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VisualEditor: There is not enough UI difference between reading and editing mode
Open, LowestPublic


The difference between editing and reading mode isn't obvious enough for the user.

(reported at

Version: unspecified
Severity: enhancement



Event Timeline

bzimport raised the priority of this task from to Lowest.Nov 22 2014, 1:32 AM
bzimport set Reference to bz48008.

This is somewhat of a deliberate choice - indeed, a long term goal is to be able to have no distinction at all between 'read' and 'edit' modes (except that in one you'll have a cursor) - though we may not do this for Wikimedia's servers, and certainly not soon.

I'm willing to consider suggestions about making it a little more obvious without breaking the fundamental concept that editing and reading are two halves of the same participation, but marking this as Lowest/Enhancement to reflect this.

Bug 48272 should help a little, changing the browser tab and title when editing. The reporter wanted a change within the content area, such as a red border while editing.

  • Bug 50456 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***

What's the virtue of having no difference between reading and edit mode? I see none. If I'm in editing mode, I want to be reminded that I still need to close off the edit properly (give edit summary, save page), rather than accidentally just close down all tabs, or leave the computer and let it close itself messily after x hours). I may be juggling several open windows, in connection with the one edit or with other jobs (and because the page dialog obscures the article, I'm often opening a second copy of the page while I'm in VE so that I can actually see it while adding a category or stub template, as being quicker than closing the dialog box to see the information I need). Editing and reading are two different activities: someone editing has responsibilities - not to accidentally lean on keys and produce garbage, not to leave the page without a helpful edit summary. Someone reading... is just someone reading.

I'm with Pam on this one. Editing and reading are not two halves of the same participation at all - they are distinct activities. There should be no (or at least minimal) barriers to people participating in both but there is a fundamental difference between them.

Reading Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects is an act of consuming content. With varying degrees of interactivity you can choose which content you want to consume, and in limited ways how you want to consume it. It is possible to read Wikipedia etc in many different environments, for example using a desktop computer, handheld tablet, e-ink reader, dead-tree books even projected onto the side of buildings iirc. The reader has no responsibility to or for the content and enters into no legal agreement with anyone (although they may do so with others in order to access Wikipedia in some modes).

Editing Wikipedia is an inherently interactive process of collaborative production. It entails the responsibility to abide be the legal agreement they enter into, and the requirement to not insert copyright violations, to agree to community norms, and display at least basic competence, etc. Editors must agree to be responsible for the content they enter, and so must be old enough according to one or more legal jurisdictions to assume that responsibility. It is not possible to edit Wikipedia in all modes it is possible to read it in.

Look at attachment 12954 (the second attachment on bug 52004 in case that link doesn't work) for perhaps the clearest evidence about how reading and editing are fundamentally different concepts.

In addition to the above there a practical difference with the way one has to behave with a reading window and editing window. When reading, I can paste a new link anywhere on the page to view a different article, or an can follow a link from anywhere in the page with no need to think about anything else; I can page down using the space bar (often convenient on this laptop), and I can simply type a few characters or words to quickly jump to a different part of the page. When editing I cannot do any of those and I need to be able to tell at a glance whether pressing tab a couple of times followed by enter will take me to the third link or will alter the formatting of the page.

This seems, well, almost trivial to implement. Here's what I have in my common.css to do this when I edit:

.ve-ce-surface { background: #FFFDD0; }

That's a personal color choice, of course. I'd be happy to defer to the consensus of a larger group of VE users about a better color. But other than choosing a color, this seems like an enhancement that can relatively easily be put in the "done" category.