Small Improvement on Wikipedia Makes a Big Difference

Wikipedia has made a subtle improvement to its site that should greatly improve the site’s usability and user experience.

The average article on Wikipedia includes footnotes (citations) of research sources and additional relevant information. Until recently, when a user clicked on a footnote number within the body of the article, the page would automatically “jump”  to the bottom of the page where the numeric list of footnotes resided.

But that design was somewhat problematic: when users clicked on a footnote number and were redirected to the bottom of the page, they would have to scan the list of footnotes to find the number on which they clicked. Which, initially, doesn’t sound too bad, especially since the selected footnote is highlighted in a light blue color to make it stand out among the other footnotes. However, this “jump” would cause users to lose their “reading spot” on the article, forcing them to scroll back up the page and find where they s

The solution? Well, Wikipedia now offers a “Reference Tooltips” feature: users can  hover the mouse cursor over the footnote number in the article, which will prompt the appearance of a pop-up box. This box contains the footnote’s information (e.g., a citation or a link to another resource). In a nutshell, this feature prevents the automatic “jump” and, therefore, prevents users from losing their spot on the page. In the screenshot below, I hovered my cursor over Footnote #42 on Wikipedia’s Memorial Day article, which prompted a pop-up a box containing information about Footnote #42:

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 7.40.20 PM

In addition, Wikipedia makes this Reference Tooltips feature optional and somewhat customizable. If users click on the gear symbol that appears in the right-hand corner of the pop-up box (see above), the following Options box appears:

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 7.55.28 PM

A small, subtle change can make a significant difference in improving user experience, and this new feature illustrates that fact.  Looks like Wikipedia is listening to its users.

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About intelligentuxdesign

I am the Assessment and User Experience Librarian at the University of Dayton Libraries. I am a graduate of Kent State University, where I received a Master of Library and Information Science degree in August 2011 and a Master of Science degree in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management with a concentration in User Experience Design in May 2012. My professional interests include usability, user experience design, information architecture, visual and information design, human-computer interaction, information technologies, and outreach services.
This entry was posted in Usability, User Experience Design (UXD), User Interface Design, Web Design and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Small Improvement on Wikipedia Makes a Big Difference

  1. That’s great news. I can definitely relate to wanting to see the citation but then being annoyed by losing my place! Thanks for sharing this info, Riley.

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