Discussions/Submissions/Beautiful articles, beautiful layout

From Wikimania 2016 • Esino Lario, Italy

Beautiful articles, beautiful layout

Beautiful articles, beautiful layout
Proposed by
It's no secret that our wonderful encyclopedia doesn't look particularly beautiful on the screen. When articles are printed out, it is even less so. When viewed on a phone, sometimes things look truly terrible -- and sometimes important information is unreadable.
Traditional encyclopedias (and paper publications) have a number of tools allowing designers to tune the appearance of articles. Our options in mediawiki are quite meager in comparison.
In this discussion I invite designers to weigh in on what it would take to make Wikipedia (and the other Wikimedia projects) truely beautiful. One important aspect may be better semantic tagging of article content -- which image is the lead image, which section is this figure associated with, what could be pulled into a sidebar, what are the key columns of this table. What other information is missing from our markup?
Can articles have different "layout designs"? If so, how many do we need? What are the different categories of media presentation? Can/should articles have sidebars? What other layout features from the print work could we consider?
To imagine a beautiful Wikipedia, learn from experienced designers, discuss concrete features which are missing, and identify promising initial projects that could improve our presentation.
Targeted participants
Designers, readers, and those who care about beauty.
Relevant experts
Designers of beautiful and usable documents on paper, web, mobile, etc.
Preparatory readings or materials
  • Some examples of alternative designs to consider:
    1. en:Wikiwand
    2. mw:Winter
  • Some examples of how images are used in our existing articles, collected by @violetto: mw:Wikimedia_User_Interface/Use_cases/Images
  • T112991 contains a technical discussion which was started at the Wikimedia Developer Summit. However, this discussion is intended to be *non*technical, involve folks not in the developer community, and concentrate less on wikitext syntax and more on the big picture.

Questions and Comments 25

  • Hi cscott, thank you for your excellent proposal. Can you include existing projects like Wikiwand and Skins like "Winter" into the description? Thanks, --Gnom (talk) 11:38, 17 April 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • @Cscott: This topic is definitely quite different, and it is a big challenge to talk about the design without a very good structure and visualisation. I'm not sure we can accommodate that in this setting. But, maybe we can find a structure to make that work - although I can't promise of course. For that, we would need a clearer purpose (what should be the result of the discussion? What would you want to accomplish?) For example, I can imagine discussing 'what would a minimal design of Wikipedia look like' or to discuss where the needs of the editors and the needs of the readers stop aligning. What kind of recommendations would you like to aim for? Effeietsanders (talk) 09:30, 20 April 2016 (UTC)[reply]
    • @Gnom: @Effeietsanders: Hello again! First, a process question: is the description of the talk intended to remain static during the guiding committee's selection process, or should I be editing it in real time in response to comments and questions? I can see how selection could be difficult if the session description is changing every day, but I can also see how it would be nice to work in concert with the guiding committee to work towards improved descriptions when/if a topic is eventually decided. I'm uncertain where we are in this process, perhaps you can help me understand.
    To respond to your questions: yes, it would really be nice if this conversation took place in a way that encouraged designers to think about the issue in advance and bring ideas and examples to show off, perhaps a bulletin board of beautiful designs in a prominent place in the venue, something like that. But even without that, I feel it would be worthwhile to talk about this issue with folks who are passionate about design, and who may be able to point to many examples I am not aware of (or examples in other media, for example printed books they thought particularly beautiful or easy to use), and then discuss what they liked/disliked about them. I personally was aware of "Winter", for example, but have never heard of "Wikiwand" before. I want participants to bring a bunch of other examples of projects I haven't heard of before! Because WP is an *online* encyclopdia, we might be able to go a long ways toward displaying different candidate designs with just a web browser and a projector, if participants bring some URLs.
    I think the ultimate outcome of a design process would be an illustrative article, in a beautiful layout, which showed examples of different sort of content (equations, illustrations, charts, tables, video, sidebars, pull quotes, lead images, etc, etc) in the article. But that would indeed be difficult to obtain from a discussion! So a more reasonable goal for *this* session would be to compile a big list of (a) designs we like, (b) content types (or semantic tags) we should accomodate/think about, and (c) commentary from the participants critiquing these. What do we feel Winter does well? What sorts of content did it fail to display well? What alternative presentation of that content do we prefer? Etc. That's the sort of raw material that might inform a proper design process later which came up with a synthesis. Cscott (talk) 19:15, 28 April 2016 (UTC)[reply]
    Hi Cscott, anyone's invited to edit the discussion proposals at any time, please feel free to even completely rewrite them. It's a wiki. --Gnom (talk) 19:46, 28 April 2016 (UTC)[reply]