31 March 2014

Wikipedia To Unveil A Subtle Redesign

We previously featured design company 1910 Design & Communication’s proposed cleaner and readable layout of Wikipedia. Now the online encyclopaedia is unveiling a redesign of its own.

The changes will affect 32,533,899 pages in 287 languages and are set to roll out on 3 April, Thursday. These include a larger font size, an old media serif typeface for section headers and a streamlined sans-serif typeface for body copy.

However, they might be too subtle for most to notice and this is due to Wikipedia’s open source nature, according to Wikimedia’s Director of User Experience Jared Zimmerman in an interview with Fast Company.

Being 100% open source means there isn’t a free and open typeface that translates into all of the languages in the world. Users are thus bound to the licensed operating systems installed on their computers. Since Wikipedia asks for a sans-serif typeface to render pages, this leads to consistency problems in its look and layout across different browsers and operating systems.

The redesign aims to change the way text appears by requesting two open-source sets; for Mac users, the combination is Georgia for headers and Helvetica for body copy, while the combination for PC users swaps Helvetica for Arial.

With this update, Wikipedia wants to offer a more uniform and streamlined experience through the use of certain fonts. However it also raises the question: “Why isn’t there a universal open source type language free for all to use?”

What do you think of Wikipedia’s planned redesign?

When requesting your browser for body copy, Wikipedia uses the open source fonts Arimo and Liberation Sans first, before settling for Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, Arial, and a generic sans-serif, respectively

[via Fast Company, images by Wikipedia]