Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Big updates in the Wikipedia Android app!

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  • Big updates in the Wikipedia Android app!

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We've been quite busy at the Wikimedia Mobile Apps team! Our Android app has been undergoing a bit of a transformation, and now that it's ready to come out of its pupal stage, we're introcuding several new features that we're excited to share with you.

Since the introduction of our mobile apps, our goal has been to enhance the mobile Wikipedia experience by redefining how you, the user, interact with Wikipedia articles, and how the presentation of the articles provides you with the information for which you're searching in a natural and intuitive way.

The first of these enhancements is the presentation of a lead image at the top of each article. The image, shown in full width and full resolution, provides immediate clarity and context for the article that you're about to read. Give it a try — look up a few random articles like Notre Dame de Paris, Chanterelle, Golden Gate Bridge, Bumblebee, Mount St. Helens, etc., and see how the lead image transforms your experience of the article. By the way, when browsing articles about persons, notice that the image of the person is aligned to be centered inside the window. That's because we're using face detection technology to correctly align the image!

The next enhancement is the introduction of article descriptions from Wikidata which we're now using liberally throughout the app. When you search for articles, the search results now contain a short description of each result that comes from Wikidata, which provides you with a quick and concise definition of the article, without having to navigate to it. Of course, just like Wikipedia itself, Wikidata is composed and sustained by user contributions, which means that not all articles have a corresponding description yet. If you'd like to get involved, log on to Wikidata and start contributing!

Moving on — another feature we're introducing is the automatic collapsing of infoboxes. Many Wikipedia articles have an infobox that contains "quick facts" and other information about the article. However, when viewed on a small mobile device, we feel that the infobox is more of a distraction, and impedes the user from getting to the actual contents of the article. Therefore we are now "collapsing" infoboxes by default, so that the text of the article is more accessible, and immediately visible when navigating to a new article. You may still tap on the collapsed infobox to view its full contents, but having the infobox collapsed by default allows for a clean and streamlined presentation of the article.

On a more technical note, the app has been updated for the latest Android 5.0 (Lollipop) devices, borrowing elements from the new Material design theme, and producing an experience that is consistent with the other apps on your device. Examples of the new design elements include:

  • The Toolbar at the top now uses the Material theme
  • Lead images use parallax scrolling, in line with Material guidelines
  • Swipe down at the top of an article to refresh it (to make sure you're reading the latest revision of the article).

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We hope that you enjoy using the new features in the app as much as we're enjoying creating them. Stay tuned for more good stuff from the Mobile Apps team (this is only the beginning!), and as always, your feedback is welcome!


Dmitry Brant, Lead Android Developer

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