Wikipedia:WikiProject Usability/Reducing interface complexity

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Project goals[edit]

The goals of this project are to identify software changes that can reduce the complexity of Wikipedia's interface, and to advocate for such changes on behalf of inexperienced and future editors.

Why this project is needed[edit]

  • Inexperienced editors typically aren't aware of what is possible with Wikipedia, or where to discuss changes, or already-existing discussions
  • Potential editors - including those who may have started to edit a page, become discouraged, and left, are totally unrepresented at Wikipedia
  • Experienced editors often don't realize the amount of implicit knowledge that they've learned about Wikipedia, and thus underestimate how difficult it can be for others to learn how Wikipedia works

Software changes of interest to the project[edit]

Changes requiring developer involvement[edit]

  • A "Table" namespace, so (a) tables aren't in the main edit box, and (b) a WYSIWYG interface can be used for creating tables
    • Status:
  • Cite.php and notes improvements:
    • Status: there are actually three separate initiatives underway, each with substantial progress; whether each is aware of the other, and the three can be integrated, is unknown:
      • Magnus Manske's stunningly impressive rewrite of the user interface
      • A "details" parameter for the "ref" tag that would eliminate the need for the hybrid Harvard-style footnotes (a "Notes" section and a "References" section)
      • A parallel notes.php system or a parameterized "ref" tag that would eliminate the need for using templates for "notes"
  • Improving the diff engine. (Actual diffs where the engine has screwed up would be appreciated, here.)
    • Status:
  • Getting rid of wikilinked dates:
    • Status - Bug 4582 discusses this at great length. User:Omegatron/Date formatting provides a simple solution. If it is too hard to implement, than an inelegant solution like <date> tags is preferred.

Changes that can be made by admins[edit]

  • Changing the large box, viewable in the English Wikipedia when in edit mode, which is titled "Wiki markup", to a smaller box with selectable symbols, as is done in the Italian Wikipedia, the French Wikipedia, and presumably a number of other language Wikipedias. See, for example, fr:MediaWiki:Edittools
    • Status: Discussed in mid-March 2008 at #MediaWiki talk:Edittools#Modification in the style of
    • Next steps:
      • It would be easier to implement this if editors were given a choice in "my preferences" to switch back to the current box; even better if editors could specify, in "my preferences", the starting set of characters, with the default of "Wiki" (as in the French version) and the current set being available via "Classic" or "Large set" or something similar. Is this doable?
        • Probably possible with a Wikipedia:Gadget. The smaller box is probably done with javascript anyway.
      • Discuss at WP:VPPR.
  • Add a box, on article pages, for readers to point out errors without learning wikimarkup or even having to be aware of talk/discussion pages

Other changes[edit]

  • Automated citations: a "one-click" browser option that automatically creates a citation for pasting into a Wikipedia article. The model is what is now possible when searching Google Scholar - a single click creates a full cite that can be copied directly into an article. Having such a tool would be huge step toward better quality - it would be as easy to add a full cite as to add just a URL.
    • Status: Parts of such a browser extension already exist: WPCITE grabs a limited amount of information; User:DumZiBoT is a bot that makes a "best guess" for a page title, given a naked URL enclosed by "ref" tags. But the developer of the bot has said that titles are quite non-standard, so the bot can only make a best guess.
    • Comments:
      • Content providers, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, would benefit from standard (universal) meta-tags for article title, author, date, etc., because this would make it easier for Wikipedia to send readers to their pages. Wikipedia obviously would benefit from such standardization.
      • It's not clear that anyone other than an official representative of the Wikimedia Foundation would get the attention of content providers, let alone be able to "bless" a standard set of metatags that those providers should use.
    • Next steps:
      • Perhaps a couple of editors could put together a table showing what metatags are now used by a few of the main sources cited in Wikipedia: say, and,,,,,, and, for article title, author, article date, and publisher, to get an idea of the way the world is now?

See also[edit]