Wikipedia Mobile iOS Critique

I’ve used a couple of different iOS Wikipedia readers over the years (most notably Articles and Wikipanion), but I hadn’t spent much time using the official Wikipedia Mobile app.

Doing a small bit of research, it looks like the official app was released in April of 2012 and updated last in April of 2013.

All around the current Wikipedia Mobile App is well built. It nails the core functionality of finding and reading content but ultimately looks dated and has some odd design choices.

Overview

Initially, the app itself seems to be a hybrid application. The functionality is solid but there are non-standard controls scattered throughout (the title bar menus are a dead give-away)

The launch blog post confirmed that the app was built using Cordova and PhoneGap, and 2012 was the height of when hybrid apps were considered the ultimate strategy for cross-platform development.

LinkedIn was probably the biggest supporter of this strategy back in 2012. It came as a big shock when they moved over to native applications just a year later citing issues with running out of memory in-app.

Wikipedia Mobile is in need of a native rewrite. And if job postings are any indication, they’re looking to hire some iOS devs to make it happen.

The App Itself

Since “Content is King” and Wikipedia’s content is among the most vast and unique in the world, the current mobile app does this job very well.

Other things done well:

Some things that could be better:

An Awesome Future

The app needs a re-write to bring it up to modern standards. With the impending release of iOS 8 the app will look more and more dated as time goes by.

The upcoming WKWebView framework in iOS 8 will (finally) allow for full speed rendering of all web content. This could help immensely for large pages.

A interesting idea for the future might be an app aimed specifically at Wikipedia Editors. An app that allows you to view edits on watched pages, includes edit functionality as well as ways of getting involved in discussions could be a great tool.

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