Digital Publishing
2 mins read

Wikipedia is testing how its page previews can be used by publishers for embedding in articles

People love Wikipedia. People love Wikipedia for specific reasons. Here’s one of the popular ones, as explained by XKCD:

It says “The Problem” but I think he loves it. Image by Randall Monroe/xkcd, CC BY-NC 2.5

We call this the “rabbit-hole” around the halls of the Wikimedia Foundation’s office. This is one of the most iconic and popular user patterns we see on Wikipedia. People start on one article, and then head somewhere else, and then somewhere else, learning about lots of different topics along the way.

We design for these readers, optimizing not for page views or engagement — but for learning. And it turns out that context is a key part of learning.

This week we released a new feature for Wikipedia’s readers on desktop — page previews. Let’s shed some light on why this is a big deal:

A few numbers to grok at

  • Nearly ~28 percent of Wikipedia’s traffic comes from clicking on internal blue links. a.k.a going down the rabbit hole
  • Blue links account for ~230 million page views per month
  • ~2 million links get hovered per minute across all Wikipedias

In other words, blue links are the most frequently-used interactive elements on Wikipedia. This makes messing with or changing any feature related to blue links a bit more… delicate and challenging.

Power previews for editors

As of now, page previews are designed for readers — but they could be adapted for power editors by hosting comprehensive information and useful actions that are more relevant to editors.

Graphic by Nirzar Pangarkar/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0. Text from Mona Lisa.

Wikipedia outside Wikipedia

We call on Wikipedia as second source material. Just like a dictionary is used to explain the meaning of a word while you are reading a book, Wikipedia is often used as a second source to know context for reading even outside of Wikipedia.

Graphic by Nirzar Pangarkar/Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0Includes Wikipedia text from hairy-nosed otter, and is based on Jeremy Coles, “Conservation success for otters on the brink,” BBC Earth, 20 June 2017.

Wrapping it up

Page previews are another way for publishers to harness Wikipedia. The reading experience of Wikipedia can be broken down into smaller pieces. We’re looking forward to more ways of moving away from the traditional notion of single monolithic articles towards more modular and contextual learning.

Feel free to provide feedback on our project page.

Thank you!

Nirzar Pangarkar, Design Manager, Audiences Design
Wikimedia Foundation

Further reading:

Blog WikimediaHow we designed page previews for Wikipedia — and what could be done with them in the future