Wikipedia is currently undergoing a much needed redesign to improve the user experience.
Anyone can preview this redesign by creating an account, logging in and then clicking the “Try Beta” link at the top right of any page.
The “Wikipedia Usability Initiative” has been divided into two phases. Phase 1 was the prototype phase, and it ended in the summer of 2009.
The project team is currently in the second phase, which is the development and testing phase.
The project has also been separated into four releases; as of the writing of this article, the second release (Babaco) is currently in development.
In this article, we’ll discuss Wikipedia’s design changes and the reasons behind them.
The Wikipedia Usability Initiative is scheduled to be ready in the spring of 2010. More information about the project can be found here.
The redesign is focused on usability. Although no drastic changes have been made, the overall look and feel of the website is much cleaner and more modern. The revamped editing interface is a major upgrade that Wikipedia editors will surely get excited about.
Like many small-scale operations, Wikipedia does not have the budget to systematically test how visitors use the website. Instead, it relies on feedback from users to pinpoint and address issues.
Our first impression of the beta redesign is that it looks quite sharp and tidy. The layout is still fundamentally the same; this redesign likely won’t cause the same outrage that Facebook stirred with its redesign back in March 2009.
The most obvious change is that the various components on the page are no longer confined to their own box. The navigation and main content areas are not closed in, and they extend all the way to the edge of the browser window.
The other obvious change is that Wikipedia has retired the background image of the open book. This cleans up the design significantly and makes the logo look much sharper.