Kudos to the Wikimedia foundation for focusing on the development of a new editor for Wikipedia. During my time at Wikia I stressed the need for a simple editing experience in order to diversify its users and increase contributions. Wikipedia has become the central repository for information in the digital age but it suffers from a small and insular user base among its editors. Today, most contributions to Wikipedia are from white middle-aged males with a college degree, living in a developed country and with a strong technical understanding. This skews both the type of articles that appear on Wikipedia and the perspective which they are written from. The challenge they face is how to expand the demographics of those writing and editing entries. They need to attract more people in developing countries, more woman, and users who are less technically savvy in order to become a true digital encyclopedia representing the the world’s collective knowledge.
That brings us back to the simplified visual editor they debuted this past December. The redesign does a good job of making the initially intimidating task of editing a wiki easy by presenting basic style and layout tools in a horizontal menu bar while hiding more confusing features such as wiki text, page history, and html mode behind toggle buttons. The menu is well thought out, non-intrusive and features extremely intuitive icons. My only suggestion would be a more prominent visual indication alerting the user they are in an editing mode. If implemented these types of improvements can go a long way to encouraging new users to try Wikipedia for the first time. No longer will clicking “Edit” leave a new user scratching their head trying decipher wiki mark up. Instead they’ll land in a familiar layout with simple tools at their finger tips, ready to get to work adding a contribution of their own.
I’m looking forward to seeing not only the redesigned editor rolled out on Wikipedia but the perspectives that come from a new generation of users contributing to the wiki.