Wiki Wrangling

Public Group active 5 years, 12 months ago

Side/Top Navigation

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    Benjamin Miller

    I’m going to start by reposting Maura’s comment as reposted by Liz, so as to separate the navigation discussion from discussion of “deep” content structure more generally. Although it seems clear that at least part of our navigation will have to be content/category-based (though I guess even that can be up for discussion in this thread), there are nonetheless some key tools that people will want access to, regardless of how the content works. What that is, we can discuss here.

    Elizabeth Housley said 2 weeks, 3 days ago:

    Maura messaged me here in the AC and had some ideas she didn’t mind me sharing here:
    “I’ve wondered whether it would be wise to change the right navigation bar a bit? It might be more useful to folks new to the Commons to have the Search and Navigation boxes at the top, followed by Views and Personal Tools. And in the Navigation box, maybe a reordering of links, e.g.,
    Wiki Home
    Create a New Page
    View All Pages
    Bug Reports
    Requested Features
    Recent Changes”

    Benjamin Miller

    I agree with Maura that an update to the side navigation is in order, but I propose that we go further than rearranging the existing deck chairs, most of which seem to be the defaults at the moment. The other wikisites Liz linked us to demonstrate that the contents of the boxes, and the organizing principles of the boxes themselves, are up for grabs. So let’s grab ’em.

    1) I see no reason that the Views options need to take up real estate on the side of the screen; these are often tabs within a given page, and with reason: they are essentially ways of viewing that page’s data and metadata. This is just surface stuff, I know, but it would give us more freedom to have Search *and* Views on-screen from the get-go.

    2) I propose four main side-bar boxes, further explained below: Navigation by Content/Category; Navigation by Group/Creator; Help with Wikis; System Tools. These are place-holder names, of course. We can have search on top.

    3) I don’t think we should have a direct link on the side-bar for Create a New Page. This is just begging for people to create orphaned pages, and then complain that no-one (including themselves) can find them. (And, sure enough, we currently have 61 pages with no links pointing to them.) Instead, we should have a prominent link – perhaps still called “Create a New Page”? – in the Help with Wikis box, leading to text and video that shows people how to edit pages, create links to new pages, and follow those links.

    The Help box can also contain the links for Requested Features, Bug Reports, and the FAQ.

    4) Navigation by Content: MediaWiki allows for nested categories, which can produce trees of directories and subdirectories. If we had some small (3-7) set of top-level content types, users could navigate through the tree to the kind of thing they’re looking for. e.g. Appropedia’s top-level content types are Appropriate Tech, Green Living, Water, etc. When you click on one of these, you get either a brief intro and an expandable tree, or an alphabetical list of subcategories and pages. We could talk elsewhere about how this would work on click-through, and how to design a growth-oriented list of categories.

    5) Navigation by Group/Creator. Could just have links to a few directories: group wikis, contributors, etc. May not be worthwhile, after all.

    6 and beyond) I’m being called back to work – hopefully this gives people some food for thought, to take the conversation further!

    p.s. apologies for the declarative tone… I’m not trying to be bossy, it just saves textspace…


    Ben, your comments are extremely helpful. Some thoughts in response to your points:

    1) I understand what you’re saying about the Views links. Here are a few considerations to counter your very good reasons for moving them back into tabs, as they are on Wikipedia.

    A certain kind of savvy user might expect to see the tabs at the top, but my suspicion (based on a large amount of faculty development sessions I’ve led on the subject of wikis) is that most consumers of material on wikis, and even wiki authors, have no idea that those tabs are there. They are more or less glossed over. Placing them in a sidebar navigation underscores their importance. [You might argue that having them in tabs makes them MORE important, which I agree with, but we must remember the users in question.]

    Maybe this is partly a design issue. The tabs on a Wikipedia page are puny and easy to miss. We might make the tabs more obvious just by styling them differently. I might also suggest that the term “Views” is very opaque. Something like “This page” is, in my view, much more explanatory.

    2) I like this suggested list of boxes. Let me be sure I understand: The links currently under Personal Tools *and* Navigation will be moved under System Tools (perhaps with some consolidation/trimming)?

    3) Agree 100%. I say it all the time to faculty, and it’s nice to hear someone else say it 😀

    4) This section should be dynamic to take account of user created categories. The administrators of the wiki (be it me, Matt, Liz, whoever) should not be charged with creating a category structure. It should be possible to populate the box automatically with a hierarchical list of top-level categories. (That’s how Wikipedia works – and MediaWiki in general, more or less out of the box.) A good job for wiki wrangler might be to go back to uncategorized pages and tenatively apply categories, until the community gets the hang of folksonomy

    5) I’ll be looking at ways of tying together Commons Groups and particular wiki pages very soon.

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