Community Central
Community Central

Hello hello!

I'm here today to highlight to you all our latest product release: the Simplified Version of the VisualEditor! We've hinted at its arrival in our previous tech update, but now we're ready to indeed reveal what this Simplification of the editor is all about. So, if you're curious about the what, why, and how behind this change, stay with me, I've got you covered!

Before highlighting what changed, let's quickly recap how we arrived here. As per our standard for any product release, we run many different experiments on our platform to understand how it's being used and where it can be improved, whether with minor or major changes. We do not want to assume that something will help without having the data to prove it. One of our goals last year was to entice more people to start editing our pages, becoming part of the wiki community. When the idea arises to potentially change anything to one (or more) of our editors, trying things out first in the form of an experiment with a limited scope becomes even more important as these editor tools are at the core of our platform and your editing experience.

Before continuing, we have to remember that there are 3 different editors enabled in our platform:

While we didn't touch the 2010 editor, continue reading to see how both modes of the VisualEditor changed and why!



Through survey research, we became aware that many people cited being overwhelmed by all the options offered by the editor when they first started out. So what was our idea based on that? Reduce the amount of options immediately available by providing first-time editors with a simpler, more familiar editor interface, hopefully enabling more of them to successfully publish their first edit, increasing the number of new editors per month. And what's the default and, thus, most used editor by first-time editors? The Visual Mode of the VisualEditor. That's where we started.

We analyzed the statistics of the current use of the VisualEditor over the course of some weeks, tracking the relevant uses of the tool, which items were clicked more than others, and which options led to a successful edit. After that, we added the feedback we received during the previous years about this editor to the mix, and then we puzzled together the necessary changes we'd need to make that would reduce the stress and frustration of the first-time editors.

All the current functionality would still be there, but we would be renaming and moving some elements, while hiding several less essential elements from first view, increasing the editor's similarity to other text editors they may be familiar with.


Design mock of the new Simplified Editor detailing the different changes applied to the tool

Design mock of the new Simplified Editor

A picture often says more than a thousand words, so please take a look at the above mock that illustrates the new location of certain tools, the new name of some options, and which elements got hidden from first view in sub-menus. How many icons get hidden is dependent on your screen width. In addition to that, we also labeled all the items in the submenus, so it'll be clear which icon to use for what.

With everything in order to simplify the editor, with no functionality taken away, we launched the original experiment in November 2023, and it was announced in the Technical Updates and further detailed on the Fandom Stars Wiki. We were excited to see what would happen!


It turned out, though, that the results were different from how we envisioned it. This experiment didn't result in more edits or editors as we'd hoped. You would think that was the end of it, that we could just learn from it and try something else to help. However, data showed that while our initial goal wasn't met, the experiment did show more new users taking more actions inside the editor tool. They were using the buttons to customize the format of the text more than before.

While this meant our original goal wasn't met, we saw unexpected benefits from this change.

To help decide if we should productize this or not, we turned to the Fandom Stars. The feedback of this mixed group of editors was neutral: some positive comments about the changes to the usability and making it more in line with other text editors, but others also summarized the change as "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Nobody hated the changes, but nobody was passionate about it either.

The conversation with Fandom Stars did inspire us to look closer at some specific data again. For example, we found that "normal text" was clicked on about three times more often by people than when it was called "paragraph", and that was because the tool is more accessible and intuitive. And that was the thing that tipped the scales: accessibility.


Since accessibility on itself is an important factor to us, we decided to productize this change to the VisualEditor experience for everyone, not just new editors. Our platform has to be more accessible to everybody.

If you would like some additional help to navigate the new toolbar, we also updated the VisualEditor help page.

One thing we didn't experiment with but that will also be affected with this change is that the VisualEditor experience has two components: the Visual Mode and the Source Mode, which share similar toolbars. So although this change was originally planned for only the Visual Editor in its Visual Mode, it has been extended to the Source Mode as well to safeguard the toolbar consistency. Let's talk about the details.

Source Mode[]

Design mock of the new Simplified Editor Source Mode detailing the different changes applied to the tool

Design mock of the new Simplified Editor - Souce Mode

Most of the changes applied are the same as with the Visual Mode, though there are some differences. One of the perhaps most notable is the merge of the gear and menu (the three bars stacked horizontally) icons on the far right, where now only the menu icon remains. This is perhaps the only place where functionality has somewhat been removed from inside the editor. The original menu icon contained links to Special:WhatLinksHere, Special:RecentChangesLinked, Special:Upload, and Special:SpecialPages, which were deemed largely unnecessary to be accessible from within the editor. As such, they were removed. If you do miss any of those links being available within the editor, know that you can read those by customizing your toolbar.

The menu under the gear icon just received an optical cleanup, with that it contained some inaccessible features that have now just been removed. No point in showing things you can't interact with anyway. The gear icon itself has been replaced by the menu icon.

And that's it on this design and functionality update! We understand that some may be hindered in the beginning due to muscle memory leading you to misclick things at first, but it's our hope that once you get used to it, this change will provide a positive experience for you!

As always, if you have any questions or constructive feedback to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us directly on our Walls/Talk pages, contact Fandom Staff, or let us know in the comments.

Thanks for your time reading this, and thanks for submitting that valuable feedback that helps us to work in the right direction!

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Fandom Staff
Antonio R. Castro is part of Fandom since May 2007. He was helper for 3 years focused on ES community and since 2011 he is a member of the Fandom staff. He is working currently like Product Support Lead. Fan of wikis, videogames, Star Wars, Song of Ice and Fire and any TV series pre or post Breaking Bad.

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