Ah, Wikipedia. From useless facts to sprawling historical accounts, the online encyclopedia has it all. Except, that is, decent web design. It might be one of the most popular sites in the world but, having not received a visual update in over a decade, it's certainly showing its age. But it seems that's about to change.
Wikipedia's parent company, Wikimedia, has announced a multi-year project to improve the website's desktop interface, and make it easier to navigate. Changes will include a reconfigured logo, a new collapsible sidebar, a new table of contents and more. If you're embarking on a new web project, don't forget to stop by our list of the best web design tools.
Along with a rather crude 'under construction' gif (above), Wikimedia shared some images and gifs depicting the new features in action. And judging by these, it seems the website isn't about to be given a vastly different look.
Rather than a transformation, these features look more like subtle tweaks and improvements. And perhaps that's a good thing – in the year of shocks and surprises that is 2020, we're not sure we could handle a brand new (and potentially even worse) Wikipedia.
"While Wikipedia’s content has grown rapidly, our interface has not kept pace," Wikimedia explains in a blog post introducing the changes (opens in new tab). "The design of desktop Wikipedia has not seen any substantive changes for the past 10 years, leaving certain elements of the site’s navigation feeling clunky and overwhelming". The team plans to implement these tweaks while "keeping its core identity” (thank goodness).
The first feature Wikimedia plans to roll out is the site's collapsible sidebar (above). This is designed to improve usability and focus "by allowing people to concentrate on the content itself, whether reading or editing". After that, it will implement a a maximum line width to pages "where reading is the focus", as research apparently shows this can decrease eye strain.
You can find even more detailed information about all of the upcoming changes on MediaWiki (opens in new tab). Time will tell how much the changes affect the user experience as a whole. One thing's for sure, though – website redesigns can have a huge impact on usability. Just ask Facebook, whose 'New Facebook' update isn't exactly, er, popular.