Wikipedia embarks on major makeover

Wide-reaching changes to Wikipedia's look and feel have been given the green light after a six-month trial period.


Wikipedia is set for its biggest ever interface overhaul, with the Wikimedia Foundation preparing to roll out a host of changes designed to "make it easier to find and contribute knowledge" on the site.

Around 500,000 users have been trying out the new layout code-named Vector over the past six months, with four out of five opting to stick with the redesigned interface after testing it. The changes will now be rolled out to the various live sites over the next few weeks, starting with Wikimedia Commons on April 5.

"We are changing our default look to a new theme we call 'Vector', which makes essential functions easier to find," Naoko Komura of the Wikimedia Foundation User Experience team wrote in a blog post.

"The site layout has changed noticeably. We've simplified the site navigation, relocated the search box to satisfy user expectations and to follow other web standards, reduced some of the clutter and made sure that the new features work with different resolutions, browser formats and window sizings."

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Also affected are the site's page-editing tools, with the introduction of a new editing toolbar making it easier to insert links and tables. Editing newcomers are also given a cheat sheet to help them remember the most commonly used functions in the editing process. The ability to create PDFs from pages, meanwhile, previously only available to account holders, has been extended to all.

"Provided that we don't encounter major hiccups with this first roll-out, we are planning deployment of the changes to Wikipedia in late April, beginning with the English Wikipedia, followed by other languages," Komura wrote.

Once the Vector theme is fully rolled out, anyone still wishing to use the classic interface will need to register and select it from the My Preferences menu.

Komura revealed that further changes to the site's editing and navigation tools were in the pipeline for later in the year.

"Our overarching objective is to make it easier to find and contribute knowledge in Wikipedia and its sister projects. Volunteer participation is the essence of everything we do; our job is to facilitate and support that volunteer work," Komura wrote. "Continually improving the experience our projects is now a core mandate of the Wikimedia Foundation."

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