Kudos to the Wikimedia foundation for focusing on the development of a new editor for Wikipedia. During my time at Wikia I stressed the need for a simple editing experience in order to diversify its users and increase contributions. Wikipedia has become the central repository for information in the digital age but it suffers from a small and insular user base among its editors. Today, most contributions to Wikipedia are from white middle-aged males with a college degree, living in a developed country and with a strong technical understanding. This skews both the type of articles that appear on Wikipedia and the perspective which they are written from. The challenge they face is how to expand the demographics of those writing and editing entries. They need to attract more people in developing countries, more woman, and users who are less technically savvy in order to become a true digital encyclopedia representing the the world’s collective knowledge.
Identifying a user’s primary interaction with your website is essential to understanding where to focus a development team’s limited resources. At Google, the search box and corresponding results are so important that the company tests every interaction no matter how minor. During my time at Wikia I continually advocated for the company to focus similar attention on the Rich Text Editor (and source mode) which is used to write, edit, and add images to every article in every wiki. So I’m excited to see that my redesign of the editor has finally made it’s way out of development and onto the site. While this was the last project I worked on at Wikia I always felt it would make the largest impact on the user base.
Wikia Labs, a new feature introduced by Wikia last week, was one of the most exciting features I designed during my time with the company. If you’re familiar with Gmail Labs you’ll understand how it works. Users (specifically admins) on Wikia can turn features on and off – the set consists of Top Ten Lists, Gallery Exhibitions, and Article Comments. This new ability gives administrators a greater level of control over their own wiki. Additional it provides a limited environment for Wikia to launch new features and gather feedback from users. For Wikia’s devoted user base, change can often be scary and invoke a backlash from the most passionate users comfortable with infrastructure currently in place. Wikia Labs serves as a bridge to acclimate users to new tools and gather feedback to ensure the the company is delivering features that are needed and wanted by the community.
Earlier this year the team at Wikia started down the path to redesign their product – a popular wiki hosting platform. Over the summer they brought me on the project as an interaction and visual designer. And just last month we let the redesign loose to a passionate community of select users. Our redesign effort concentrated on making the experience of using a wiki, where a community of users contribute the content, easier. It’s still too early to judge if we accomplished our goal of attracting a larger audience, helping them discover content, and engaging them as editors. However, after a couple weeks, the reactions that we are getting from users are encouraging and we’re excited to continue improving the site.
This bit of work began as a postcard and made its way into a banner hanging from the San Francisco Ferry Building on the occasion of Wikia’s Food & Tech event. The logo was a piece of work we put together for the Healthy Recipes team at Wikia a few weeks ago. The event, which took place on Sunday October 10th, saw a handful of local chefs serving up their culinary delights and an esteemed panel discussing technology’s role in shaping the food we eat. It always puts a smile on my face to see my work placed in the context of tangible moments like these.