Soon, we’re releasing a small but important update to the typography on the desktop version of Wikimedia sites. All Wikipedia readers and editors will see the change one week from today (Thursday, April 3rd), while other Wikimedia sites will receive the update earlier, on Tuesday, April 1st.
We approached this change to Wikimedia’s default typography with the following requirements in mind:
- Readability: Type must be readable and beautiful at all sizes and in as many scripts as possible. Type is also an element which must help differentiate interface elements (such as site navigation) from article content.
- Consistency: A consistent visual experience across desktop and mobile devices. A growing proportion of our readers and editors access content on multiple such devices.
- Availability: All typefaces we use must be already usable (or made available) on all platforms where Wikimedia projects are present. Any selections must degrade gracefully across devices and platforms (Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, and mobile operating systems).
- Accessibility: Wikimedia content must be highly accessible to all, including those with impairments.
Our sites have historically used text styles which present many issues at small sizes and in non-Latin scripts. Most prominently, all body copy and captions were small with tight leading, while font families for body text and headings were set merely to use your browser’s default sans-serif font. This haphazard set of defaults created a lot of readability issues that have not been consistently addressed, until now.
Changes we’re releasing include: increased text size for body content plus headings, specific font family settings for body text, serif headings to help you scan long articles, improved leading and spacing between sections, and other minor updates. In the long run, we may explore delivering a single font stack to all via web fonts. For now, we have opted to release this incremental improvement, which does not require you to download additional fonts and thus will have far less impact on page load times, if any.
How we tested and introduced these changes
These efforts began more than a year ago, with the release of new typography for mobile web browsers. Later, we introduced very similar typography on an opt-in basis, using the new beta features framework that makes experimental new functionality available to those who log in via desktop. During this desktop beta, the new typography was tested by over 14,000 people on the largest Wikipedia communities alone. Thank you to all the community members who participated in the discussion and provided feedback. Your help was invaluable.
We have an extensive FAQ available, if you’d like to delve more into our rationale for some changes. If you have additional unanswered questions, please contribute to the associated Talk page, or leave us a comment here.
Vibha Bamba, Senior User Experience Designer
Steven Walling, Product Manager