It's not an issue of "WMF can't hire enough designers" or "WMF
I worked for WMF in a design-adjacent role for the better part of a decade.
WMF has *excellent *designers, and in sufficient numbers to build a modern
user interface on desktop--one that *looks* modern and also prioritizes the
needs of Wikipedia's readers (editors can always load up an old skin if
they don't like the new one).
The mobile site and Wikipedia apps have a much more modern look-and-feel
and are clearly focused on making Wikipedia "work" for its largest set of
users: readers. If the desktop site lags on the design side, that may be
because when WMF has tried to make UI changes to the desktop site in the
past, or even just proposed them, they've received loud and angry push back
from members of a second (smaller, but equally important) set of users:
WMF, understandably, tries to avoid angering editors (believe it or not).
At the software company I work for now, if we make a change that annoys our
users--pretty much all of whom are "power users" with needs every bit as
complex and idiosyncratic as your average Admin--we hear about it. But no
one threatens to disable that change across the platform. And it's
relatively rare for a user to accuse us of being stupid or lazy or
malicious--at least, its rare on for that to happen on public mailing lists
or in our own forums.
That doesn't mean the stakes are any lower: if we make the software worse,
we probably lose customers. But we have the autonomy to make the changes in
the first place, see what happens, and then build from there or fix our
mistakes or even roll things back if we need to.
WMF product teams work in an environment where their competence and good
faith are frequently, and publicly, called into question. An environment
where one set of end users (editors) has a great deal of both *soft* and
*hard* power to block changes, even when those changes are intended
for--and indeed, primarily affect--a different set of end users (readers).
Speaking as someone who worked inside of that environment, I can say that
it can feel like even targeted, clearly motivated and well-justified
changes aimed at improving the reader experience aren't worth the cost.
There are plenty of other factors at play, but I'm sure I've already said
enough to anger plenty of you, so I'll leave it there.
I no longer work for WMF and my opinions are my own.
On Thu, Oct 14, 2021 at 11:34 AM Galder Gonzalez Larrañaga <
Today I learned that, despite having $100 million in the Endowment fund,
we can't have a design team big enough to make our websites not look like
they're stuck in 2001. I don't know if anyone is behind the wheel, but the
car is expensive.
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