Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Introducing: Designs for the Universal Language Selector

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An important goal for the Wikimedia movement is to share knowledge with every human being. Targeting such a broad audience explains why the number of languages supported in Wikimedia projects is really high: Wikipedia is available in 285 languages, and MediaWiki has been translated to about 400 languages.

The Localisation team is providing language-related tools in order to reduce barriers for users when consuming and contributing content. These tools allow users to type text in a language for which their keyboard is not prepared, download appropriate web fonts to display non-Latin scripts properly and choose the language of their user interface.

The Universal Language Selector is a tool that has been defined to allow users to select a language and configure its support in an easy way. When the number of languages becomes closer to 400, easy of use becomes both a need and a challenge. When the number of languages becomes closer to 400, solutions such as a drop-down list are no longer practical for selecting a language. In addition, language selection in Wikimedia projects is used for many different purposes. This makes language selection a big challenge from an Interaction Design perspective.

The design process for the selector started with the analysis of user needs and the definition of representative scenarios to support. Then, we explored different ideas in the form of sketches and wireframes through different iterations. Finally, we have elaborated interactive prototypes to test whether our ideas work with real users, and we want to share them with the community.

The proposed design is based on combining different mechanisms to reduce the complexity of the language list, but a way that requires minimal effort from the user. Many aids for dealing with information have been applied in this design, including searching, filtering, and grouping. By applying smart defaults, minimal user effort is required to take advantage of them.

We are announcing the availability of the Universal Language Selector designs to gather feedback on the proposed solutions, but also to ask to test our prototypes. You can find many more details on the language selector on [1]. We would like as many community members as possible to look at the prototypes an tell us what works and what not. We welcome ideas for improvement, doubts or criticism on the design feel on the Universal Language Selector's talk page.

During the upcoming weeks we will perform in-depth usability tests with several members of the community. If you speak Arabic, Dutch, Hebrew or Hindi, please volunteer for participation in the usability tests.

- Pau Giner, Interaction Designer for the Wikimedia Foundation (Pginer)