[Foundation-l] hiding interlanguage links by default is a Bad Idea, part 2

Howie Fung hfung at wikimedia.org
Sat Jun 5 00:03:15 UTC 2010

The Usability team discussed this issue at length this afternoon.  We 
listened closely to the feedback and have come up with solution which we 
hope will work for everyone.  It's not a perfect solution, but we think 
it's a reasonable compromise.

First, some background on the problem we're addressing and the design 
principle that we used.  Every situation is unique, but in the case of 
the interwikilinks, we believe the sheer number of language links, 
especially within the context of an information-heavy page, makes users 
"numb" to the list.  When people see large collections of things, they 
tend to group them all together as one object and not identify the 
individual parts that make the whole. As the number of items in the list 
decreases the likelihood of a person identifying the individual items 
increases. This is similar to how viewing a traffic jam appears as a 
long line of generic vehicles, while seeing just a few cars driving down 
the road might be comprehended in more granular detail (a motorcycle, a 
truck and a sports car).  While we did not explicitly test for this 
during our usability studies (e.g., it wasn't included as a major design 
question), we did exercise judgement in identifying this as a problem, 
based partly on the applying the above design principle to the site, 
partly on the data.

Regarding the data behind the decision.  First, let me apologize for the 
tardiness.  The engineer who implemented the clicktracking of the left 
nav recently returned from vacation, so you can probably imagine how 
things might be a little difficult to find after being away for a 
while.   Please see [1] for more details, but a quick summary is that we 
measured the click behavior for two groups of English Wikipedia users, 
Monobook and Vector (Vector users are primarily those who participated 
in the beta).  Of Monobook and Vector users, 0.95% and 0.28% clicked on 
the language links (out of 126,180 and 180,873 total clicks), 
respectively.  We felt that fewer than 1% of Monobook clicks was a 
reasonable threshold for hiding the Language links, especially when 
taken in the context of the above design principle and the 
implementation (state persists after expanding).

We do, however, recognize the concern that was voiced by a number of our 
community members.  When the language links are in a collapsed state 
however, there is not enough information to explain what the list will 
be if you were to expand it.  In all likelihood, we won't be able to get 
the verbiage to the point where it's sufficiently descriptive of the 
inter-language links.  A list of languages is probably more effective as 
it *shows* the user that there are other languages available (rather 
than *telling* the user via a "Language", "In other languages" etc. 
link).  However, exposing all of the languages can potentially be just 
as ineffectual as showing none of them.

A more effective approach would be to balance the two, by showing just 
enough links to clearly illustrate the meaning of the list.  So our 
proposal is to show a list of, say, 5 languages with a "more" link.  We 
think that a list of 5 languages should be sufficient to communicate to 
the user that there are other language versions available.  If the 
language they want is not on the list, they may click "more" to see the 
full list.

There are numerous ways we can populate the list of 5.  The simplest way 
is to populate based on the current order, but we can also do it based 
on size of the wiki, browser language, geo IP, etc.   Our proposal is to 
go with something simple for now, and then continue to explore options 
for greater customization.

We hope this compromise addresses the most pressing concerns that have 
been raised.  I will update the page on the usability wiki with the 
above information [2].  Please direct discussion/feedback to that page.

Thank you for your input.

Howie, on behalf of the User Experience Team at WMF

[1] http://usability.wikimedia.org/wiki/Left_Nav_Click_Data
[2] http://usability.wikimedia.org/wiki/Opinion:_Language_Links

On 6/4/10 3:21 PM, Platonides wrote:
> Aryeh Gregor wrote:
>> Now, mind you, I don't necessary support getting rid of the
>> interlanguage links.  I'm mostly objecting to the reasoning being
>> brought forward for that point, which seems to be mostly:
>> * Some unknown number of users might somehow end up at a wiki they
>> don't understand and not be able to find the wiki they really want.
>> Maybe.  Except we have no data to suggest that this happens with
>> non-negligible frequency.  The evidence apparently indicates that few
>> people use the interlanguage links.
>> * Lots of people have complained, therefore it must be a bad change.
>> * Interface clutter isn't important anyway.
>> The last two arguments are completely wrongheaded.  The first might or
>> might not have merit -- but no one has even attempted to propose what
>> evidence we could gather to check it (I think).  Most of the people
>> making the first argument seem to assume without question that there
>> *must* be a lot of people using the interlanguage links for this, or
>> at least a significant number.  This is not the way to conduct an
>> informed discussion.
> It was requested somewhere on this thread to publish the data of the
> interwiki usage before CollapsibleNav and after.
> The difference should give an estimate of people which would have used
> it but was unable to find it out (as opposed to those who found it but
> needed an extra click for that).
> Since I was asked "how would I search now?" when showing the new look, I
> can understand that people don't find the interwikis, which are less
> prominent than the search bar! How many? I don't have enough data. I
> consider James and Casey reports quite important, since they will be
> people actually reaching us, which reports are a tiny percentage of
> affected people (even from the community, but specially from the large
> mass).
>> In the absence of further data, the only real argument I saw for
>> restoring the interlanguage links by default is to show how
>> international Wikipedia is and raise awareness about how many other
>> languages are supported.  In this case they aren't actually meant to
>> be clicked on, so a low click rate isn't a problem.  They're more of
>> an advertisement.  This is a fairly reasonable argument -- the huge
>> size of the language list is a plus, not a minus, from this
>> perspective.  I don't know if it outweighs concerns about clutter,
>> though.  Maybe.
> That's an interesting point. I was also wondering how it related to the
> accuracy perception. A fluent wikipedian probably consider an topic
> better (or improvable) if it has many interwikis. Or many FAs. As
> opposed to an interwikiless article, which is deemed of poor quality.
> These are probably automatisms we aren't aware of, so I don't see how it
> could be measured.
> Gregory wrote:
>> Sort of tangentially, ... am I really the only one that frequently
>> uses the Wikipedia inter-language links as a big translating
>> dictionary?
> Add me to the list of people which hover the interwikis to find out a
> translation.
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