Give us a B! Give us an I!

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B is for Bold (in English)
An update from the Wikipedia Usability Initiative – the team working to streamline and simplify the editing experience on Wikipedia.
You asked and we listened.  In an effort to be comprehensible in many languages, the Usability Initiative’s beta toolbar used the letter “A” for character formatting icons.  In our recent release, we updated the toolbar to use language-specific icons (for example, “B” for Bold and “I” for Italic in English and “F” for Fettdruck and “K” for Kursiv in German).  These have been created by Hannes Tank using the free Droid Serif font by Ascender, which has an extensive character set, contains over 43,000 glyphs, and continues to grow.
We, unfortunately, cannot create all of the icons that are needed for all the languages and wikis out there.  We need your help!  Let’s collaborate!  To help you help us, we have created this “How To” guide to walk you through the steps to create these icons and get them on Wikimedia Commons.  If you use a language wiki that does not have language-specific icons already on Commons, and have basic knowledge of Inkscape + Gimp (open-source illustration and photo editing tools) or Adobe Illustrator + Photoshop, we welcome your contributions.  To incorporate these into your language wiki, you need to have administrator privileges.  If you have sufficient privileges, please see our description of the technical implementation here.  If you don’t, please get in touch with a local administrator for the wiki in questions.  We encourage you to discuss within your language community to determine which letter or icon is right for you.  Thank you in advance for your participation and contributions – we couldn’t do it without you.
Do you have thoughts and opinions on going language specific?  Please share!  Do you have questions or suggestions for improvements on our How To?  Please leave them on the discussion page.
Parul Vora, Wikipedia Usability Initiative

Archive notice: This is an archived post from, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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Language specificity is the wrong direction. Icons should strive to be language independent whenever possible. I would like to be able to upload to commons with an email attachment from my mobile device, and get a URL to an html form to complete filename, metadata, and licensing choices for the upload. Thank you!

I completly agree with James. Please, don’t “diversify” the user interface.

Thanks for your feedback Torsten and James. We strive to be language independent when possible (beyond just our icons). We originally used a Roman “A” for our Bold and Italic icons; we received abundant feedback requesting greater specificity and saw even English speakers falter with use. If this solution proves ineffective, we will research and develop another. Also, this change in icons should not affect your upload process.

Yes, icons should strive to be language independent whenever possible, but this is one of the exceptions, and for good reason. In the english-speaking world, the “B” and “I” icons are universally used for Bold and Italic respectively. In order to retain usability for all the millions of people trained on this convention it’s good for us to adopt the same icons. Of course the letters B and I may mean nothing to non-English speakers, however, so it is nice to have alternatives for other languages.

I really don’t get it. Language-specific icons? I think everyone who contributes to the Wikipedia at least should be computer literate. I use the beta interface since they offered it, and I think most icons are no-brainers to any person who gets to the point in his/her lifetime to contribute to the Wikipedia.

I agree with Emmanuel. Whoever uses Wikipedia Will probably be quite computer literate. The first program that people learn on the computer is MS Word. Those icons for B and I are ingrained in their minds, and in fact an ‘F’ or a ‘K’ will be unknown to them. The users will be familiar with B and I, and will get confused when they see other letters. It’s better to leave it at B and I.