Making talk pages better for everyone

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Imagine an online encyclopedia where talk pages look like article content. What happens on these pages, besides (sometimes rarely) discussions? You are right: anything you can imagine can be true.

Talk pages are as important as content pages on our wikis, as they allow all users to collaborate on improving the content.  Yet talk pages are misused, not understood as discussion spaces, and, sometimes, not used at all. 

During a cross-wikis discussion in 2019, volunteers of all experience levels reported that the current presentation of wikitext talk pages makes them hard to recognize as discussion places. Volunteers also shared that understanding the conversations happening within these talk pages, and identifying what they need to do to participate in these conversations is unnecessarily difficult. 

The Usability Improvements project by the Editing team at the Wikimedia Foundation aims to help all contributors – no matter their experience level – to communicate more easily on Wikimedia wikis and beyond.  The team’s latest efforts on talk page improvements follow the recent release of talk page permalinks and are now being progressively deployed across our projects.

Four major improvements


Four improvements have been added to talk pages.

Improved heading appearance

We changed how the talk page’s main title, adding a space after “Talk:”, and all section titles look, now using Sans-serif. The goal is to distinguish them from the article’s contents. 

The heading for each topic summarises the overall activity of a given discussion: it displays the number of participants, comments, and the date of the last comment. Clicking on the date takes you to the latest comment on the topic.

Action buttons are emphasized 


The buttons for replying, subscribing, and starting a new topic appear in a bolder typeface, instead of looking like a regular link. The brackets that highlighted these links are removed so that they won’t be confused with in-text links.

At some wikis, if the word “Reply” is only one or two characters (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Northern Thai, Cantonese), an arrow highlights the button. 

Soon, new options will be provided close to this reply button, like the possibility of thanking a user for a comment. 

The button for starting a new topic on a talk page is not always easy to find. The “new topic” button has been improved in the Vector 2022 skin: a blue button in the sticky header now shows where to start a conversation. 

An improved table of contents

For Vector 2022 users, the table of contents shows the number of comments within a topic, making it easier to spot the most popular discussion topics. 

Meta information at the top of the page

A breadcrumb with meta-information is added at the top of the talk page. The latest comment added, with a date, is highlighted, as is the topic it was posted in. 

Testing improvements that work for everyone

Changing a design can be confusing for some users. To learn whether the suite of desktop talk page design changes were negatively impacting peoples’ experiences using talk pages, the Editing team conducted two analyses to check how user engagement went, through the revert rate of edits at the talk page, and check on the possible negative impact of the improvements. 

Finding 1: Engagement increases

An initial analysis was conducted at Wikipedia in Arabic, Czech, and Hungarian languages. The Usability Improvements features were made available by default. 

The engagement analysis was conducted to determine the revert rate on discussion spaces: 

  • 18% decrease in the revert rate of desktop talk page edits for users with under 100 edits
  • 17% percent decrease in the revert rate of desktop talk page edits made with visual editor for all editors.

We know that not everyone likes changes in their editing environment. A way to opt-out the improvements is available at any logged-in personal preferences. Out of curiosity, we also measured the opt-out rate: a total of 48 distinct users across all three participating wikis turned the feature off, over a total of 2,122 users who commented on talk pages using the usability improvements.

Finding 2: the improvements have an impact

Then the improvement was tested at 15 wikis, where 50% of users got the improvements, while the remaining 50% continued using the previous design. The objective of this test was to learn what – if any – negative impact the set of Usability Improvements causes.

  • 11% decrease in the revert rate of talk page edits (12.5% for users with less than 100 edits)
  • 3.3% increase in completion of posting messages
  • 16.7% increase in the proportion of talk page views that included an attempt to edit and 19% increase in the proportion of talk page views that included a saved edit (for users with less than 100 edits)

Soon available at your wiki!

A few wikis already adopted these changes, and it is time for the rest of the wikiverse to benefit from them. We started first with the 15 wikis where the feature was tested, providing these changes to all users. The rest of the wikis will follow, with a specific calendar. A series to follow in Tech News!

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