Friday, December 19, 2008

Why do African languages fail on Wikipedia

In one word: usability.

  • UNICEF has done usability testing; 100% of their test subjects were unable to create a new article. This study was video taped and is available to the WMF for its Stanton project.
  • The localisation for most African languages is not good and they hurt as a consequence
  • MediaWiki does not show characters needed for African languages properly in most modern browsers
When you look at my user page in edit mode, you will see the word "Mbɔ́tɛ!". It is likely that you will see the character and the accent next to each other. My user page is likely to look good. When you use this with the latest version of Safari, it looks good. Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer show my user page properly but it goes wrong in the edit mode. Firefox does fail the least; it shows you the character and the accent next to each other. Chrome does not show you the characters while Internet Explorer shows you different characters.

It may be that by changing the CSS for the MediaWiki edit screen a solution can be found. That would be awesome. In the mean time the best result is achieved for African languages by using the latest Safari browser,
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