Wikipedia continues to have separate mobile and desktop sites. Why?

The importance of choice in Wikimedia’s many projects

Wikipedia users have lots of preferences

The MediaWiki watchlist can be customised down to the tiniest of details.
As a logged in user, you can change the entire appearance of Wikipedia via the skin preferences.
Take a step into a time capsule and party like it’s 2010, by opting into the Monobook skin, Wikipedia prior to the most recent redesign. It’s like using the Internet Archive’s wayback machine.

Skins

The history of Wikipedia’s skins

The important of choice

Wikipedia’s main page even today still looks similar to a certain pre-millennial website

Responsive design is not for everyone

Mobile first

The mobile website has been built via mobile-first responsive web design best practices and some people have noticed.
Editor curated tables of links, called “navboxes” and represented here by the Wikipedia article about Georgia, do not render well due to usage of tables, high density of tightly packed links and various expand/collapse controls. At the present time they remain hidden on mobile, a temporary but necessary solution until these can be made mobile friendly.
The mobile website of Wikipedia beats the desktop experience hands down by focusing and building for mobile users and their unique needs. This illustration shows how payload for a page view drastically differs between mobile and desktop on the Facebook Wikipedia article. In particular, the CSS payload is significantly different.
Four different ways our users access Wikipedia on your mobile phone — with and without viewport tags — from top left in clockwise direction: Monobook (pre-2010 desktop skin); Minerva (current mobile skin 2012-present); “Responsive” monobook (pre-2010 desktop skin with viewport tag and minor modifications made in 2018) and Vector (current desktop skin 2010-present).
Clicking desktop link on a mobile device will tell us explicitly that you want the desktop site on future visits.

Closing thoughts — an advanced mobile

Footnotes

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Jon Robson (David Lyall)

Travel fanatic, writer, web dev british hippyster on a mission to make the web all happy with rainbows, unicorns etc