Meta Refresh 2013

The design and engineering of user interface on the web

Arun Ganesh


Designing the Wiki way - Experiences from the center of the open web

Submitted Jan 29, 2013

I had got a unique opportunity to work for the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) Language Engineering team as a UI/UX designer for crucial localization components of the mediawiki software. I would like to share my experiences on the design process we followed in the face of the unique community and organizational challenges in an open source setup.


In November 2011, the senior designer of the WMF, Brandon Harris came to Mumbai and spoke of a unique UX issue Wikipedia was facing - language switching, between 300 languages.

Six months later, the foundation contracted two designers into the Language Engineering team to design a language selection widget that would allow anyone in the world to switch from a foreign language to his native language with minimal effort.

On our plate was:

  • A UX problem no one had ever solved satisfactorily for non-English users of the web
  • A design team with no prior experience in designing for the non-English web
  • A highly vocal and opinionated community of English Wikipedians and mediawiki developers
  • Designing in an open source - agile development environment

My talk will take you through our experiment of negotiating these barriers, the complications of design in the open source world and ultimately, the rewards of it.

My observations come from a personal perspective and cannot be considered as the official views of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Speaker bio

I believe that the tools of future change lie in open source. Having contributed significantly to Wikipedia and the OpenStreetMap projects for several years, and being an interaction designer gives me a unique understanding of community dynamics and UX design.

Having had the opportunity to design for one of the greatest collaborative project of our civilization, I feel I have a responsibility to share my experiences, so that others can learn, build upon and improve things for the future.



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