On Thu, Jul 23, 2015 at 1:31 PM, Jonathan Morgan <jmorgan(a)wikimedia.org> wrote:
On Tue, Jul 21, 2015 at 4:00 PM, Jon Robson <jrobson(a)wikimedia.org> wrote:
My views are most closely aligned with Ryan to be honest and
historically I've lost 3rd party users to mediawiki instances because
of how it looks, and the choice isn't great out there. I'm yet to meet
someone outside our community who likes how Wikipedia looks, that's
always the first thing they complain about. I fear we suffer from
Stockholm syndrome working in our codebase that we forget about those
voices that don't get heard. We are the .001%!
If the problem is that important voices (readers') are not being heard, the
solution is to ask them, not push for global deployment of a completely new
Yes, agreed. The reading web team is actually thinking about ways we
can gather feedback from our reader audience to aid design.
and basically untested UI concept. Readers are no less
editors, and their wants and needs are no less important or heterogeneous.
Whether Winter looks more in line with someone (Ryan's?) idea of "the
industry standard" in 2015 than Vector doesn't mean it provides a better
experience for anyone.
Agreed. I do recognise however that Vector is not the best experience
and I'm lamenting our conservativeness in the area of skins. I'm
personally frustrated that it seems that despite recognising we have
no understand of how to go about making it better. I personally do not
feel empowered to try things and listen to the things we have learnt
fromexperiments. The recent change legoktm points out slaps some
responsive styles on Vector. It's not clear how we are going to test
this and measure whether it is good or bad and eventually make a
decision whether we should do it or not (FWIW I think slapping on
media queries is not a recipe for success in making mobile device
friendly experience but I was happy to see someone try something and
I'm happy to be proved wrong)
You can't just assert that Winter's an improvement; you have to test.
I'm personally not asserting anything but FWIW I recall user tests
were run on experiments such as the fixed header and showed that
people found located items better. We didn't see it through to
completion though (whoever was involved in that please let me know
Winter was designed based on a certain set of
assumptions on what people want out
of their Wikipedia reading/editing experience. Even if you believe, as I do,
that many of these are good/clever/inspired assumptions, Winter (or new
features introduced by Winter) still needs to be tested before they are
deployed as the default option on Wikimedia wikis. Vector was also designed
based assumptions... but it also had the benefit of a whole lot of user
testing and community consultation.
Sure and as I said above a lot of them were - but I wasn't involved in that.
I think it's okay to iterate, but from my many experiences in the
mediawiki skin world, you have to leave the status quo as an option
and make the new skin experience opt in. Even then it's hard to get
things out of opt in mode - personal compact toolbar was well received
on the most part but a complete hack in implementation yet I saw no
progress in consolidating it into our experience.
The fact that iterating takes time, and that it's hard to get existing users
to adopt new software, is not a valid argument for making sudden, sweeping
changes to the desktop Wikipedia interface.
I wasn't suggesting this, but as Ryan says, various big websites do
big redesigns, and do just fine. These designs are not sweeping
changes, they have been iterated on and beta tested on small
audiences, over a period of time, and then suddenly unveiled in
completion to an audience, so despite the backlash that is guaranteed
by big redesigns from some of your users, on the long term these
websites have made informed decisions on how the site should look to
improve the usability and experience of users.
Iterating takes time because
when it's done well (read: when you're
actually iterating, rather than
making ad hoc changes),
Sure.. but right now we don't even seem to be iterating and that to me
is the problem. We've tried iterating in beta features but those
initiatives (personal compact toolbar, typography refresh, multimedia
viewer) struggled for various reasons.
the software is being improved for the people
designed for and for the things its designed to do. If you think it's going
to be hard to drive adoption of incremental UI improvements, try getting buy
in on a whole slew of them introduced all at once, without a solid rationale
or empirical evidence to back up your decision.
Vector is not evolving, otherwise it would have happened already. The
only changes to it in the past 3 years have been badly received
typography changes and minor tweaks.
This sounds like a problem with process, not a problem with Vector.
And this is the crux of the matter in my opinion and what I am asking.
How do people think we should improve this process? We do a lot of
lamenting and defending on this list but never seem to offer action
items... any bold offers about how we reverse this anti-pattern?
Traditionally, more skins has created more headaches, but maybe it's
time to rethink this infrastructure  and encourage a more abundant
selection of skins on our wikis. From my perspective the lack of
competition in the Wikipedia skin world is preventing innovation. FWIW
I'd love to have a go at making a new skin based on Winter's ideas in
my spare time with a fixed header, but given that I have no confidence
it will ever get on the cluster I have no motivation to do this. Where
is Apex deployed for example ? Why can't I try this out on
Wikipedia and see if I prefer the experience?
This seems to be the heart of the problem (at least, the problem for WMF as
a software company). We need to make it easier to test and then incorporate
test results (including direct user feedback) into products. Again, this is
a process/infrastructure issue, not a problem with our current UI. Tests can
be standard usability studies; single-user opt-in deployments (like beta
features); time-limited pilots for a single wiki, namespace, or page; or
controlled A/B tests with random sampling of a class of users. None of that
has anything to do with whether Winter is better, or worse, than Vector.
I like Winter. I'd like to see us move in that direction. But what I really
want to do is test whether Winter works for the people it's supposed to:
readers and editors. Because not everyone likes what I like, and not
everyone interacts with Wikipedia/MediaWiki the way I do.
We're talking about Winter like it's one thing, but it's really a collection
of bold, interesting design ideas. I find many of these design ideas
compelling ('sticky' search/menu bar; responsive design), other less so
(hiding the ToC under a hamburger menu...ugh). It's not an all or nothing
proposition with Winter, or with Vector. We should be talking about how to
upgrade our testing infrastructure and our design process so that we can
incorporate the best parts of Winter into the default MediaWiki user
experience of MediaWiki. Then we can call it whatever we want.
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Jonathan T. Morgan
Senior Design Researcher
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