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[EPIC] Usability improvements: make the actions, activity and content within talk pages easier to understand
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Description

This epic represents the work of making talk pages easier for people to recognize, understand, and engage with.

This work is primarily comprised of making incremental and optional changes to elevate the core talk page components (e.g. section headings) and calls to action (e.g. replying to a comment, starting a new discussion, subscribing to a topic, etc.).

These changes are in service of the following...

  • Increasing Junior Contributors' ability to:
    • Recognize talk pages as tools to communicate with other people
    • Identify and understand the discussions happening on talk pages
    • Know what to do to use talk pages to communicate with other people
  • Increasing Senior Contributors' ability to:
    • Assess what talk pages, and the discussions within them, are worth focusing on.

Project Elements

InterventionDescriptionTicket(s)
Topic ContainersEvolve how talk page section headings (read: == H2 == ) are presented and introduce discussion metadata within themT269950
Clearer affordancesEvolve how affordances for replying to comments and starting new discussions are shownReplying (T255560 ) + Starting Discussions (T267444 )
Page FrameIntroduce new page-level visual elements to help people immediately recognize talk pages as places where editors communicate and for them to assess the activity happening within the talk page they have landed uponT269963

More information can be found on mediawiki.org: Talk pages project/Usability.


Reported issues

In the future, the issues below will likely become individual tasks. For now, we will gather all issues here.
It can be difficult to understand how comments relate to one another.

  • As @Samat puts it, "...on community discussion pages one section can be several pages long, and if somebody answers to the first person, their answer will be sooo far, that nobody can find out that it is an answer for the first person." [1]
  • As @Wladek92 describes this issue, "If too many blocks are embedded we do not recognise to which subject the answer was addressed to (again show/hide mechanism would be welcomed). Source: https://w.wiki/SjF.
  • As User:Quisqualis describes at en.wiki, "If this qualifies as a technical proposal, please let me know, and I will move this post to VPT. My proposal is that some means of visually parsing a long, back-and-forth or round-robin, relatively free-ranging discussion on Wikipedia ought to be developed. I often have trouble visually parsing long discussions on the WP:Help desk, for example. Sometimes, a discussion will involve three or more people and/or have five or more posts. Spacing between posts is not standardized, nor are signatures, nor is indentation, nor is the length of posts. Sometimes, people become confused and respond as if one person is the author of what another user has written." | Source
  • //"Change the talk page format to a thread format (like Reddit) so no indentation is needed and restrict the use of Wiki Markup in talk pages so it would not be burdened by problematic formatting." Community Wishlist Survey 2021: Modernize talk page format)

Newcomers do not instinctively know what to do to ask a question [at en.wiki's Teahouse]

  • As @Sdkb shared on mw.org here in the context of the New Discussion Tool:
    • Newcomers are not clear which call to action ("Edit," "Add topic" or "Ask a question") they ought to use to ask the question they came to ask.

It can be difficult to distinguish comments from others.

  • As @Samat describes this issue, "For longer or formatted comments it is not easy to see where is the end of one comment and where the next one starts. [2]
  • As usability test participants in T257281#6344895 describe:
    • "I wish the format of the messages looked different and didn't look like one long message."
    • "I felt I had to scan the page a lot for what i needed, as different elements didn't really stand out. It wasn't really obvious that i was looking at a message from someone - it wasn't really immediately clear it was an inbox."

On mobile [3], there is currently tension between seeing the range of topics being discussed and the extent to which people are engaging with those topics.

  • @Parkywiki describing why they prefer the desktop view on mobile, "...desktop lets me 'see' the whole of a talk page at once. It gives me an overview, allowing me to determine at a glance, not only the topics, but also the number and depth of replies a user has received. Whilst mobile view gives me a nice tidy page and big text to look at, it gives me absolutely no idea of whether any given topic has been answered by anyone." [4]
    • The above is particularly problematic when seeking to help newcomers:
      • At en.wiki's Teahouse, "seeing if anyone else has replied is really important. Uncollapsing one topic at a time at the Teahouse would be a bit of a pain, and automatically having all threads uncollapsed would make the entire page too unwieldy to navigate through." [4]
    • @Pelagic suggests showing metadata about each section (e.g. the number of comments, the number of participants, when the conversation (read: section) was started, when the conversations was last updated, etc.) | source
    • When posting on their user talk pages, "...when I go to a new user page to leave a comment or warning, it's helpful to asses at a glance if someone else has already raised the same issue without having to expand anything." [4]

On mobile [3], getting a sense for all of the topics can require a lot of scrolling

  • @Parkywiki describes this here, "The collapsed topics are very widely spaced, meaning I sometimes have to swipe down quite a lot just to see all the topic headers." [4]
  • And if you decide to expand a particular thread that has a lot of replies (e.g. Talk:Coronavirus_disease_2019) it takes a lot of effort to collapse that thread and navigate to another topic on the page, "...having opened up a topic I want to view, and then having scrolled down to the bottom of it, there is no quick and easy way to collapse the thread again. So I have to scroll/swipe all the way up again. collapse the thread, then repeat the process with the next thread and so on." [4]

Improvised solutions

References


  1. https://www.mediawiki.org/w/index.php?title=Topic:Vjxycppfwer4qmrm&topic_showPostId=vk53kim40u3prxze#flow-post-vk53kim40u3prxze
  2. https://www.mediawiki.org/w/index.php?title=Topic:Vjxycppfwer4qmrm&topic_showPostId=vk53kim40u3prxze#flow-post-vk53kim40u3prxze
  3. Awaiting confirmation on which mobile talk experience is being referred to here. The default talk experience or the "Read as a wiki page" experience.
  4. https://www.mediawiki.org/w/index.php?title=Topic:Vjl9e4d6kwjbtbxf&topic_showPostId=vkpbxx1ce8slir61#flow-post-vkpbxx1ce8slir61

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Event Timeline

There are a very large number of changes, so older changes are hidden. Show Older Changes
ppelberg renamed this task from [EPIC] Make the actions, activity and content within talk pages easier to understand to [EPIC] Visual enhancements: make the actions, activity and content within talk pages easier to understand.Jul 29 2020, 4:17 PM
ppelberg updated the task description. (Show Details)

Neat use of custom stylings for conversation topic headings at it.wikipedia:

Italian Wikipedia custom talk styling
Screen Shot 2020-10-16 at 6.05.27 PM.png (2×2 px, 934 KB)
Link: https://w.wiki/hA4
ppelberg added a subscriber: Sdkb.

Task description update
ADDING:

  • As @Sdkb shared on mw.org here in the context of the New Discussion Tool:
    • Newcomers are not clear which call to action ("Edit," "Add topic" or "Ask a question") they ought to use to ask the question they came to ask.
ppelberg renamed this task from [EPIC] Visual enhancements: make the actions, activity and content within talk pages easier to understand to [EPIC] Usability improvements: make the actions, activity and content within talk pages easier to understand.Aug 4 2021, 9:14 PM