Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Posts by Naoko

Fighting usability beta bugs

Another quick update from the Wikimedia Usability team — the Foundation team working on user interface and editing system improvements for Wikipedia and the Foundation’s projects.

If you are one of the usability beta users, you might have noticed that dialogues for links and tables, and dynamic collapsible table of contents have been disabled. We regret that we had to take away these features temporarily. The babaco enhancements release which was deployed in February caused text formatting problems. So we decided to temporarily disable these features until we have solid solutions. The plan is to restore at least the dialogue feature mid-March.

The beta opt-in rate in February suffered from challenges as well. It is possible that the decline is related to the formatting issues with the release mentioned above, but we could not pinpoint the correlation. February ended with a total of 571,579 users having tried the beta. Although the monthly retention rate for all projects for the month declined by one percent to 80.4%, the cumulative retention rate since the beginning of the beta in August 2009 across all projects held steady at 79.8% as of February 28. Close to a half million users continue using the beta, so we wish to restore all beta features as soon as possible. The updated beta status by Howie is found here.

Lastly, we have a pretty big release coming up this month. The release nick name is Citron, and it is scheduled in the week of March 15. The main feature of this release is to collapse templates, aka scary double curly brackets in the editor, and provide a form-based interface, so that users do not need to navigate through the templates. Mock-ups, Parul, Hannes, Nimish and Adam worked on, can be found here. Template-collapsing and form-based editing interface will be staged on prototypes soon and we will send out invite for you to play with it. These features are planned to be enabled under user preferences for the gradual rollout.

Naoko Komura
User Experience Programs

Multimedia Usability Project Underway

Some new faces have joined the Foundation’s multimedia usability project, and important developments are underway to improve uploading and sharing of multimedia materials on Wikimedia’s projects.

We are excited that Guillaume Paumier, Product Manager of the Ford multimedia usability project , has moved from Toulouse, France and joined the Wikimedia usability team at our San Francisco office. We are also excited that Neil Kandalgaonkar has joined the multimedia usability project as a software developer. Neil brings in rich technical background from major social networking sites such as Flickr and

The multimedia usability project will focus on the following three areas:

  • Simplify and streamline the media uploading process to Wikimedia Commons
  • Create a staging area where incomplete work can be reviewed and amended
  • Integrate interwiki uploading so that uploads from Wikimedia projects are directed to Commons (the binary repository for all Wikimedia projects) seamlessly, and support moving of existing files from Wikimedia projects to Commons

These focuses were determined based on the discussion at the multi-media usability meeting in Paris with active Wikimedia Commons contributors and the objective of the Ford grant to increase participation to Wikimedia Commons.

We have a lot of ideas and features we would like to improve, but our resources are limited; we need to prioritize and focus on a few core changes. In order to accomplish various aspects of the usability of Wikimedia Commons, collaboration with the volunteer contributor community and partnership with our global chapters will be vital to achieve successful results. The multi-media usability meeting in Paris sponsored by Wikimedia France was immensely valuable to set the groundwork for this project. Wikimedia Deutschland is leading an initiative in the development of multi lingual search so that rich internationalized content can be retrieved by a global audience.

Guillaume has been actively publishing his initial research work, the survey result, user interviews and domain research to the multimedia hub of the usability wiki. He is also working on the initial mock-ups of simplified user work flow for uploading media files to Commons. Have a look and post your feedback on the discussion page.

We are also working with Michael Dale to integrate an Add-Media-Wizard into the enhanced Wikimedia project toolbar which is currently offered as a part of the usability beta. Add-Media-Wizard allows users to search relevant media files from Wikipedia articles and insert into the article without leaving the editing window. Michael’s work is already available as a gadget, but the plan is to offer to wider audience by integrating into user preferences. To have a sneak peek of this feature, you can visit the usability sandbox. Just click the image icon in the toolbar, and you can experience the intuitive way of including media assets. Please be aware that the sandbox is an experimental area, so the condition of the software changes constantly.

If you’re online and have access to IRC you can join the multimedia usability team for ‘office hours,’ where we’ll be available live to take questions and discuss ongoing work around the usability project. The next office hours take place Thursday, February 4 at 9AM to 10AM PDT (16:00 to 17:00 UTC). Visit the IRC Office Hours planning page for more info and for assistance in joining the conversation.

More usability improvements are coming! Stay tuned.

Naoko Komura, Program Manager, Wikimedia Usability Inititative

How is the usability beta doing?

Thank you for your feedback and comments about the usability beta through the survey and via the usability project wiki. The usability beta initially started off with the new skin called Vector and the toolbar (release nickname: Acai) in early July and it was enhanced with the navigable table of contents within the editing box and dialogues for links, tables, and search & replace (release nickname: Babaco) at the end of September.

The Babaco features have to be activated through the user preferences. The most recent enhancement was to move the tool for watching and unwatching pages into the top navigation (star icon). This feature was implemented based on a high volume of related user feedback. Navigation tabs now collapse in case tabs start overlapping when the screen resolution is reduced, or where tab widths are wider because of language specific characters.

The usability beta was visited and tested by close to 380,000 users by the end of November 2009. The beta has been drawing roughly 100,000 users every month, and close to 300,000 users have kept the beta enabled as of December 1, 2009. As I briefly summarized in my blog post in September, the beta program was adopted relatively well by the beta users of English Wikipedia (83% retention rate), and in other English language projects such as the English Wikinews (95% retention rate). Spanish and Portuguese Wikipedia beta users have the second highest retention rate at 81%. German, Russian, Chinese, French and Italian Wikipedia beta users are retained in the range between 70% and 79%. Retention rate for Polish and Japanese was relatively low, with 65% and 60% respectively.

The list of the beta retention rates for the top ten most visited Wikipedia languages is summarized in this table and the list of all projects in all languages can be found here. The opt-out survey and feedback forms were available to beta users and the survey responses provided rich quantitative and qualitative data to understand how the beta is received and understand the reasons for what people like about the beta and leaving the beta.

One of the questions we sought to answer via the opt-out surveys was the impact of different browser types. The usability tech team has been pounding on Internet Explorer related problems and we thought the browser type will have significant impact on the beta adoption pattern. According to our own browser statistics, about 56% of users access Wikipedia through a version of Microsoft Internet Explorer, and about 30% of users use a version of Mozilla Firefox. The browser distribution pattern for the beta users for the ten mostly visited Wikipedia language family indicates stronger favor towards Firefox over Internet Explorer except for Japanese and Chinese Wikipedia whose browser distribution is dominated by Internet Explorer instead of Firefox. If we slice the beta retention rate by browser distribution, we see the the repeated low retention rate for Internet Explorer users. However the variance of retention rates by browser types is not significant enough to conclude that browser distribution has a substantial impact on the beta adoption.

The qualitative survey responses brought up language-specific issues. Japanese Wikipedia beta users found the font used in the new interface is too small. Chinese beta users also expressed the difficulty adjusting to the smaller font in addition to the perceived slowness of the new interface. Switching between Traditional and Simplified Chinese was not well supported. We hope issues with overlapping tabs expressed by German users have been addressed by the recently released collapsible tabs. Finally, we are aware that we often break popular user gadgets, and we appreciate that developer communities gradually embrace the usability updates so that the gadgets are compatible with the usability beta. The survey comments are available in ten languages so far, and we will continue making the surveys available for more languages.

The usability beta continues to evolve and the usability team is actively working on the next release, Citron. This release will have the new features such as collapsed templates, form interface for editing templates, and side-by-side preview. Citron is currently scheduled to be available in January. Beta feedback will be incorporated in this release to address language specific issues which were surfaced from the survey.

As the general acceptance of the usability beta is supported by a majority of beta users, we would like to start discussing the timing of making the new editing interface and the toolbar the default interface after resolving any remaining language specific issues.

This survey data was analyzed and put together by the team effort. I would like to thank Howie Fung, Product Consultant, for organizing and analyzing the survey data, Nimish Gautam, for integrating machine translation into the qualitative survey, and Roan Kattouw for tracking and normalizing the data.

Naoko Komura, Program Manager, Usability Initiative

First Wikimedians’ Conference in Japan

Wikimedia Conference Japan Logo

The first ever Wikimedians’ conference is taking place in Tokyo this weekend. A group of Wikimedians, who were inspired by Wikimania 2008 in Alexandria, Egypt, gathered in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan in the late summer of 2008. Those who traveled to Alexandria shared their excitement and inspiration gathered from Wikimania, and others listened. The excitement in the room turned into collective will power, determined to form a Wikimedians’ conference in Japan within a year from the meeting.

Wikimedia Conference Japan (WCJ) is happening this Sunday, November 22nd, at the University Tokyo’s Hongo Campus. The Center for Knowledge Structuring of the University Tokyo offered the space for this conference. Japanese National Institute of Informatics also supports this conference and invited Jay Walsh, Head of Communications, to give the keynote speech. WCJ will cover a number of topics including academic research, wiki workshops, introduction of Wikimedia projects, language support and education.

The goal was to draw 150 participants, however due to overwhelming interest, 180 have already registered with more expected on the day of the conference. As a volunteer organizer, I am sending my cheers to WCJ organizers from San Francisco. I hope this conference will create synergy among Japanese Wikimedians and who knows, Wikimania 2011 could take place in Tokyo.

Naoko Komura

English Wikinews adopted the usability beta as default


Earlier today, English Wikinews adopted the usability beta as a default interface. The usability team is thrilled that en.wikinews community has reached the consensus to be the first adopter of the usability beta as default. We will continue enhancing the interface to simplify and make it easy to navigate and edit.  Our sincere appreciation goes to the entire en.wikinews community for embracing our work. It is a great day for the usability team. We feel blessed.

Naoko Komura, Program Manager, Usability Initiative

Usability Beta Enhancements

New watch/unwatch and cascading tabs

New watch/unwatch and cascading tabs

Thanks for trying out the usability beta. Close to 280,000 people tried out the usability beta and about 220,000 people continue using it. One of the most-frequently reported frustration about the beta was that (1) watch/unwatch was hidden under the drop-down menu and (2) tabs overlaps when the browser is scaled down or the resolution is low. Tab issues were more significant for language communities whose words tend to be long such as German. We are also simplifying the search box to simplify the interface and in order to minimize the overlapping side-effect. Those new features are currently staged on the prototype wikis in English, German, Japanese, Arabic, Serbian, Russian, and Sinhala. You need to log-in in order to see watch/unwatch tabs. The screenshot on the right is the shot when the browser window is scaled down to 640×480. “View History” is moved to drop down menu in order to keep “Read” and “Edit” tabs visible. Let us know your feedback here.

Naoko Komura, Project Manager, Usability Initiative

Update on November 18th: Thank you for your support and feedback. These features are now available in the usability beta across all Wikimedia projects.

Babaco is ready for tasting

Preview of the second set of usability features, Babaco, are available through user preferences. The first feature is the article outline in the right hand side of the editing area. The outline updates itself in real-time as you type the headers in the articles and provides links which when clicked will jump you to the start of each section in the article. The second feature is the assisted way to insert links and tables. Instead of inserting wiki syntax, a dialogue box pops up when you hit the link icon in the toolbar. For internal links, link suggest features offers auto-complete options and validate the existence of articles. A click of the table icon in the toolbar will also assist define the number of rows and columns without modifying table rows and columns in the wiki syntax. Thirdly, new search and replace dialogue is added to the advanced toolbar. These features are released in the stealth mode, which means users need to turn them on by going to user preferences. To enable these features, please go to “My Preferences”, select ‘Editing’ tab and enable the features listed under ‘Experimental features’. We, the usability team, is still refining look and feel, but we wanted to invite active users to start using these features and provide us feedback.
Known Issues: Accuracy of cursor positions using the article outline feature (aka Navigable Table of Contents) degrades in long articles and significant so if you use Firefox. We are also still working on the display issue of NTOC in Firefox2 on Vista. Bug 20669
The release details and discussion can be found in the Babaco discussion page of the usability project wiki. Looking forward to receiving your feedback.

Naoko Komura, Project Manager, Usability Initiative

Navigable Table of Contents

Navigable Table of Contents

Inserting link using link dialogue

Inserting link using link dialogue


Babaco Preview


Screenshot of Navigable Table of Contents

Screenshot of Navigable Table of Contents

As brion’s earlier post stated, the new set of usability features (nickname: Babaco)are integrate into the source code but disabled until these features are stable.  New features include, navigable table of contents and content generation dialogues for links, tables, search and replace.  These features are currently staged on the usability prototype environment, and you are welcome to check them out and encouraged to push them hard to find bugs. :-)

We are also hoping to integrate add-media-wizard created by Michael Dale in Babaco. While API to extend the toolbar is being worked on, media import functionality can be played at the usability sandbox environment. Click the “Edit” tab and click an image gallery icon in the toolbar.  You will see a nice media import function there.  Feel free to create an article and import image from Commons using this neat feature.

Browser compatibility matrix for Babaco is found here. As always, share your thoughts and experience through the usability wiki.  Feedback on Babaco goes this discussion page.

Naoko Komura, Project Manager, Usability Initiative

Usability Beta Status

Here’s a brief update on the status of our recently launched usability improvements.

Since the launch of the beta invitation to the first set of usability improvements on August 6th, about 173,000 people tried out the beta and about 134,000 people continue to use the beta as of September 12th.

Beta retention rate is interpreted roughly 77%. These numbers are aggregation of all Wikimedia projects in all available languages. If we look at the retention rate by project or by language, the number varies significantly. For example, the beta retention rate of English Wikipedia is 82% and Spanish Wikipedia is 80%, while the beta struggles to retain beta trial users of the language communities such as Japanese and Korean at the retention rate of 59% and 54% respectively.

We are reviewing the survey feedback and trying to isolate specific issues of languages whose retention rate is below average. If you are curious about how the beta opt-in and opt-out look like at daily or weekly basis, you can visit the preference statistics page. Here is the example link to English Wikipedia. Just change the language prefix or project name to get to the project of your preference.

Naoko Komura, Program Manager, Wikipedia Usability Initiative

Try the usability beta!

Have you noticed the “Try Beta” link on the top of Wikimedia project sites?  The usability team is proud to introduce the new skin, Vector, and the enhanced toolbar.   Well, they have been available from user preferences over a month now, but we wanted to reach out to anonymous users.  Please check it out and let us know your thought, if you haven’t tried already.  We deployed a bunch of bug fixes since the release on July 1st.  Right-to-left languages are fully supported, and you will see integrated special characters in the tool bar.  If you are a administrator of Wikimedia project sites, we would like to ask you a favor.  Please consider removing the special character menu below the editing dialogue box in edit page.  As special characters are easily accessible from the toolbar, it will be good to reduce the duplication to make the page simplified.  The special character in the toolbar has generic universal set.  If you find missing character sets or have a request, please let us know through the project page or file an enhancement request via bugzilla under User Interface.


Naoko Komura, Project Manager, Usability Initiative

"Try Beta" screenshot

"Try Beta" screenshot


Special Characters screenshot