How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Other options besides Wikipedia.
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Auggie
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How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Post by Auggie » Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:27 am

Starting this thread because of the large number of independent MediaWiki based sites that still are not mobile-friendly. As we know, Google penalizes sites that are not fully mobile-friendly, and this puts a lot of smaller wikis at a disadvantage.

Let us band together, share ideas, and fix this problem.

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Auggie
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Re: How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Post by Auggie » Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:29 am

First idea: Extension:MobileFrontend
Advantage: same as Wikipedia
Disadvantages: not fully mobile-friendly according to Google?, requires an extension


Second idea:
Skins that automatically adapt to mobile devices. Examples?

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Dysklyver
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Re: How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Post by Dysklyver » Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:49 am

Righto, the problem I was having with MobileFrontend is that I didn't have the right Minerva skin installed, this is now fixed (hopefully). With the wiki now much more up-to-date. Running MediaWiki 1.30.0. MobileFrontend installed. Default skin Vector. BUT .m disabled and everything running on the same url.

The current Google supplied tools for testing these things is https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly and https://testmysite.withgoogle.com and https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights and for completeness, also https://www.bing.com/webmaster/tools/mo ... iendliness

Testing the Current English Wikipedia main page. Result: Google mobile friendly tester says page is mobile-friendly. https://search.google.com/test/mobile-f ... DMCf9WMZdA Google pagespeed is happy with it. testmysitewithgoogle also happy. Bing happy.

Testing https://wiki.org.uk/article/Wiki_Home Result: Google mobile friendly tester says page is mobile-friendly. https://search.google.com/test/mobile-f ... TsXyPw9inw Google pagespeed is happy with it. testmysitewithgoogle also happy. So is Bing.

So the main pages are currently good. Let's test something else:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_von_Br%C3%BChl is fine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Icelandic_writers is also ok, despite the large tables.

The next step is to test it with Lighthouse. Running https://wiki.org.uk/article/Wiki_Home through Lighthouse, it soon becomes apparent it has not got all the optimisations, but it is within acceptable parameters.

Conclusion: Contrary to what I found when doing these tests last time I had MobileFrontend, it seems to be sufficient to pass the Google checking tools, and presumably therefore will be ranked as mobile friendly by pagerank. This is good.

My own experience is that at some point my MobileFrontend install was NOT sufficient, now I am not sure why. My guess is that either older versions of the extension are not mobile-friendly enough, or perhaps my install was wonky.

Despite all of this, is is not truly responsive, and relies on backend magic to function, which is not compatible with current best practice guidelines. This means it is highly probable that as the web becomes more responsive, it may need to be replaced. (or at the very least, kept up to date) this requires a greater commitment of ongoing work.
Last edited by Dysklyver on Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Editor of the The Wiki Cabal. I live at www.wiki.org.uk.

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Dysklyver
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Re: How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Post by Dysklyver » Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:06 pm

A starting point for looking at responsive skins should be to look at the discussions regarding the responsive monobook skin.
https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T195625
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia ... bile_users
I will see what else is available, but off the top of my head, there is also https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Skin:Timeless
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Auggie
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Re: How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Post by Auggie » Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:31 pm

Nice job! Your site seems to be working today.

I've said this a million times, but I really think the WMF is derelict in not getting its developers to make mobile easier and better with MediaWiki. Every other for-profit site caught on to this a decade. WMF drags its feet and lets the world pass it by, and no one seems to be accountable.

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Dysklyver
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Re: How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Post by Dysklyver » Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:42 pm

Well despite the WMF having a massive budget, the MediaWiki software is effectively maintained by volunteers. Indeed it's not like the WMF paid for it begin with, we owe that to the efforts of a German biologist. Which in itself is really shocking. It's high time they paid for something new. Or maybe they could find a geologist or pediatrician to do a new one for free :D

Backend wise, the MediaWiki software is just not mobile compatible as the entire system is effectively a database display function. This would be very very expensive if it was not for the super-aggressive cache system tacked on to cut down database queries. At some point it would be beneficial to make some changes to the backend to allow for a more jekyll type system.

Or at least that's my view.

My super common complaint is how difficult it is to shoehorn MediaWiki into a "serverless" or semi static/CDN cloud setup. These are like a hundred times cheaper to run than a server suitable for a basic MediaWiki install. They scale according to use so if the site gets no visitors, it costs like 5 cents a month. It's clearly a good idea. I did discuss this in a WMF tech meeting early this year (or late last year), but in general it is considered to be too difficult to achieve this at present.
Editor of the The Wiki Cabal. I live at www.wiki.org.uk.

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Auggie
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Re: How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Post by Auggie » Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:11 pm

ok but I don't understand what we're trying to save the money for. WMF has the funds to run many more servers than it does, and I have not run into any significant slowness on Wikipedia or felt that the project needed more power behind it. Wikipedia started running around 2003 and hit massive popularity around 2005. Surely the server power has increased a few orders of magnitude since then.

Tell me more about Jekyll. I had never heard of it until now. What's the benefit of static pages other than speed and reduced cost?

Back when Encyc started I was very interested in PmWiki. It was really good for the time and used flat files. Very easy to work on but PmWiki never really gained enough traction. The user management system was always primitive and it was difficult to register new users and control vandals. It also didn't handle images as well as MediaWiki. But it was super quick and lacked that annoying lag Wikipedia has whenever you jump to a new page. I kept up the Encyc PmWiki as long as I could, but they never developed mobile support for it and so I took it down so Google wouldn't be upset with me. (I know, I could have told Google just not to look in that directory but then what's the point?)

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Dysklyver
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Re: How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Post by Dysklyver » Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:57 pm

For the WMF it's a moot point of course, but if you have a small wiki consider this:

A) server that can run MediaWiki costs $30 a month.
B) static site costs about a cent per thousand visits.
C) serverless site costs about 10 cents per thousand visits.

So then we look at the small wiki (say wiki.org.uk), this gets about 5-6k unique hits a month, but around 20k visits (pageviews). So (A) costs $30, (B) costs twenty cents, (C) costs $2.

Jekyll is a static site generator that is commonly used to run blogs. It is also the tech behind Github pages (free websites). Static pages only obvious advantage is cost and speed, it is generally harder than a dynamic site to oraginse if the content is being updated regularly.

The flat file thing you mention is interesting, but you are right, that just cannot match the features of MediaWiki. And really all other wiki software falls into this category.
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Auggie
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Re: How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Post by Auggie » Wed Jun 20, 2018 4:58 pm

I think you're overpaying. Shared hosting lets you install MediaWiki for $10/month on average. There are also $10/year places which are sometimes surprisingly reliable.

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Dysklyver
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Re: How to make your MediaWiki based site mobile-friendly

Post by Dysklyver » Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:50 pm

Auggie wrote:
Wed Jun 20, 2018 4:58 pm
I think you're overpaying. Shared hosting lets you install MediaWiki for $10/month on average. There are also $10/year places which are sometimes surprisingly reliable.
Yes and no (really yes ;) ). It is possible to host it on a $5 server (the cheapest DigitalOcean option for example), but it was a real pain whenever it ran out of memory, which was most the time, and it really hit the performance when saving pages. Wiki.org.uk is currently hosted on a Google Cloud n1-standard-1 (1 vCPU, 3.75 GB memory) with an SSD, which does help. In all costs about $25 since there is a "sustained use discount". This is actually the 11th server I have hosted it on, having tried both more powerful, and less powerful options, from different suppliers. I now have cloudflare setup in front to help with cache as well. Overall the performance is pretty good most the time.

However Citizendium pays $100 a month. And I doubt they get much more traffic, so maybe maybe there should be a proper study on the recommended system requirements for Wikis.

Each wiki.org.uk been moved, everything gets better (at least that's what I say) It now has Semantic Mediawiki and Wikibase installed alongside the main software (not easy), a whole bunch of namespaces, and phpmyadmin for the database. Along with assorted SEO extensions (we should talk about meta SEO in another thread I think). Overall the clearest thing is that a Wiki Farm, eg. MIraheze, is by far the cheapest option to host small wikis, but there are limits to what can be setup on those.
Last edited by Dysklyver on Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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