Brewing ideas for the Wikipedia usability initiative

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The usability team has been translating the usability study into a new design and software for the last four weeks. The current focus is to implement easy improvement to overall usage of Wikipedia with the focus of editing interface in the next three months. The proposed skin by the usability team, Vector, will have streamlined tab layout, so that users will not lose the state of reading or editing whether in articles or in discussion pages.
Another usability improvement we are working on is the action-grouped toolbar, which hides the overwhelming number of tool icons which are not being used by novice users, but they are available for power users in the expanded mode. Lots of clutters will be removed from the editing interface.
You can see some of design mock-ups from our project page. Some of these proposed design concepts will be staged at the prototype environments this month and for any future improvements. (The action-based tool bar will not be seen on prototypes till June 8.)
If all goes well, these new features will be available from a user preference configuration early July. In the subsequent release in August, additional navigation aids are in the plan. We will be sharing the product feature at our project page in coming weeks. We look forward to your feedback.
Naoko Komura
The Wikipedia Usability Team

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I looked through the pdfs of the mockups, and I have to say that I’m impressed.
As a heavy user of the current MediaWiki look, it didn’t feel jarring at all, but it was still a significant usability improvement. The balance between allowing current volunteers to keep plugging away comfortably and opening up the software to new contributors is a challenging one, and from the looks of things the initiative has done a great job. I can’t wait to turn these on in my user preferences!

Thanks for your kind feedback, Steven. It is encouraging to be endorsed by a heavy user like you! Looking forward to more feedback once all features are enabled on our prototypes.