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Wikipedia is getting a new look (wikimedia.org)
649 points by Amorymeltzer 33 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 511 comments

If someone asked me to critique the UX of Wikipedia, the first two things I’d point out would be that I almost never use the left hand side bar (and I have a feel almost no one does) and that when paragraphs are that wide they become harder to read (especially when they snake around floated images).

Not changing for 10 years, watching as some trends fade and others become law-of-the-land, and then making two changes that are backed by a fair amount of data strikes me as a great way for Wikipedia to operate.

I’ll also note that they definitely have changed some UX stuff over the past 10 years. The fullscreen expandable thing for images is pretty good, clean and JS-light (although this is HN so I have to note it would be better if it didn’t break the back button).

> I almost never use the left hand side bar (and I have a feel almost no one does)

The left sidebar has two killer features for me:

1. Finding canonical translations for technical terms. You need to know what the standard way to translate "hardware acceleration" or "differentiable manifold" is in French? Go to the wikipedia page and hover over the language switcher link in the left sidebar. Done. This has become one of my indispensable tools.

2. Learning about historical events where there are multiple inevitably biased narratives. For example, want to know about the Islamic Golden Age? The English, French, and Farsi versions have significantly different content from different perspectives (I would assume the Spanish and Arabic ones are also equally interesting). I highly recommend this exercise especially for history that one is taught in school, e.g. if you're American and can read Spanish, I bet the Spanish entry on Mexican-American War will teach you a few things you had never heard of.

I second using Wikipedia for translating, most of the time is better than using a translator or using a dictionary and sometimes is the only option for more technical or specific terms.

I don't use it for comparing between languages much because I'm bilingual and my native tongue Wikipedia is not that big, but sometimes is really interesting to see the different perspectives.

Absolutely, the only time I've ever used the sidebar is for language change, but with this change they are moving that to a more accessible place (Which is nice), but it also means the sidebar is now truly useless :)

Changing the language, yes. But translating at a glimpse will get lost this way.

Go to the wikidata page and it has the translations.

That's a click more though, while the current method doesn't necessitate a single additional click.

Regarding the comments about the importance of language links in the sidebar: if you look here you can see that the language links will be moved to a button/menu in the article header — https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Reading/Web/Desktop_Improveme... The conclusions of the user testing show that people have a much easier time finding them in the new location.

Their test group for this feature consists of 8 to 9 people, with 5 in a control group. You'd think that for one of the most visited sites in the world, they'd have larger test groups?

Testing large amounts of people doesn’t always produce better results. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-you-only-need-to-test-w...

I just hope you can still simply hover your mouse over the languages links to see the translation without having to click and go to the foreign language article.

Will the new menu require JS to access?

I've never realized how often I do both scenarios but now that you said it, that's exactly right, it is very useful. Being multi-lingual myself, the benefit of the switching language is not just for bias but also because some topics are just more expanded in other languages. I keep Google in English so obviously English wikipedia articles are the ones showing up, but let's say I look at some francophone music artist, i'm more likely to get a longer wikipedia page once I switch to French.

I also find your first point to be a truly indispensable tool. How else do you know what they call carbon fiber in German? [0]

But the second is a touchy area. In fact, Wikipedia's co-founder recently wrote a blog post detailing how its neutral point-of-view policy has flopped, in the name of fighting false balance. [1] His examples are pretty embarrassing, but more important in that Google points human "Search Quality Raters" to Wikipedia to understand "reputation" and maintain a supposedly even political bias. [2]

[0] Kohlenstofffaserverstärkter Kunststoff, of course.

[1] https://larrysanger.org/2020/05/wikipedia-is-badly-biased/

[2] https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/guidelines.raterh... Pages 16-18

> How else do you know what they call carbon fiber in German? [0] > [0] Kohlenstofffaserverstärkter Kunststoff, of course.

Well, it actually not that simple :)

Kohlenstofffaserverstärkter Kunststoff[1] is carbon fiber reinforced polymer[2]. But it seems like carbon fiber is also used as a short hand for carbon fiber reinforced polymer. Similarly, Germans often call Kohlenstofffaserverstärkter Kunststoff just Karbon.

But the translation of the technical term carbon fiber[3] is just Kohlenstofffaser[4] (which is quite a literal translation).

But indeed, it is really nice how transparent that is when looking that the wikipedia articles.

[1] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlenstofffaserverst%C3%A4rkt... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_fiber_reinforced_polyme... [3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_fibers [4] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlenstofffaser

It's not my mother language but I speak German, and I keep reading "server" when trying to read "Kohlenstofffaserverstärkter". IT sector ruined my brain.

I don't understand Larry Sanger's complaint about NPOV. If a neutral encyclopedia was required to list all minority points of view on every topic then nothing would be knowable. It wouldn't be able to say that the earth is round. If saying that the earth is round is biased then neutrality is worthless and not worth pursuing.

In even simpler terms, the use of editorial judgment is required to write an encyclopedia. Always has been, always will be. A website free of editorial judgment looks like 8chan, not an encyclopedia.

Even 8chan had some level of editorial judgement, however small it was. It was there.

The Admin has been very active in preserving QAnon's presence on the board. Potentially to the point of hijacking the QAnon tripcodes.


Well, i dare say, that would be an example of an editorial judgement. Agreeable or not.

The original statement of NPOV was to at least mention any significant view supported by a significant minority of experts or people involved; not EVERY topic. It makes sense that, if you want the encyclopedia to be a starting point for investigating a subject, it informs you of the existence of significant non-sanctioned views.

In practice, this need is usually satisfied by the Talk pages and archives. The published article is sanitized, but if you really want to learn about the controversies in the topic, your best choice is to dig deep in the discussions that resulted in the controversy being excised from the visible version. It's quite rare that the talk pages are also purged as well.

When I've been to the talk pages they were populated by even-less-neutral discussion about how to expunge anything that might offer support to people who believed the right-wing position.

Though that’s a rather technical term for carbon fiber that I suspect nobody uses when speaking or even writing to each other in a less formal context.

I’ve heard it being called just “Carbon”, pronounced with a long “o”, frequently. Since the translation for the generic element, carbon, is “Kohlenstoff”, and that word is very commonly used, the opportunities for confusion between carbon and carbon fiber is less than it might seem.

In my experience 'Kohlefaser' is a pretty common technical term, I've only ever encountered 'Karbon' w.r.t. bicycles (but that just be my limited view).

The literal translation for carbon fiber would be "Kohlefaser" and that is also used quite commonly.

I admit I'm not in any field that deals with materials a lot, but OP said "Kohlefaserverstärkter Kunststoff" (which I likely wrongly called "carbon fiber" in English), is "Kohlefaser" really the same? Maybe it is and I'm just ignorant about that.

My German-as-second-language understanding is:

Kohlenstofffaserverstärkter Kunststoff == Kohlen (literally coal but understood more broadly as any carbon) stoff (material) faser (thread) verstärkter (reinforced) Kunststoff (plastic).

The combination of political opinion expressed in [1] + the author's wildly incorrect past statements is all I need to know that Wikipedia is doing things right:

> Since 2002, Sanger has been critical of Wikipedia's accuracy. ... [In 2007], Sanger again criticized Wikipedia, stating it was "broken beyond repair" and had a range of problems "from serious management problems, to an often dysfunctional community, to frequently unreliable content, and to a whole series of scandals".


Sanger will never forgive Wikipedia for getting along just fine without him.

I guess you don't need to know much to ascertain the truth of something.

I know A. the examples he gave do not justify his position that the "false balance" policy is bad due to his clear extreme political bias in favor of Trump and B. he has a track record of being very, very wrong about systemic issues at Wikimedia which discredits his position on this particular (supposed) issue.

As a couple of other responses have indicated, this is not a reliable way to translate terms.

Another bit of anecdotal evidence on translation: I recently wanted to find the idiomatic French for "electronics packaging." Google Translate gets it wrong, and there's no French wiki page to refer to. The source that came up with the goods was the "translations in context" snippets here: https://www.linguee.com/english-french/translation/electroni...

Linguee is not a reference either for English to French, simply because most of the side-by-side translations it uses are bad translations; and also because it mixes French and Canadian sources, which are sometimes completely unrelated to the point that a native French won't understand a Canadian translation and vice-versa.

Deepl, from the same company, is much better and is currently the best online translator.

France French and Canadian French are not that different and are certainly mutually intelligible, kind of like US English and Australian English. (Except of course if you're a rude Parisian and act like any accent except yours is undecipherable).

You can certainly understand them if you're talking with a Canadian, because you can always ask for clarifications. But my point is not about accent, it's about taking a Canadian translation on an online translation service and mistakenly using it in a French document if you're not a French speaker. Good luck having your French readers understand what's a balado (podcast), a Bazou (a car) or a Boucane (the smoke), and that's just a handful of the B words. It doesn't matter whether you are a rude Parisian or not (what's with the stereotyping?)

Or tell them on your gardening website to fill a chaudière to water their garden.

Un bazou doesn't mean a car, it's a slang word that means jalopy. In France French, one would say une guimbarde, and I suspect lots of Canadian French speakers wouldn't understand that word. Slang words tend to differ a lot from country to country, no matter the language. A translation service that translates car to bazou or guimbarde is broken, but this has nothing to do with Canadian vs. France French.

I just read [1].

I'd hope that a person with Sanger's experience and insight would at least float suggestions, proposals, wish list, or any thing at all, to achieve something he'd consider more neutral, objective, or something.

everipedia.org I guess does some stuff differently. But if it has a different take on neutrality, it's not jumping out at me.

Sanger has some role with Ballotpedia? Maybe his vision for neutrality is there?

Just sitting here, I can imagine at least three different crazy experiments to play with neutrality. And I know nothing.


I was willing to at least consider anything Sanger had to offer, given his CV. But generally I fast fail (flip the bozo bit, summarily dismiss, shove into the memory hole) any media critic leading with "liberal bias".

I think he just has muddled reasoning. For example, his essay says something about Jesus, the Christ label, how the wiki is wrong... Or something. I was raised Christian, so I'm moderately inclined towards biblical navel gazing. But if Sanger had a point, it's lost on me. I'm just more confused after trying to parse his thesis.


I'll read any proposals for mitigating social media. I honestly can't even criticize whatever this is:

How to Fix Social Media in Three Easy Steps [2020/09/20]


Non sequitur?

I was willing to at least consider anything Sanger had to offer, given his CV. But generally I fast fail [...] any media critic leading with "liberal bias".

Especially when one of the main criticisms is "It's biased to say a false statement is false".

Sanger's fundamental misunderstanding is that a neutral point of view doesn't mean that the thing you're writing about is also going to be neutral.

Keen point. Thanks.

It just now occurs to me that you're probably referring to the epistemological crisis. I don't actually know what that means, but please humor me.

Sanger teaches philosophy. To him, maybe there is no truth? Or that all truths are equal? Or something like that.

More than a handful of the geeks I've worked with were afflicted by the recursive discursive thing. Most bad was the philosopher software architect. Actually repeatedly debated metametadata, the data about metadata. I wanted to kill myself.

Tying this back to current events: It might be useful to have some canary questions, to determine the epistemological bent of the other participants. It's pointless to argue about facts if the other party doesn't believe in facts.

> His examples are pretty embarrassing

Some of the political ones show what is more easily described as bias, but his points about Global Warming or the MMR vaccine show exactly why "NPOV" for any extent is a bad idea, and why the new policy of "avoiding false balance" actually makes a lot of sense.

> 1. Finding canonical translations for technical terms.

OMG yes I do this as well. Google translate is unreliable for technical terms, regional vegetables/fruits, cultural concepts, and lots of other things.

EDIT: Wikipedia is also good at differentiating regional variants of a language, e.g. the country of Laos is 老撾 in Beijing Mandarin and 寮國 in Taiwanese Mandarin and Wikipedia knows this. Likewise, a USB drive is almost universally called "U盤" in Mainland China but this word is virtually unknown outside Mainland China. It's actually a good way for native speakers to look up one-off words like this when writing documents intended to be read by another region because you really just need to replace a few nouns here and there.

> 2. Learning about historical events where there are multiple inevitably biased narratives.

Interesting anecdote: Linguistically, Serbian and Croatian are almost identical, except for the obvious thing that Serbs write in Cyrillic alphabet, while Croatians use the Latin alphabet. Politically however? Holy what a can of worms. "Inevitably biased" is putting it mildly, outright history revisionism puts it better, and it has been twice a subject of widespread outrage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2...

(in case it's relevant, I'm half Croat, and have a massive dislike against NDH supporters and any other fascist/fascist apologets)

I look at the different language wikis all the time for that reason (and because I'm a native Spanish speaker who prefers the English Wikipedia), but it's just routine to scroll to the language selection list completely ignoring the controls of the left pane, that I may have used twice in the last 10 years merely out of curiosity.

I have been reading HN for a while and never commented, but the translation thing is very close to my heart, what with learning Physics both in Polish and English at different stages of my life.

So much so that I've made a dedicated tool for this: https://wikitranslator.github.io/

It uses Wikipedia's APIs to "click the language links" for you. It also displays short summaries of both languages' articles, so the translation can be verified. I know I'm a small sample, but I end up using it reasonably often.

You should make a Show HN out of that! Just wait a while (perhaps a couple weeks) for the hivemind caches to clear.

See the tips at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22336638, especially the one about adding a comment explaining how you came to work on this and what's different about it.

If you do submit it, email us at hn@ycombinator.com and we might be able to help further. And welcome to the state change of HN-commenting!

Thank you very much for the tips!

I personally had no idea this existed, even though I would (and now will) use it avidly. So that's probably an indication that the UX needs to change to improve discoverability!

For English-French translation in Québec, have a look at http://m.gdt.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/index.aspx

That's quite a stack of subdomains, any sense to those? .qc.ca I can recognize, and gouv is for gouvernment.

So you've got 3, the m at the start is obvious - there's only two left and they're both spelt out in the header of the webpage.

Just out of interest, I tried "electronics packaging" (which other sources seem to indicate is called either "habillage" or "packaging" in French). I got this http://m.gdt.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/ficheOqlf.aspx?Id_Fiche=1893553... result which says "electronics packaging designer" translates to "concepteur d'assemblage électronique." So now I'm not sure what to think. The suggested translation doesn't include the word "habillage" which I previously thought was the term I needed.

"Habillage" (literally "dressing") in this context relates to packaging of a concept/proposition i.e. the marketing around it (or "spin"). The french word for "packaging" in the physical sense would be "emballage" (literally "wrapping"). Some would use "empaquetage" but that is less common.

So "electronics packaging" would translate to "emballage/empaquetage de composants électroniques".

Are you sure about this?

I know linguee.fr has been criticised, but check out these two analogous pages found via a search for "electronics packaging" there:


"The brand Schroff, which belongs to the business unit of nVent Technical Solutions, has been a world leader in electronics packaging for over five decades."


"La marque Schroff, qui appartient à l’entité légale nVent, est leader mondial dans le domaine de l’habillage électronique depuis plus de cinquante ans."

This makes it look extremely like habillage doesn't just mean what you claim it does "in this context."

Emballage was indeed my initial guess for the appropriate French word, but I, you know, did some research before jumping to a conclusion?

> 1. Finding canonical translations for technical terms.

I use this so often, that I've thought to turn this into a full-blown tool on several occassions. A simple "translate" webapp that opens wikipedia (API) in the background, looks for the inserted term and then returns the translated articles (with links to the article!) for that term.

You summarize it very well. Those are the two big usage I have from that bar. In fact I switch so often between languages I wish they were displayed upper in the bar (btw I don’t like switch language on mobile), and personalized with my 4 most used languages on top. Sometimes a language I want to read is hidden and it’s super annoying to get it.

The direct link to the commons page is also useful for finding pictures related to a topic.

Years ago Wikimedia external-to-community "UX" staff previously forcefully hid the inter-language links against substantial community outcry. The result caused a devastating loss of traffic to other languages and, ultimately, a quiet reversal.

Sounds like they're going to repeat that mistake again.

I came here to say the language part. Sometimes no dictionary will translate the thing that you want, you have to use Wikipedia to translate it. It's also great for language study, hopping back and forth between your target language to see how similar ideas are expressed differently.

I guess monolingual people simply don't understand some things. That there is so much information not represented in English Wikipedia, or, say, that some foreign person with a stub article is many times more valuable, interesting, relevant than other foreign person with a decent article (when it is clear from the content in another language). Or that “information on the internet” doesn't simply appear out of nowhere, that people work on it, and the process is far from being optimal or comprehensive (never was, and never will be, sadly).

The difference of perspectives is also quite enlightening. I'm not talking about obvious transitory trifles like Obama vs Trump vs Clinton — it is pathetic that a free encyclopedia, of all things, wastes so much time on those, — or who's at war with whom for which reasons. I mean deeper differences in the world view. So there's some “highly controversial” (whatever this means) topic, and there is a completely regular article on it in other language, no signs of editing wars or flame wars, doesn't seem all that important altogether. You obviously start to meditate on why it couldn't be written the same way in the first language.

Just like many pop-science fans believe that the cardboard presented to them is a “real science” and the only true world view, most people talking about “approaching neutrality” assume that basically everything can be analyzed from the same common base, and, of course, their own beliefs are that common base. This, obviously, is not a good way to understand anything that belongs to a different culture.

My wife (native Polish speaker) and I (native English speaker) both use Wikipedia's left-hand list of articles in other languages to get quick translations of the title/subject of a given article.

I do 1. quite often, but I've also noticed that sometimes, the list of languages the term is available in varies between languages, which makes no sense to me.

> Learning about historical events where there are multiple inevitably biased narratives

Not just historical events. For example, Vladimir Putin's Russian page looks very different from the English page. If I suspect bias, one quick check I always do is to read the page from another language using Google Translate. Does not always work, but sometimes you get more information.

> Finding canonical translations for technical terms


> if you're American and can read Spanish, I bet the Spanish entry on Mexican-American War will teach you a few things you had never heard of.

That's a great idea, I'm gonna do exactly that tonight. Thank you very much!

In addition to these, I also use the sidebar's random button when learning a new language. Instead of committing to reading a book or reading the news its nice to just flip through random articles and trying to power through them, sometimes with the aide of wiktionary.

The sole critique of the UX of Wikipedia that I have is that the normal version of Wikipedia redirects you to the mobile version when using a mobile device, and changes the URL while doing so. This is why we end up with all these m.wikipedia links. The mobile version, however, does not redirect you to the normal page when using a normal computer.

So people like myself constantly have to edit the "m." from wikipedia links to get the normal version. I really dont get why they are doing that.

Also, the mobile version collapsing the zippies, which means search doesn't work.

On mobile wikipedia site go to hamburger icon - settings and then Expand all sections

Oh, nice, this is apparently a persistent setting too! Thanks!

What are "zippies"? I tried searching but couldn't find a relevant definition.

Sometimes called accordion menus. See: https://jqueryui.com/accordion/

On Wikipedia, the content section headers. More generally, expandable sections of a page that default to being collapsed.

I wonder if there's a functional reason why they do this, rather than just implementing responsive design / media queries? I seem to remember more sites doing this ~5 years ago, but based on what I see, it has fallen out of favour.

(Actually found some info if anyone is curious: https://medium.com/freely-sharing-the-sum-of-all-knowledge/w.... Though the article helps explain some of the context and reasoning, I don't think it really justifies the divergent experience and imperceptible progress on improving the desktop experience)

I made extension that does exactly that if you want


That's appreciated, thank you. I already have such an extension to redirect reddit to old.reddit. It works and I can somehow see why such a thing might be necessary for commercialized platforms such as reddit.

However, I'm suprised that this is neccessary for wikipedia. I guess it was more work to write the extension than to fix whatever is going on on wikipedias side. But then, on the other hand, maybe writing the extension and stop caring about what is going on on wikipedia is easier.

Firstly, at the bottom of the page in either desktop or mobile you can get to the other with a mobile/desktop link. (Discoverability fail maybe?)

Secondly, there's discussion about serving everything from a single domain at https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T214998 , which I guess would enable the normal mobile browser feature of switching between desktop and mobile.

> Firstly, at the bottom of the page in either desktop or mobile you can get to the other with a mobile/desktop link. (Discoverability fail maybe?)

For a long page, scrolling to the bottom might take even longer than just changing the URL. Yes, there are keyboard shortcuts to scroll to the bottom, but so there are shortcuts to edit the URL bar. It is, in any case, an annoyance that always(!) takes some extra time.

[Edit: I love that switching to the desktop version is literally the very last word/link of the mobile version. Even after the link to the "Privacy policy" and the "Terms of Use" that probably nobody in the history of homo sapiens ever clicked]

> Secondly, there's discussion about serving everything from a single domain at https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T214998 , which I guess would enable the normal mobile browser feature of switching between desktop and mobile.

The last comment on this discussion is, quite ironically: "Have been somewhat expecting this to be fixed for the better part of 7+ years now. Hopefully this can be implemented soon!"

> Secondly, there's discussion about serving everything from a single domain at https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T214998 , which I guess would enable the normal mobile browser feature of switching between desktop and mobile.

Except there should not be two versions at all and instead they should just make the desktop version responsive and strip out the bloat - I don't want an article to on desktop to load six different javascript files and have a giant banner at the top any more than on mobile.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test is 27 different requests for me - that is inexcusable for mostly text content.

I honestly think they were exploring replacing the desktop version with mobile at some point and used desktop m. removal as a gauge of aversion to the change.

That can't be true because the mobile version doesn't allow access to all of Wikipedia's functionality, such as talk pages, unless they've made some serious changes. (More precisely, I don't remember there being any way to get from an article to the article's talk page without editing the URL in the mobile version.)

This was fixed quite some time ago, there's now a Discussion tab/link on the mobile version.

Can you tell me you I can get there, e.g., here? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test

The work "discuss" does not show up in the source code, you can check "curl https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test | grep -i discuss"

The discussion is called "talk" on the desktop version, but it is also missing on the mobile one. Or there is some javascript trickery going on, but I clearly dont get it.

Not sure why you're missing but https://i.imgur.com/llv2rtc.png

This is how it looks in my Firefox: https://imgur.com/a/x2Gl1Sj

And this is how it looks in my Chrome: https://imgur.com/a/LQ7pmH8

Ah, you're right.

You need to login and enable "advanced mode" in setting (in hamburger menu) to see it.

I see.

But this also means that every mobile user of wikipedia (I guess the majority now?) which is not logged in and enabled that feature (for sure the majority) does not even know about the discussion pages of wikipedia articles. This is super sad.

I'll never understand the lack of a "prefer full site" link in the footer of every page. Common sense / table stakes for usability since forever.

I find the mobile version to be pretty poor and mostly the opposite of what I want when using wikipedia in a mobile capacity.

Mobile has higher latency and a small screen, so its important that I not need to make lots of request and its important that I can search inside documents. Both of which are broken by wikipedia's mobile interface.

Facebook also does this.

> I almost never use the left hand side bar (and I have a feel almost no one does)

If you speak different languages, the left hand bar is very useful to switch between different language versions of an article.

I use that quite a lot, because google periodically just refuses to acknowledge that I usually want my links in English despite living in Germany. English quality is often times a bit better, but it is also useful to check in multiple languages, as sometimes you get different information, especially on more controversial topics.

I have the same problem, so I just save English UI as bookmark/search engine and start from there.


It would prioritize English result.

I actually have three languages of Google on my bookmark bar precisely because of this, and they work like a charm.

or regional ones. topics that relate to the german area are usually more detailed in german. same for other areas and languages to the point that it can be worth it to use machine translation to look into a foreign local topic

That's how it should be at least, but not always! - Probably the best department for german literature is in Princeton, and my favorite scholar on german existentialism, Walter Kaufmann, also an American at Princeton.

try changing your IP address, OS language/region and browser language to English

I'm not aware IP addresses have language settings associated with them? since when is this the case? any links for further information?

For a bunch of different reasons, many sites will try to guess where you are located based on your IP address. One misguided thing some sites do is select language based on that lookup.

Although it wouldn't surprise me if some countries try to legislate about that and everyone with an international presence has to do it.

the technology is called IP Geolocation. IP addresses are able to be resolved to countries, cities, towns and in some cases more granular than that, depending on the ISP. since around ten years ago but databases have matured since then. what I was trying to get at was masking your actual IP address by way of proxy server or VPN, to make it appear as if you are connecting from another place. it also aids anonymity and bypassing geoblocked content

There is room for improvement here. Wiki could detect language preferences based on accept-language Header. "en-US,en;q=0.9,pl;q=0.8" is a pretty good indication I want English and Polish translations to be the first one listed. Alternatively/additionally you could let logged in users define sort order/preferences.

As is now I have to inject

    ['.vector-menu-content-list .interlanguage-link.interwiki-en', '.vector-menu-content-list .interlanguage-link.interwiki-pl'].forEach(el =>{
      if (document.querySelector(el))
        el.style = ''
        let lang = document.querySelector(el)
        lang.parentNode.insertBefore(lang, lang.parentNode.firstChild)

They already adjust the list by the frequency you visit them. They don't by default show all 100+ language links anymore for a while.

Right, I did not like this change at all...

I use the langlinks across many languages, way more so than the average user so my use case is different.

The list is meant to change according to your usage, not the average user. Of course, you have to log in.

This. And it’s the one thing that annoys me to no end about the mobile version, that the list of language editions isn’t there at all.

The language button is right at the top of the page. If anything its more accessible on mobile?

Well, it's secret on mobile. I had the same problem - I wanted to switch languages on mobile wikipedia, but the page appears to provide no way to do that. Functionality that has been carefully designed so you won't find it isn't really an improvement over functionality that isn't there.

Okay but that's an issue with UX and discoverability which is very different from "language editions isn’t there at all".

How would you solve this given the limited space? A label saying languages is the mosy obvious but real estate is a little limited.

I'd hope that if the icon was prominent in desktop with a label that would reinforce its discoverability.

> How would you solve this given the limited space? A label saying languages is the mosy obvious but real estate is a little limited.

Try looking at a wikipedia page on your phone. You could replace the 文A button with one that said "antidisestablishmentarianism" and there would still be plenty of space. It's floating at the left of an empty row.

I agree it totally could be improved. Perhaps they're being careful? Elsewhere in the comments, someone showed that logged in users have more items in that bar (https://imgur.com/llv2rtc). That might not work so well in portrait.

I have 5 items in that bar on my Samsung Galaxy and I have no space for a label. As the screenshot shows the labels are there, just not visible until a certain breakpoint

I agree that the UX could be improved and there is plenty of evidence to support that. On the other hand the edit icon is super discoverable and used without the label so I think the challenge with the language icon is 1) there are not many multilingual sites and 2) the other icons there potentially cause the user to ignore them entirely.

Throw in the 200+ languages and longer labels in some of them and it becomes even more complicated...

> I think the challenge with the language icon is 1) there are not many multilingual sites and 2) the other icons there potentially cause the user to ignore them entirely.

Multilingual sites aren't rare at all. There is a conventional way to display a language selector: it's a button (usually a dropdown menu, if you click on it) with a national flag and the name of the language.

The big problem on mobile wikipedia is that wikipedia already has a well-established way to select the language you want to see the article in, and the mobile site completely removes it.

Using a national flag is a really bad UX pattern given the political ramifications and potentially offensive. Languages are not owned by countries. I am not aware of a multilingual site that provides over 200 languages in such a way that its country neutral (switching to a Spain based shopping site is not the same as switching to Spanish)?

As I've said before the mobile site doesn't remove it. It just changes the mechanism for understandable reasons based on the medium.

Nice to chat to you.

> Functionality that has been carefully designed so you won't find it

The button is labeled 文A, which is quite common for translation service, and is just under an article title so it’s literally the most visible UI element. It’s difficult to make it more accessible than that...

Pretty sure 99 out of a 100 don't know what "文A" means. I've had the same complaint, - never once did it occurs to me that "文A" meant translation.

This to me is a testament to the fact that most buttons should actually be text unless extremely common like the hamburger menu, but even that's debatable.

> This to me is a testament to the fact that most buttons should actually be text unless extremely common like the hamburger menu, but even that's debatable.

I agree, especially on mobile (even in 2020, many users — who often just got used to the hamburger menu — don't realize that the vertical ellipsis is a symbol for "menu" or "more options", it often just looks like a random decoration to them), although on a desktop website or app you (hopefully) have the option of hovering the mouse pointer (even accidentally) over any unfamiliar bit of UI gubbins to get a clue.

I'll note though that the specific example of "文A" is, in fact, a text label. The first Chinese glyph even translates as "text".

> I'll note though that the specific example of "文A" is, in fact, a text label.

Only in the sense that those glyphs are used in certain writing systems. It's not text in the more important sense of expressing a linguistic message. It's just random characters. "文A" is a text label to exactly the same degree that ":-)" is a text label.

Note in particular that the Chinese glyph does not translate as "language". That would be 语/語. As you accurately note, it translates as "writing".

That's not quite true - 语 as in 汉语 is a spoken language or dialect. 文 is used for written language, and can mean a language in general, a writing system, or an entire culture, depending on what you combine it with.

> depending on what you combine it with

It's standing alone here. I'm aware of words like 文明 and 中文, but here are the 14 glosses for 文 in the 现代汉语规范词典:

1. (verb) to tattoo or paint patterns or words onto a body

2. (noun, literary) a pattern, particularly as of wood grain

3. (noun) ancient rites/ceremonies

4. (noun) non-military affairs (opposite of 武)

5. (adjective) gentle; not fierce

6. (noun) indicating phenomena of nature or of human society

7. (noun) writing

8. (noun) an essay

9. (noun) the humanities and social sciences

10. (noun) an official document

11. (noun) Classical Chinese (the language that is to China as Latin is to southern Europe)

12. (measure word) used for the copper coins of traditional China

13. (verb) to cover; hide

14. A surname

Most of these senses come from words that include the morpheme 文, not from uses it permits alone, but "language" is still not even listed.

新华字典 has a gloss of "language" with "written language (文字)" and "foreign language (外文)" given as examples. That's where I'm getting it from.

Well, it has one merit at the very least: regardless of the interface language, you will find that button.

That isn't true either. The button has no borders nor any other indication that it's a button; it appears to be a simple decoration on the mobile page.

I only learned about it when somebody pointed it out to me in an HN thread a couple of years ago, like the parent. The button is small and I think since I don't speak Chinese or Japanese my brain tends to skip Chinese characters as I assume that whatever they convey is not aimed at me. It's also alone on the left-hand side, with no decoration or styling showing that it's interactive.

A flag icon or simply some more explicit text would be vastly easier to understand for me, especially if it actually looked like an interactive element.

Flags are for countries not languages. I don't like the current solution too much but I'm glad it's not flags.

So I’ve been switching to desktop version, locating the language sidebar, then switching back to mobile for nothing all this time?!

True. But the gif in the article indicates they intend to move the language selector to a more prominent location.

While the language selection on mobile Wikipedia is in a very prominent spot, I often struggle to find it, because it’s just some Asian sign I can’t make sense of. I hope they don’t do this on desktop too.

I agree very much in principle. The wikipedia desktop site is beautiful, functional, fast, and doesn't change every 6 months to chase trends (unlike every god-damn website today it seems).

That being said I don't understand why the sidebar should be collapsible (and collapsed by default). It's just an extra click to access functionality with some people rely on (languages, for example, being probably one of the most used).

Design should not be trendy. It is not fashion.

I hope we don't bloat up wikipedia pages with too much whitespace. Getting of borders, "minimal" looks bother me so much because they're sacrificing layout for aesthetics. There is a reason why borders exist. It is a line segment that separates logically laid out content into groups.

I want Wikipedia to stay the same even if it is not ideal. There is a lot of legacy and "learned" behavior.

We need to add the familiarization factor to any UI changes. The amount of changes should at the minimum exceed the accrued familiarization of the UI...the longer the design remains the same, the higher this factor. It is crazy to think that we should not make a change if it is for the better, but there are a lot of people ... millions that use this less-than-ideal UI. There is something to be said about that.

Typographically, Wikipedia pages have too wide of a column width. This is a common problem not just with webpages, but with magazines and newspapers. There is a reason why the dimension of a book (such as a novel) is smaller than a magazine and that has to do with how wide of a column is comfortable for reading. We need to look at how magazines and newspapers solve this problem. They use columns. Larger fonts is not the answer nor is excessive whitespace because you're not solving the layout issue. It is just magnification.

If newspapers didn't exist and if web designers today were tasked to design a physical newspaper, it would be bloody 80 pages long and full of massive margins and fonts with no understanding about density of presentation. The web needs to be treated like physical media (yes, I said that, fight me). It is a rectangular 2D space that presents text - no difference to my retina whether it is a magazine, newspaper or LCD monitor in terms of spatial representation (not talking about contrast/backlit aspects). This was different a while ago, but today, the pixel density is great and we can almost treat monitors like paper (again, not talking about backlit issues).

Web designers today won't be able to design a physical telephone book. It would be called "Too overwhelming" for the user and it would be insanely big in 17 volumes.

I don't understand why people complain about line length when that really means you should just resize the window to your preference.

On the other hand, pages that stay in a narrow column in the middle when I widen the window really infuriate me, because I explicitly asked for wider columns and am not getting it.

Who does that? I think most people browse the web with many tabs open at once, and switch between them constantly. I don't think it should be on the user to resize their browser viewport every time they switch tabs to maintain a comfortable measure. That's the website's responsibility.

every time they switch tabs

The whole idea is that when you have the window at a comfortable width, the content in all your other tabs should also be.

... no? You can switch between YouTube, magazines and wikipeida in a browser. Most written content sites enforce max widths for their content, so you can switch to them in a maximised window in which you were watching youtube without having to resize your window. Wikipedia is an outlier in that, and for no good reason.

I disagree. I want to be able to set the width to whatever I want; it is the user's job to set it to what they want. The website's responsibility is to not needlessly override the user's settings. If you want many tabs at once and switching, possibly with different widths, I think the best solution to that is split-screen (implemented in the browser), which solves many other problems too, actually.

On Windows you can do it with a single keybinding. Windows key + left or right arrow.

Me. I do that.

I thought about resizing the window, but then most websites slap you with a hamburger menu and neuter the interface.

The web is such a shit place in terms of design. This is probably why I like reading books and magazines in print. At least the lay out is done by a professional who doesn't have a title "UX/UI" designer and doesn't have a Behance/Dribble portfolio. These people are professionals and they conduct themselves as such.

> I don't understand why people complain about line length when that really means you should just resize the window to your preference.

Different people have different workflows. Many people I know only have 1 browser window open, always maximized, with a ton of tabs open in it. They definitely won't go about resizing the window for no good reason. I don't think any mainstream website relies on the user resizing the browser window for, what I think are, good reasons.

My experience is that most people who were raised on Windows will just full-screen everything. Long-time Mac users are more likely to use sized-to-fit windows.

Why do you think is that? Genuinely curious. There's nothing in Windows that prominently wants you to have everything maximized (ignoring the semi-new tablet mode; windowing behavior stems from a time long before that).

macOS, on the other hand, explicitly advertised having an "immersive" fullscreen mode (with a dedicated button in the past).

> I hope we don't bloat up wikipedia pages with too much whitespace. Getting of borders, "minimal" looks bother me so much because they're sacrificing layout for aesthetics. There is a reason why borders exist. It is a line segment that separates logically laid out content into groups.

Wikipedia is difficult to read due to the small font and large column width. Even with the updated versions (I checked French and Hebrew since I can read them) - the column width is in the acceptable range, but the font is too small to be comfortable on a 4k screen. 14px font is a thing of the past. I see Medium, with their thinner columns and 21px font as much more readable.

> Wikipedia is difficult to read due to the small font and large column width.

Narrow columns make text hard to read due to the eye being unable to see whole sentences at once. It's like the "Dick and Jane" books of old: "See Spot! See Spot Run! Run Spot Run!" Books for adults aren't written like that (as print novels attest) and there's a good reason.

What? That's the exact opposite effect that happens with wide columns. With a wide column, your eyes have to scan all the way left to right. With a narrow column, you don't have to scan as much.

Also the largest "adult" books (non-textbooks) that I have take up about 1/5 of my 43" 4k monitors screen. If you aren't adding a healthy text margin, my eyes have to scan left to right twice as much as with a book. If you want to talk about novels - my screen is 8 times as wide as them, so they are naturally using much narrower columns than most websites.

Books for adults aren't given narrow columns in the sense of a newspaper column, but they're absolutely typeset with attention paid to line length -- it's customary to aim for around 55–75 characters per line. On most displays, Wikipedia's lines are, by conventional typography standards, just too darn long.

Use Ctrl(Cmd) and + sign to zoom.

I'm aware, thanks, I'm a developer. That makes the column width wider as well. What you want is a thin column and a large font size, and you can't expect regular users to zoom in.

Regular users won't have a 4k display, or they would have detected the problem in testing. If you have unusual requirements such as a very high ppi display, you can set a minimum font size in your client browser, just as the web was intended to be used since the beginning.

The original idea of the web as a publishing medium was that visualization could be determined by the needs and preferences of the final user, and thankfully the technology still allows for it.

Interestingly, that does work on new wikipedia (good on them) but not on many other sites I tested and has some weird results in some places (for example, it doesn't change the regular text size on HN but makes the "reply" link larger). It seems this doesn't have the desired effect or support and could break things for general use. And unfortunately, as a web dev, I have to primarily work with default settings on.

But those sites would be broken according to spec, no? And certainly they won't satisfy any accessibility guidelines.

Ah, so the problem is that the designer used rem or a mix of em/rem units. I personally use Pixels in everything that way the entire thing zooms and all relationships are proportional.

My takeaway from your comment and my experience is that CSS is a mess of a technology. Oh well.

With regards to line width, I don't understand 100% what you're saying. You agree that it is a problem, not because of aesthetics but because of readability. But then how do you propose to solve it? The only solutions are either increase font size (messing up things since now font size is tied to monitor width), or pad the sides with whitespace (what they're doing).

Increasing font size is magnification of the entire column, so you sacrifice the vertical space along with it. Line height can't go lower after a specific point - Arial for example, with font size of 12 points needs to have enough line-height of 16 points.

Again, increasing the font size is not the solution.

The second point about padding the sides with whitespace causes waste of screen real-estate for no reason other than to give comfortable width to read. This is what NYtimes articles do: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/21/business/goldman-sachs-fo...

So left and right sides are unnecessarily wasted. The solution I am proposing is to use multiple columns. At desktop size, you get 3 columns. At tablet size, 2. On the phones, its single column. There might be better solutions to this but I can't think of any. Columns are how Magazines do their layout of text. It is also part of the international style in graphics design.

Counter point: Magazines had to use columns to conserve space and page count. Each page adds cost. In digital media, we don't have such limits. The only down side is the user has to scroll a lot. But we have devised a scroll wheel and most users have this tool.

> At desktop size, you get 3 columns. At tablet size, 2. On the phones, its single column. There might be better solutions to this but I can't think of any.

This is makes it hard to handle flowing content. Do you add artificial pages to break up the content or does scrolling cascade up each of the columns?

Then there's the issue of typesetting being an NP hard problem. Even Word needs a lot of hand-holding when using multi-column layouts because it often produces poor results.

I don't necessarily mind the excessive whitespace when I'm reading, because I prefer to not have to move my head and eyes too while reading. But having a lot of content on the page at once, like you're proposing, is really beneficial in technical situations, where I need to move between different pieces of information, like taking notes.

Print media also doesn't have to deal with: resizable windows, accessibility, user styles, navigation, mixed media, comment sections, SEO, browser compatibility, load times, or security.

I understand we are just talking about page layout, but web designers still have to simultaneously contend with everything I've listed.

You mention a solution for 3 different sizes (desktop, tablet, and phone), but a responsive site often has to subdivide further. Even so, "tablet" does not have a standard size. Rotating a tablet/phone also changes the view size.

Size is not the only usability difference between desktop and mobile devices.

Columns in such a way would likely be hell in terms of accessibility (remember, the user can change the font size).

Of course, there are (potentially) ways to solve each of those, but they will depend heavily on the individual sites' and users' needs. This brings us right back to the issue of non-standard design across sites.

I wouldn't expect well-designed print media from a web designer any more than I would expect a well-designed site from a print professional. They are different professions and problem spaces that sometimes overlap.

Instead of disparaging all web designers as unprofessional morons, perhaps consider that they balanced all of the above along with your points and still landed on a different conclusion from you.

tl;dr the user can (rightfully) control a lot of factors in how they view the web that traditional print and graphic design do not have to deal with.

You make good points. There is a wiggle room between column widths. https://graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/13724/reco...

Somewhere between 80-110 cpl should be adequate to satisfy most deviations in sizes. This "buffer" factor can be accounted for when designing for resizeable interfaces. Column sizes don't have to be absolutely rigid and pixel perfect.

Scaling can be tackled by basing everything on em-units. Scaling using Ctrl + can effectively "zoom" the UI. The relationship between elements should stay the same.

None of this is difficult. We have tools to tackle these problems. Uninformed designers are the problem IMO, but I don't have data for this. My gut feeling is that most designers follow trends, UI frameworks (bootstrap, tailwind), and have stopped building CSS from scratch.

Why are columns hell for accessibility? Given the fluidity of 80-110 cpl, we should be able to account for any size from a phone to large displays. This is a solved problem.

Again, I am not saying there aren't challenges and may be there are better ways to handle all the variables. We should not throw the towel and not think, discuss and debate about it.

Also very good points.

I'll admit I'm not up to speed with a lot of CSS, myself. I'll definitely be looking into how to better use columns.

While I think frameworks can be helpful to keeping a standard look and feel to the web, I would definitely agree that they're often used as a crutch.

Personally (I would probably get shot by saying this) but responsive design is a real problem, it is not a feature, but its a bug - a horrible one.

By appeasing to many screen sizes, we create worse UI for all 3 sizes because no one really designs them for each size separately. Widths are in percentages, flex layout allos collapsable columns and the whole thing is not built from ground up. Either the designer starts with Desktop first and then mobile is a second thought (Bootstrap), or all class names are mobile first (Tachyons).

If we design UI from scratch for each of the 3 or 4 classes of screen sizes, it would be so much better. Completely, from scratch. Not taking the Desktop layout and collapsing the columns. But doing things like button sizes should be smaller for Desktop (mouse) and larger for mobile (finger). Not a single framework does this.

Overall, I agree it's a problem, but I see responsive design as a (perhaps poor) solution to the convergence of three more fundamental problems.

The first being screen size fragmentation. Most tablets fall into a similar size/scale category, so you can have buffers (kinda like how you were saying). However, there are still corner cases where (e.g.) a tablet in landscape mode happens to trigger a different size category. The fact that resolution helps in fingerprinting users is pretty indicative that fragmentation is a huge problem.

The second being the lack of a good way for a page to know exactly what type of device it's displayed on. There are hints/etc. to get close enough. However, it's still a fundamental truth of web development that the browser can always lie to you. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a design challenge regardless.

The third is less of a technical or even a design problem, but I personally think it's the worst. More and more, companies are making increasingly complex sites with no real thought to user implications. I believe this will always be true in a web where the real customers are ad companies and search engines and the user is the product.

On the lines of another point you've made, I'm not suggesting we give up; there are still plenty of ways we could and should improve designs and frameworks (you've outlined some really good ones).

Or do columns like a newspaper, but it's unusual on the web.

This is the change I understand the least. If it was about actually collapsing the sidebar I'd understand, but it seems to literally just hide features and replace them with a useless grey area.

Same here, I hate it. Here's a userscript that expands the language sidebar: https://github.com/ayyrx/userscripts/raw/master/wpfix/wpfix....

Edit `const enableLanguageSidebarAltView = true` to `const enableLanguageSidebarAltView = false` to make it look exactly like it used to do before that dumb button was implemented

> I almost never use the left hand side bar (and I have a feel almost no one does)

Editors do. The sidebar contains tools useful for maintenance works. Just to name a few, I use "What links here" to check links and redirections, "Wikidata item" to update metadata - these two are the most used features by editors: after contributing a new article, you need to add/fix some inbound links, and to link it to editions in different languages. Also, there's "Page information" to see statistics, and checking "recent changes" for spams and vandalism is a hobby for some people who need to kill time.

The current website works for me, I hope Wikipedia will keep it as an option.

If you're an editor doing editing, you'll be logged in, so presumably they will just remember your preference, or give you an option.

I use those functions too, although there are accesskeys for those commands, so the side bar is not needed. That is also the case for editing, talk pages, history, etc; there are accesskeys for those too. So, all of the commands can be hidden, in order to make more room for the article text instead.

This is how I use the fullscreen expandable images:

1: Go to a page.

2: Click on an image.

3: Close the image.

4: Click the browser back button.

I am now at the image again. This is surprising and I cannot seem to learn this.

The worst part is when you eventually make it back, it loses your position on the page. They made this change years ago and it still drives me nuts.

Update: This is no longer the case. I can not reproduce this any more. Great!

I disable all sorts of features on Wikipedia (and MediaWiki sites in general; why can't it support a cookie to automatically change these settings, so that you (the end user) can copy your preferences between MediaWiki instances merely by copying a cookie?), and would want to disable some others as well, such as the custom widgets and most animations. I do want some of the features that use JavaScript, but not all of them. The browser should have a better way for the user to adjust individual scripts.


Setting? Where?


Uncheck "Enable Media Viewer" and then click "Save" at the very bottom.

You need to be logged in for that, though :-(

In the "Media Viewer" there is a gear on the right hand side. You can click it and choose "Disable Media Viewer"

> the first two things I’d point out would be that I almost never use the left hand side bar (and I have a feel almost no one does) and that when paragraphs are that wide they become harder to read

Good news! The sidebar makes the paragraphs narrower.

But yes, that wide-text issue makes it incredibly annoying that so many HN users provide explicit links to mobile wikipedia pages in their comments. Don't do that! The mobile pages have bad readability in normal aspect ratios! If I'm on a phone, ordinary en.wikipedia.org links will redirect to en.m.wikipedia.org, but the reverse is not true! There is no conceivable reason to provide a mobile wikipedia link, and plenty reason not to!

I think the only times I use it is to go to random articles, which can be quite fun if you're in the mood to discover new things. However,I couldn't tell you a single other function they have on that side bar even with a gun to my head. Just went to check it and apparently they let you print pages out as PDF, news to me. Wikipedia really doesn't advertise its features much.

Like almost every MediaWiki feature, there's a massive pile of Wikimedia drama behind it. They went through at least three major iterations, almost all behind the scenes, for exporting content for offline viewing, including PDF at all stages, and eventually kind of gave up.[1][2][3][4]

This also encompassed the mostly ill-fated PediaPress system to get printed books of wiki content collections, the Collections MediaWiki extension,[5] and various back-end rendering engines that came and went (some without ever being fully deployed in production).

All to have a link that, in the span from OCG to Proton, was made mostly redundant by browsers implementing "Print to PDF".

[1] https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Offline_content_generator

[2] https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:ElectronPdfService

[3] https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/tag/proton/

[4] Confusion over knowing who owns or maintains the PDF service: https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T247310

[5] https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T256071

Ooh! I recently discovered the "Print to PDF" feature too. I used it to print out some pages for offline reading when I took the kiddos on an adventure outside cell network range. It worked really well.

It's actually an obsolescent feature. With modern browsers, you can just use the native "Print page" feature and the content will be styled in a paper-friendly way.

I use the left hand side bar, I like to read the articles in different languages.

> when paragraphs are that wide they become harder to read

I hope I don't sound like a jerk saying this, but resizing the browser window is the key. I dunno why some people maximize everything on their computer - that's a really inefficient use of space.

I wish more websites wouldn't try to force formatting on me and just let me resize my window.

Well, I use tabs and not every website looks best at the same size. So I don't think the approach works. (FWIW, I'm also a non-full-screen user).

But you're probably on to something. I would be cool if the web browser would allow you to adjust the body size of the document without adjusting the window size.

Opening the dev tools works

It'd be neat if it worked like the ruler at the top of an MS word window (or textedit/wordpad), where you can drag in the margins!

Reader View is available in Firefox.

That's...in literally every browser's setting since the beginning of browsers.

> I wish more websites wouldn't try to force formatting on me and just let me resize my window.

I agree. Fossil mostly requires the use of CSS, but my own stuff I tend to not use CSS if I can avoid it, and often just write plain text files anyways (rather than HTML), which works well even if you are viewing them outside of the web browser, as well as with the web browser, too.

I don't maximize anything, but site that expects me to raise browser is obnoxious. It is not the only tab and idon't want to resize especially separately for each

> I’ll also note that they definitely have changed some UX stuff over the past 10 years.

The mouseover popup/tooltip for links showing a brief snippet of other articles is so great that I find it irritating when other sites don't have it.

The problem for me was that when opening links with Vimium, it also activates that popup, thereby obstructing the text. In the end I had to turn off the popup, good thing it can be disabled.

I am constantly juggling between several languages and always preferred the desktop version for this reason.

> I almost never use the left hand side bar (and I have a feel almost no one does)

Pretty much every non-native english speaker uses it all the time.

Remember that Mediawiki (MW) is not just Wikipedia (WP and co.) I run several MW instances and the sitewide sidebar is fully customisable which is handy. Many users are used to the LHS holding "tools". You could also/instead put a hierarchy tree of say categories in it.

I'm not absolutely sure but I think you might even be able to create your own user version of the sidebar if you create a suitably named user page. I'm not sure what WP sites allow you to do but MW has a lot of user customisation options built in.

I also love the new-ish mouseover previews. That was a great change imo.

As someone "reading with the mouse" I love them until the mouseover appears over the piece of text, I was just going to read.

I use a lot to switch between portuguese, esperanto and english. Portuguese to read national/local articles, esperanto for every other and english when the other two have incomplete articles.

Reducing maximum column width would also be my #1 suggestion.

Maybe that can be taken care of through themeing/browser plugins? If anyone has good ones to recommend, suggestions appreciated.

They are reducing maximum column width, but perhaps not as drastically as you'd wish:


Yeah, I don't think 900+px is ideal for reading on a desktop computer. Better than nothing, though!

Resize the window yourself then. I get far more annoyed at sites that refuse to flow text to the desired width.

This is a good strategy called "blaming the user" and means you should never design computer interfaces! Full width site text means the creator has no understanding of basic HCI

Full width site text means the creator has no understanding of basic HCI

No, it means the creator thinks of users as knowledgeable and able to take care of their own personal needs, and not as idiots who don't know how to use their computer's window manager.

Perfect example of the former? HN itself.

a) People don't know their own needs until you show them what their options are. Are you familiar with the literature on optimal line length that is quoted in the OP? If so, good job. I think it's fair to say 99% of people aren't. Consequently, if you asked people if they wanted an optimal reading experience, then they would have to concede that they are not knowledgeable about what that means, and thus that they should adopt different settings than what they would instinctively pick.

b) The alternative is not that people are "idiots who don't know how to use their window manager." I don't want to have to use my window manager. Manually resizing windows for each tab to get the right line length is a huge waste of time and seems idiotic to me. I want a professional designer to make it so I have the best possible reading experience on the websites I'm browsing. Because I'm humble enough to know I couldn't reach that standard by "using my window manager".

That argument completely falls flat if you consider the actual result: https://i.imgur.com/7mAQy5H.png It enrages me to no end that this is sold as an improvement.

• Who wants to read four to five words per line? THIS LINE SIZE IS ACTUALLY UTTER ASS.

• In the good design, it was easy to resize to window to make the line length narrower. However, in the bad design, there is no recourse to make the line length longer.

The "actual result" looks nothing like that in my browser, so I can't really judge, although I agree that it looks terrible on your screenshot (text overlapping in links, etc.).

However, the line length, while suboptimal there, is pretty commonly encountered — pick up a newspaper and look how many words fit in a column.

The article refers to this: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Reading/Web/Desktop_Improveme...

From what I can see, this particular change is already live in https://fr.wikipedia.org/

Then it explains the difference I've seen for a few weeks, thanks. It's not much different, mostly narrower.

"that when paragraphs are that wide they become harder to read"

I actually use the mobile view on desktop for this reason. The mobile view will have white space on the sides if you do full screen, but I usually have two windows side by side, which results in all text, no sidebar, and a more minimal top bar. There is a 'mobile view' button on the footer of every page, or you can throw an 'm' between the language and base url.

I use it very often, just because i check articles in multiple languages.

Languages - yes, all the other links - almost never.

Given the image on the blog post, I thought it didn't include the languages, but looking into the wiki page about the change, it does include the language bar as well.

Damn. I use that all the time. Wikipedia is one of my favourite dictionaries.

I use it for the same thing. This allows me to learn what specific word is used for [obscure thing] in a different language. Eg computer hardware related words for my native language.

Yes! I found Wikipedia article names are fairly reliable as a translation reference, especially for technical terminology. In my language, translations of technical terms in Wikipedia article names are often more accurate than the vast majority of random blog posts and articles on the web, and occasionally even better than some technical dictionaries, which may use old-fashioned or outdated terms.

This has also been my only use of the sidebar. It looks like the new design takes this into account and moves the language selection to a more prominent location at the top right next to the title.

The biggest thing I've seen that's changed in the past 10 years is the creation and refinement of the VisualEditor extension. It's a great tool for self-hosted mediawiki when you have a bunch of relatively non technical users, who are not comfortable with editing wiki 'code'.


VisualEditor is what you get by default now when you go to edit a wikipedia page, unless you specifically click on the option to edit source.

> The fullscreen expandable thing for images is pretty good

Strongly disagree: Links shared by people with JS enabled now silently show the page instead of the image that was intended to be shared if the recipient has JS disabled.

When English is not your only language, then you basically have 2x the amount of articles thanks to the sidebar.

What is the most irritating is that they dont make some sort of really persistent cookies to remove the irritating mobile view.

>and that when paragraphs are that wide they become harder to read

Yes, reading Wikipedia on a 27” iMac is comical. Anything larger than 1000px wide is entering eye gymnastics territory. Ideally it should be around 600/700

You are allowed to change the width of the browser window.

Sure, but you shouldn’t need to.

A blockchain-hosted fork of Wikipedia named Everipedia.org has most of these features already built coincidentally. While I prefer Wikipedia over them, I have been noticing myself use other skins/newer look wikis instead of the dated Wiki UI. Although, the load speed of Wikipedia.org is difficult to beat.

> then making two changes that are backed by a fair amount of data

I don't like how you go from a subjective assumption that no-one uses the sidebar to this, almost sounding disappointed that they haven't already done it. Or are you referring to some other data? I for one use the sidebar all the time.

I always use the left-hand side bar. Switching between different languages (and being able to see which languages each article is written in) is important for multilinguals. And the “random” button is great.

"Not changing for 10 years..."

I absolutely love that part about Wikipedia.

I us it to check pronunciation of English, French and other surnames. I know Russian letters and make use of their tradition of rewriting surnames phonetically.

I use the left side bars to switch languages all the time

Sounds like you want the responsive design version of Wikipedia.


There's a left-hand sidebar? I've gotten completely blind to its existence...I once knew there was stuff below the logo.

I use the sidebar a lot to find the same article in another language. But that’s the only use I have for it.

Which is why I almost always use the mobile variant of Wikipedia. It is so much better, even on Desktop.

I find it really frustrating, because the sections all start collapsed, so "Find in page" doesn't work.

> I have a feel almost no one does

I use it all the time for switching the same article in different languages.

> I almost never use the left hand side bar

I use it most often to change the language...

I agree on both. I actually prefer using their mobile site on desktop.

Also, tables on mobile.

i use the sidebar all the time to look at different language articles.

some are quite understandable, and some i can google translate.

for a multilingual person, that bar is indispensable..

Also in-page hovers to other articles!

I use the translations all the tine.

I use the sidebar a _lot_ for switching between languages.

Please, since someone from wikipedia is probably reading this: Keep the JavaScript to a minimum. The plans aren't clear to me, but given what sites like reddit/etc have done during their "updates" the new UI's are terrible on anything that isn't a top of the line device with a screaming fast internet connection. Wikipedia (and a few other "older" sites) is such a pleasure to use as is, don't ruin it.

AKA round-tripping 1000 times sucks on high latency connections, and my little atom based tablets/a53 based phones/etc choke on those sites and its absolutely miserable trying to use them.

So, put some effort into measuring the before/after and making sure that the download/render times remain in the same ballpark on older devices/connections.

PSA: old.reddit.com is so much better in these regards. I use it on my phone too, with some custom css to make things bigger.

There is also i.reddit.com.

I only use old.reddit.com on phone and pc as it is much faster and much more intuitive , reddit has gone to hell in my opinion

I'm already resigned to the fact that once old.reddit.com goes away I'm not going to be spending any more time on Reddit. Maybe that'll be a good thing.

"reddit is fun" on Android is a great app for it. Staying away from reddit more is good for you, too.

"infinity" is also a great alternative for android.

Infinity looks great.

Relay was my favorite while I was on Android. On iOS now, Narwhal is my go-to.

old.reddit exclusively on the web, via 'Old Reddit Redirect' extension on Firefox.

New reddit feels like they hired 6 junior React developers and put a gun to their head telling them to rewrite the website in React in 6 months or else.

It's unbelievably slow.

Funny yet accurate! I wonder what's causing them from sunsetting old.reddit...usage? An individual?

I will never use new.reddit, I tried to once but it's such a poorer UX

I don’t think they are in a sense, as far as I know they have no plans of removing it.

That being said, using it once and then saying never again is kind of, not good. I’ve been on Reddit for almost a decade and while using the new design for the first time or even the first week was, painful I’ve fully embraced it now and can’t stand the old one.

I don’t find it painfully slow at all. In fact I find it faster overall when taking New features into account.

Making UXs for desktop that share design elements with touchscreens will always be a mess.

It's my biggest fear for the future of macOS development given the recent announcement of Big Sur and ARM.

I continue to be surprised that this still works, and wonder how long that'll last. It's pretty clear by this point that they're willing to try every dark UI pattern that they can think of to boost some silly engagement metrics. Community and long-term growth be damned.

I'm writing a custom skin (CSS) to turn New Reddit into Old Reddit for when they inevitably, sadly, turn off old.reddit.com

Is all of the data even available? Posts don't show the author name on the front page and many comments are hidden under links on the new UX from the comment page.

the base reddit api is pretty good - just tack a .json onto any url for an example

Have any work in progress examples?

And the only way I can use Facebook - mbasic.facebook.com

i.reddit.com still works great to browse text-based posts on my Kindle e-reader, of all devices.

The experience with js-heavy sites even on a very capable desktop is still negative. Too much js introduces bugs, latency, and lack of stability. A page like that will sometimes jump around and resize for no apparent reason.

Making wikipedia noticeably js-heavy would definitely ruin the experience.

The size and amount of JS doesn't really matter. Whether it's well written and integrated matters. How many round-trips it introduces matters.

The stuff that gives JS a bad reputation is sites that slap together nested widgets that each load their resources sequentially.

If you serve a 1 MB blob of all_the_things.min.js on the first page load, then gzip reduces that to ~300 KB, which will take ~2.5 seconds to load on a 1 Mbps connection, and then it will likely be cached.

If you serve a widget that loads another widget that adds a third widget, on the other hand, elements will keep popping in and your user experience will suck.

On a US-normal laptop 1MB of JS might not matter too much. But for a world-normal laptop + smartphone, the size of the bundle does matter, not just for bandwidth but for performance as well. Larger JS scripts takes longer time to parse so if you have a lower power device, it still gonna suck.

Everything around your program matters, but for different audiences. Wikipedias reach is huge, and getting it to work and work well, for the lowest common denominators (think ~10-40 USD smartphones) is a pretty big job which includes thinking about sizes of all kinds.

Edit: Ignore me, seems you're not actually replying to anything specific in the comment before you, so this all seems off-topic now.

This is a valid argument, and you do need to benchmark on underpowered hardware. My gut feeling that a 1 MB blob of JS is not a huge problem even for a cheap smartphone nowadays, and if it is, the HTML/CSS can become the bigger problem.

I remember doing really silly-sounding things (like shipping a web app + the entire database) with excellent results. Even if the initial load takes a while, you can't beat the instant responsiveness of already having the data when the user clicks on another piece of content. Hundreds of KB of JSON on a 2013 smartphone (probably Nexus 4 or 5) was still a pretty good experience IIRC, at least on par with a modern web site on a modern smartphone. On a PC, I've mercilessly thrown hundreds of MB of binary data at JavaScript.

In my experience, aside from long network request chains, the biggest performance killer is e.g. having nested Angular elements that all refresh every time you touch anything on the page, not code size. If you know what you're doing and care (e.g. diligently mark immutable stuff as such), you get excellent performance. It's just that most don't care.

In addition to underpowered hardware there's underpowered connections (e.g. bad satellite connections and rural cellular) where things like being able to turn off images in a browser can come in handy.

While wikipedia might not be the typical site there, there is something to be said that a site that deals in information (like a generator's manufacturers page) should at least have a low-bandwidth option so you can access the textual information you need without pulling in a presentation layer that isn't critical.

True, but for apps which are meant to be interactive you also need to take into account SPAs that might make very small requests for a good while once the main bundle has been downloaded.

So, for a world-normal device which one is better? A site that downloads 1MB of Javascript and then makes data requests of a few KBs or a site that makes a 300KB request with a page reload every time you interact with it?

My general rule is that if the application is interactive, meant to be used for long periods of time and SEO is not an issue, well-written SPAs result in better UX.

That's not the case of Reddit for example. Most users spend the most time reading comments, and that requires very little interactivity. So old Reddit is miles ahead of the new slow and bloated one.

I agree fully with you! My point was not that the bundle size matters the most, but rather than everything matters. What matters most depends on your user-base of course. Expensive, professional tools that only works on Mac: fine with high requirements and bandwidth requirements. Free service whos goal is to spread knowledge everywhere in the world: need to think about cheapest devices on the worst networks.

1MB of JS is bad, and you should feel bad for delivering it. A content focused website should fully render without caching in under one second on a normal desktop. That is not possible with a meg of JS.

It's not even an issue with adding JS, they could build it entirely in React and not have it crawl along like new Reddit does. The issue is 'redesigns' which real purpose is to add extra layers of user engagement, ads and tracking.


Most of the times, these dynamic things on web pages and elsewhere mispredict what I actually want.

No Google, I did not want to zoom in on the map that you automatically did for me. Rather I unzoomed back and you automatically zoomed back in.

No scroll bars, I don't want you to disappear or even thin down automatically.

I personally don't like infinite scrolling as a solution either as it messes up scroll bar operation.

And I want strictly none of the above if when clicking 'back', you don't take me to the exact same view I was on before, without the elements of page jumping for a few seconds.

No my laptop and phone, I do not want you to wake up when I disconnect power, and especially so when I had just put you to sleep!

Glad that Wikipedia is planning to show and hide the side panel on user instruction/click. Please keep it that way.

For sure; wikipedia is one of those sites that don't need any JS for their base functionality, and it will benefit greatly from it. They need to keep accessibility in the forefront for this redesign, and honestly, accessibility is easy if you just stick to the basics.

They can embellish things with JS, but that has to be optional. Things like the article summary popup when you hover over a link. That can be deferred and left out completely.

They have the opportunity to do great things with design and typography for clarity, I hope they take it.

And for the love of god, don't add anything that will require a cookie pop up.

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