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Best Practices for Structuring your Wiki Categories, Namespaces and Navigation

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Aired April 20, 2012

This webinar provides an overview of how to set up a good framework for categories, namespaces and navigation so that its easy for users to find relevant content and helps editors say organized.

Slides & Transcript

Apr Webinar slide 01

Best Practices for Structuring your Wiki

Welcome to the April Webinar on Best Practices for Structuring your Wiki. I’m Sarah Manley a community manager at Wikia and today we have with us Brandon Rhea, another Wikia Community Manager.

So what do we mean by structuring your wiki? We are referring setting up a good framework for categories, namespaces and navigation so that its easy for users to find relevant content and helps editors say organized.

Apr Webinar Slide02

A couple of definitions for you so we are all on the same page

  • Categories - A category is a group of pages with a similar theme, such as characters, books, or places. You can add a category link to any page, and it will automatically be listed on a category page with other similarly linked pages.
  • Namespaces - Namespaces are a basic part of mediawiki, and allow for specific types of content to be grouped together within a specific area on the wiki. These groups are listed and searched separately, and each page on the wiki can belong to only one namespace. An example is the User namespace, where all user pages live.
  • Navigation - Wiki navigation is the group of links found on top of all pages that provides links to the most important pages on your wiki. This group acts as the guide to the most important and interesting pages on your wiki. Today we will be chatting about our new expanded wiki navigation.

Apr Webinar Slide03

In this webinar we are going to focus on best practices and tips for setting up categories, namespaces and navigation. Brandon, who is Wikia Community Manager but started first as a bureaucrat on the Star Wars Fanon Wiki, will focus on categories and namespaces and then I will talk more about wiki navigation. Remember you can ask questions at any time, so feel free to submit them. We will have a Q&A at the end of our presentation.

Apr Webinar Slide04

Hi Everyone! I have been a member of Wikia since 2006, and have spent a lot of time with the Star Wars Fanon community to ensure we have a clear, understandable and accessible wiki structure. A big part of that has been a focus on categories. Categories help organize the wiki and make it easier for readers to find related content.

Apr Webinar Slide05
Intro to Categories

Since you can create a wiki on any topic you want, there is no specific type of category you have to have. Categories are generally wiki specific, but there are a set of default categories that do come with your wiki. In this slide you can see a list of the default categories that come when you start a wiki. You can also find them by visiting Special:Allpages and then filtering the namespace dropdown by categories.

Apr Webinar Slide06
Default Categories

You should review the default categories and decide which work for your wiki. I would also recommend thinking about what are the major elements of your topic, and create categories for them on your wiki. So for example, if you wiki is on a tv show, you could create a category for characters, episodes and seasons. You could also think about more specific details to your topic, and add those. If say you have a wiki about food, you may want to create categories for ingredients or types of cuisines. I highly recommend starting a conversation with your community about categories they think make sense - that way everyone uses the correct version. Having the most popular names and commonly used terms is generally the best way to ensure that most people find and use the category name you choose.

Apr Webinar Slide07
Wiki specific categories

Ideally every wiki page should be in at least one category. As you may know, categories can get added both in edit mode and in reading mode. An important aspect to note when you are adding categories is to try to use categories that already exist. As you start to type, a dropdown of existing categories that start with the same letters will appear. If you see the category you planned to use, select it. This will help avoid spelling errors or confusion. If you don’t see the category, then you can add a new one there. After you do so, I recommend you go to that category page to fill in a description of what it is for.

Apr Webinar Slide08

As you might be thinking, maintaining categories can be tedious. The key thing to remember in the beginning is to keep things as simple as possible. You don’t need a lot of categories on a wiki that’s just starting out, so don’t get too complex. If your topic is a TV show, then stick to the basics like I said before—characters, episodes, and seasons.

As your wiki grows, your category structure can too, and it will most likely happen naturally. Characters can branch into additional categories like Main Characters, Supporting Characters, Former Characters, Dead Characters, and so on. That leads us into what’s called sub-categories.

Apr Webinar Slide09

A category page itself can be in another category. This is what we call a sub-category. So, using my previous example, a wiki that’s grown a bit might have a category called "Characters" with sub-categories for Minor Characters, Dead Characters, and Main Characters.

So how do these categories become sub-categories? That’s simple. In the same way you can categorize a page, you can categorize a category. If you categorize Main Characters with the category Characters, then Main Characters becomes a sub-category of Characters. Sub-category is basically a simple way of saying “a category within a category.”

Apr Webinar Slide10

Sub-categories are how your category structure can become more complex as the wiki grows. The original categories like Characters, Episodes, and Seasons can be thought of as the “root categories”—all other categories eventually lead back to it, just like the highest branches of a tree eventually lead back to the roots.

In order to make sure that it doesn’t become too chaotic, you’ll want to keep your category tree organized. Let’s use Star Wars as an example. Say you have a category called Jedi Knights, which could be categorized as Characters. Jedi Knights is a very broad category that can be used for almost any time in the Star Wars universe, so you may want to make more specific categories. You could create additional categories, such as one for Jedi Knights who lived during the Republic and Jedi Knights who lived during the Empire. You want to make sure both of those categories are categorized as Jedi Knights. That way, they both lead back to Jedi Knights, with Jedi Knights leading back to Characters.

Sarah will talk about the wiki navigation feature in a few minutes, but a key thing to remember is that a clear category structure can be the core and most detailed navigational structure your wiki can have. If every category eventually leads back to your core categories, then you know that your wiki has a great and organized navigational structure that anyone can follow.

Apr Webinar Slide11
Category Policies

Once you have created the structure for the categories, you may want to consider creating some basic policies so that this structure is maintained and kept organized. You don’t want too complex a policy. So for example, you could include a section in your general Manual of Style about categories. This policy can be as simple as, “All pages and categories must be categorized in appropriate and relevant categories.” It’s simple, but effective.

If you want to add more explanation to that in a way that suits your wiki, by all means do so. Just remember to keep it simple, because the simpler it is then the easier it is for people to understand and follow.

Apr Webinar Slide12

Having a clean category structure helps with other Wikia extensions - most specifically related pages. Related pages appear at the bottom of a page under the title “Read more”. They provide a recommendation for other similar pages a reader may be interested in. It’s a great tool to get readers to stay longer and explore more of your wiki.

Apr Webinar Slide13
Category Galleries

Other category features you will notice are galleries and exhibition. These features provide a more visual display of the pages in a category on the category page. Category galleries show the most popular pages in a category and let readers know what pages other editors and readers go to the most. Category Exhibition replaces the older category view of listing the names of all of the pages in a category and shows the names of the pages, along with an image from that page, giving the reader a better sense of what the page is about. Category galleries are enabled by default on all newly created wikis, and Category Exhibition can be turned on in Wiki Features. Be sure to check it out!

Apr Webinar Slide14

Now lets chat briefly about namespaces. Remember, namespaces are sections within a wiki that allow for specific types of content to be grouped together within a specific area. By default, every wiki has 18 namespaces, and 2 special namespaces. Every page on your wiki is within one of these namespaces, and can only be in just one.

So which might you already know? User, talk, file, category, forum and help are the most commonly used. The namespace of a page is indicated by the word preceding the colon in the page title. For example, "Talk:Pagename" is a page in the "talk" namespace. If there is no prefix the page belongs to the "Main" or "article" namespace of that wiki.

Apr Webinar Slide15
Custom Namespaces

So why do namespaces exist? Namespaces are used for the following reasons:

  • they allow separation of different kinds of content;
  • they allow control of which content is indexed by search engines and provide a way to limit searches to specific types of pages
  • they can be set up so some special features apply only to specific namespaces
  • allow easy exporting.

Custom namespaces can be created in a wiki if the standard ones do not meet the needs of that Wikia project. You may see these on bigger wikis and they are used to provide a specific use case there. Only staff can create custom namespaces, so you can request they be created by sending us a message at Special:Contact.

Apr Webinar Slide16

When it comes to namespaces, we recommend working within the default, and encouraging your community to use the appropriate namespace for different types of pages. Just like with categories, you don’t want to have too many to the point that things become disorganized. Remember, the creation of a new namespace essentially creates a new section of the wiki. The more sections something has, the more complex its structure is going to be—and making something overly-complex can start to make it confusing.

If you want to add a new namespace, first think about whether there are other ways to accomplish what you’re going for. If there are, thats great! Go with that and keep it within the existing namespaces. If not, you can request a new namespace. Just send the staff an e-mail and you’ll be good to go!

Apr Webinar Slide17

Thanks Brandon for sharing your tips for categories and namespaces. I will now provide some tips on how to set up your wiki navigation.

Apr Webinar Slide18
Wiki navigation

As I mentioned in the beginning, the wiki navigation is found at the top of every page on your wiki. There are currently two available types of navigation on Wikia - the standard wiki navigation and the expanded wiki navigation. Many of these tips can be applied to either type of navigation, but I will focus on the expanded navigation today. If you don’t yet have it on your wiki, you can activate it in Wikia Labs. (NOTE: this is now a site wide feature)

Apr Webinar Slide19

So lets start just by reviewing the parts of the navigation. You will see here on the FFXI, the navigation is on the top of the page and includes 5 main tabs. The first is the default “On the wiki” tab which includes links to wiki activity, random page, new photos, and if chat is enabled on your wiki, a link to chat. The following 4 tabs are all chosen and curated by the admins on FFXI.

Apr Webinar Slide20

Next to the main navigation links is the contribute and share buttons, both of which you can click to have access to additional links. If you find a page interesting, click the share button and you will have the option to share the link on facebook or twitter, or email it to a friend.

When you click on the contribute button, you will be presented with a menu of links. Included her are links to edit the page, add a new page or photo, wiki activity, and if you are an admin, a link to edit the wiki’s navigation.

Apr Webinar Slide21
Allow for 3rd level navigation

he expanded wiki nav allows for you to edit the 4 top level links, add 7 second level links under each one, and then 10 third level links for each of the 7. In total this allows for 280 links to be included in the menu. All of the editing is done in source mode. Once you are done, hit preview and your menu will be run through a menu validator to ensure you don’t have too many links and the text is not wider than the menu area.

Apr Webinar Slide22

Since there are a lot of links you can add and many ways to setup the menu - you should think about which are the most important and put those in a prominent place. The navigation shows up on every page on your wiki, so you want to make sure that the links added are the ones most needed by all users across the wiki.

For the Level 1, we suggest adding the highest level links. For example if you are on a wiki about a tv show, links to Characters or Episodes. In addition to links to the main content areas on your topic, we also recommend providing a space for important community links. This will allow people to easily find help, learn local policies, read recent news and find out more about who the community is.

Assassins Creed Wiki pictured here does a good job of this. Their top level links include Games, which then links to the multiple games within the Assassin’s Creed Franchise. The second tab is Spin offs, which links to smaller games in the franchise that are not part of the main series. Other media provides links to content that is related to Assassin’s Creed but not in the main video games. On the community tab you can find links to the list of admins, wiki projects, wiki news and more.

Apr Webinar Slide23
Magic words

Another trick you can use is the use of Magic Words. A magic word is a symbol recognized by MediaWiki which triggers the software to do something special on the page. You can use these is your navigation to autopopulate some links. Autopopulating will insert links whatever the magic word calls, such as the most visited content or recently changed pages automatically in the navigation. These can be used in both level 2 and 3, and are an easy way for changing content appear all on its own. Ones we recommend trying out are:

  • #category0#: gets pages from the biggest category on a wiki
  • #popular#: gets most popular pages
  • #visited#: gets articles with most visits
  • #newlychanged#: gets recently edited pages
  • #topusers#: gets list of most active users

Apr Webinar Slide24

We recommend that you keep your main links and update them if new important content comes out. You may also want to refresh some links to keep people interested in checking out new areas. Having seasonal or rotating content can help keep people stay engaged. Additional links you may also want to consider adding to your navigation are:

  • Links to current editing drives
  • Updates on policies or recent news
  • Links to help pages
  • Any other area that is important for new users to know about

As with all aspects of a wiki, don’t get caught up with making your navigation perfect from the start. Experiment with different layouts and change up the links when different events or new content is added. A navigation that is up to date will help all users find what they need wherever they are.

Apr Webinar Slide25

We will now answer some questions that have been submitted by the community.

Apr Webinar Slide27

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