Why was the complexity slider used in the first versions of the EoL website removed?


early versions of the EoL website had a complexity slider which allowed users to change the presentation of the article from simple (common names, less information) to complex (scientific names, more details), which seemed like a very interesting and innovative way of dealing with the diversity of user expectations. I work on another educational project (Wikipedia) and this feature is occasionally mentioned in discussions as an interesting approach to serving both users who want easily accessible content and those who want more advanced information.

However, it seems the feature was removed after a relatively short time (archive.org snapshots suggest some time around 2010). I realise it is a bit of a stretch to ask for information on website changes a decade after they happened, but I would be very grateful if you could give me any pointers on why this was decided (was it hard on authors? not useful for readers?) or who might know more about this.

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Good question! Many of the decisions we make have to do with the tradeoff of effort/maintainability and user impact. As I recall (I was new at the time) a lot of our pages did not change substantially when the slider was manipulated- we just didn’t have enough variation in content available to reliably offer this tool. We could often count on common in addition to scientific names, but if that was all that was available, it was not hard to find room to display both, and helping people make that connection is part of our mission. The vision had been that there would also be a range of other types of content for the selector to choose from, but coverage just didn’t support that.

Even if your data are like that, you can design around it to offer this kind of tool where it is helpful, but that’s more work and more computation…

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