Monday, February 15, 2010

#Usability testing without language restrictions

When the #Wikimedia Foundation accepted the grant that paid for the usability initiative, it came with restrictions. The money was to make the English Wikipedia more usable. It does and it did make significant improvements, the "vector" skin is a vast improvement; I use it where I can. The en.wikinews made it its default skin and I expect that many projects will follow.

While the new developments were not targeted to other projects and languages, they did benefit. Test projects were started for other languages and people were invited to test and to comment. As I understand it, the "vector" skin is better at supporting right to left languages like Arabic.

The multimedia usability project being next, does not have any language restrictions and arguably, if the quality and quantity of Commons is to improve, it is the "other" languages and cultures that are not covered as well as the Western languages like English, German, French and Dutch.

To improve Commons, I would concentrate on one western language; English. One language with a right to left script and one language with a Cyrillic script. The choice for Arabic and Russian would be obvious. Given the expertise at the WMF, I might add Japanese to make it a really nice mix.

Each of these languages pose their issues. Each of these languages represent big vibrant projects that show a healthy growth in traffic. When money is to be spend on usability tests, research in these languages and cultures will have more impact then testing additional western languages. Personally I would consider looking for a partner in a country like Indonesia, they are more likely to have expertise in Asian languages then companies in San Francisco.

In her letter to the board on strategy, Sue argues that our community is to diversify. It seems to me that the multimedia usability project has the potential to have a big impact in reaching out to those places where we want to do better.


Bawolff said...

btw, serbian wikinews also opted for vector. -

Naoko Komura said...

I agree with Gerard that finding partners in language communities is essential to surface language specific characteristics and identify issues at early phase. We, the usability team, is grateful for translation and language communities for early feedback and inputs they provide.

serenity said...

Gerard, ha ha, nice post on Indonesia but if you look at the twitter report:

In Asia - Indonesia probably one country with the LEAST problem for language (reducing Phillipines, Malay, and Sing to that list ha ha). When I travel to Thailand and Cambodia, the tuk tuk driver speaks English fine! But can not even write his name in alphabetical script.