we've changed the site layout by simplifying the overall navigation and moving the search box to a more intuitive location (see the blog post "Why did we move the search box?" for a more detailed explanation of this change).

We hope our users will find the changes helpful. For those who want to continue using the original features, there will be a 'Take me back' link at the top of the page.

Why are you making these changes?

Wikipedia and the other projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation are written and edited by volunteers. When knowledgeable people cannot participate in editing Wikipedia because they find it too confusing or difficult to edit articles, it is a serious problem that undermines the potential quality, breadth and depth of the content that we can offer to you. In other words, even if you don't contribute content, the easier we can make it for knowledgeable people to join our projects, the more useful our resources become to you.

When it was first developed, the software running Wikipedia was considered reasonably user-friendly. By today's standards, it is not as streamlined nor user-friendly as other software. That's why we're making a series of important changes, beginning with the first release of new software in April, to make Wikipedia better.

How was it decided that these changes would be implemented?

Starting in January 2009, we built a small team to assess and improve the usability and user experience of Wikipedia and its sister projects. The first Usability and Experience Study took place in March 2009. We've shared all documentations and videos from the study. Based on the findings of the study, we implemented a series of improvements that have been made available for public testing starting in August 2009. This was followed by further iterations and fixes based on user feedback, culminating in a second user study which took place in October 2009 (documentation), which have validated some of our changes, and led us to making further improvements.

The release that we're deploying in April represents the set of changes that are well-tested and have been used by more than 500,000 users through our beta program. An average of 80% of users who tried the beta program stayed in it, and we've collected extensive feedback from other users on their reasons for leaving the program. This feedback was used to make further changes, many of which were related to language-specific issues. We've shared full documentation of our beta retention data and user feedback.)

Why aren't you making bigger changes to the user interface?

This is just the beginning. We've made a set of additional changes that are still undergoing active testing and development. You can see these changes on our prototype site. After validating these changes through user research, we'll be making further tweaks, pushing towards a second release later this year.

We've made user experience a permanent effort at the Wikimedia Foundation. From now on, regular changes and improvements to the interface, not just aimed at first-time editors, but also at readers and experienced editors, are business-as-usual. Specifically, we will assess the best strategy to implement rich-text editing on Wikipedia and its sister projects.

Will this change be deployed in all languages?

This change was initially be deployed to Wikimedia Commons early April. The English Wikipedia will followup on May 13 starting at 5:00am UTC, and Wikipedia in all languages and other Wikimedia Foundation projects will update at a later period of time. Our international volunteer community, working through translatewiki.net, is still working hard to make sure that we have the best possible localization coverage for the launch. If you want to help, please see the step-by-step guide on translatewiki.net.

Where did the watch tab go?

You can watch/unwatch a page by clicking the star in the toolbar where the "Read", "Edit" and "View History" buttons are.

How can users make sure their user scripts, user styles, gadgets and external tools will still work?

By testing them with the new settings, you will be able to verify compatibility and resolve any issues. By clicking the “Try Beta” link at the top of any page, and then opting into the beta, you will have turned on the same settings which will be made default.

Another way to test skin compatibility is to append “?useskin=vector” to the end of the URL of a page. For example, the URL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation would become http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation?useskin=vector to see how the page would look using the Vector skin.

How do I turn off the new features?

If you'd like to turn off the new features, please follow these steps:

  1. Log into your account
  2. Click on the "New features" link in the upper right portion of the page (next to your username)
  3. Go to the "Take Me Back" section of the "New features" page and click on the link to turn off the new features

You may always turn the new features back on by visiting the "New features" page again.

Why don't the scripts (monobook.js) and styles (monobook.css) work any more?

If you would like to continue to use your custom code in the vector skin, you will need to move and/or adapt your monobook.js to your vector.js and monobook.css to vector.css accordingly.

Vector customization tips

Here's the good resource on customization of Vector.