Wikipedia’s New Mobile Site

On my iPhone I routinely type “*** wiki” in Safari’s search field, where “***” is the subject for which I’m searching. So “beer wiki” returns the Wikipedia entry on Beer as the top search result. Last night, however, I noticed I was redirected to a page optimized for mobile web browsers. Since the mobile page renders differently in standard browsers (or at least on FF 3.5 on my work computer), I took some screen shots. This is what you see after the mobile version of the article loads:

screen shot of a beer article

There’s pretty much what I’ve come to expect for a mobile-optimized website but have only, until recently, hoped for on Wikipedia. Even on this initial screen you can see there’s a single column, larger text, and better word and line spacing. Instantly more readable. There’s also the clearly indicated feedback link since this version of the site is recently launched.

If you clicked on the first link to the standard Beer article you would have noticed that it’s a reasonably long entry even on a desktop browser. I can’t imagine many iPhone users would enjoy the finger cramps required to scroll all the way down to the Serving section, and it seems Wikipedia’s designers/developers felt the same way. After the introduction, the article sections have been collapsed to their headings with handy buttons to expand the content:

screen shot of beer article sections

After expanding a section the “Show” button changes to a “Hide” button so you can keep the page from growing too long on your small screen:

screen shot of beer article expanded

Overall I’m pretty happy about this considering my heavy use of Wikipedia. My only gripe at the moment, however, is the redirect process. If you visit an article from Google search results, quite a bit of the standard page (including some images) seems to load before the redirect. I could see this getting a bit tiresome if I don’t have a 3G signal, and it makes me wish the intercept occurred earlier. I’m not a web developer, so I can’t speak to the simplicity/complexity of such a change, but I’ll certainly submit it as feedback.

One thought on “Wikipedia’s New Mobile Site

  1. They must be sniffing client-side, because server-side redirects require sending an HTTP header, and HTTP headers have to be sent before browser content. I believe it’s possible to do a JavaScript redirect prior to page load by executing code in the HTML head section (as opposed to in the body or in the onload event). Not sure why Wiki ain’t doing this. I can’t think of any particular reason to do it after the onload event. Even resolution should be sniffable prior to page load, since it’s a browser application attribute, not a markup or css attribute.

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