Wikimedia and Usability

Wikimedia Usability InitiativeGoogle recently announced that they were donating $2 million to the Wikimedia foundation. According to a press release from the Wikimedia foundation, they plan to use part of that money to make “Wikipedia easier to use and more accessible.”

That’s incredible news for little wikis like The Pet Wiki. Sure, reading a wiki is fine, but trying to add content to it can be a bit confusing. Wikitext, which was invented to make editing wikis easier, can be difficult to use. Here’s a funny video from WetPaint:


The whole idea was that people shouldn’t need to know how to add html tags. Wikitext is easier than html, but it’s a far cry from the WYSIWYG editors that we have all come to know and love. A while back I tried to use FCKeditor. It was much easier to use. I was thrilled. The only problem with it was that it was horribly slow to load. Pages took forever. I didn’t want any barriers for people to add content, and the time was a bigger barrier than the original wikitext, so off it went.

Wikimedia has begun this all out usability initiative. Although they are not deviating away from wikitext, they are giving tools that will make it much easier for people to add and edit content. This new, nifty edit bar at the top of the edit box gives users a lot more freedom to write. By not being bogged down, I think it will be much easier for people to be creative.

New Wiki Toolbar

They are adding outline tools for editing large articles, and just making the whole edit screen a lot more friendly.

There are other parts to the initiative, like a whole new skin for wikis, but since I created my own Wiki skin it won’t affect me quite as much as a lot of other people.

These changes went out as a beta on Wikipedia a while ago. I have been waiting on pins and needles for the next version release of the MediaWiki in order to benefit from the wonderful work that has been done. The second version of the beta has already been released. Now with the loot that they got from Google, I hope that Wikimedia will be able to get it done really soon. I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say that you guys at Wikimedia (and are totally cool!