With the approaching Oasis apocalypse right around the corner (Oasisocolypse? Wikiadammerung? Oh screw it), more and more wiki-toadies are coming out of the woodwork to say "I DON'T SEE ANYTHING RONG WITH TEH SKIN". Sadly things like Logic are a bit difficult to convey when people are shouting "teal deer" all the time, and for the users who come afterwards and don't know why there's so many abandoned wikis laying around, I figured it was time for some charts.
Now the new abomination... really has some good features, I'm not going to lie. If this thing was fluid width and had a few other tweaks, it's be a real contender to make me stay, blatant infringement of creative commons or not. Now since mediawiki is an open source platform I thiiiink that they have to release Osais as open-source as well, so if anyone wanted to change it into something workable, please contact me, because I'm working on using a new skin for my hosted wiki. So let's get a look at this little skin. Let's see what works, and what fails more then me trying to walk after I got hit by a car.
Say what you will about how branding is evil... But I don't hate this. It bundles the user controls and the other zones of Wikia in one place, so if you need to go to other wikis fast, it's not a big hassle. I can't really agree with removing the myhome features, but that's another argument for another day.
Call it a wordmark, logo, or whatever, it's the little image that shows what your wiki is about. I honestly can't complain about this one much either. It sucks terribly when all the work you've done on a logo is reduced to looking like crap, however Wikis are about the content inside the article space. So a reduction in flash for more substance isn't a bad trade off. Sadly they didn't apply this to the page width, but we're getting to that.
4 Banner ad:
Again, I don't hate this. I'd rather have placement for ads that flow with the layout then have them jammed into the article itself. In addition I've found that horizontal banner ads bug me less then vertical ads for some reason.
I honestly like this here. My big gripe about editing in Monaco is that suddenly if my mouse drifts to the side that I may accidentally mouse over the navigation and it'll unfold on me. The problem I have is that in Oasis it doesn't have sub-branches. You can condense every major navigation component into about four (though five or six would be better) tabs with sub-branches. Without branches the entire thing becomes a nightmare and then you have to link all the important things onto the main page. Then it becomes cluttered and people only see it once when they come in.
6 Attract/10 Edit info:
"Attract" in the video game and entertainment industry, is that little thing that entices you to come in and look at product X. You ever hear a demonstration of a video game or new toy off in the distance as you're in a mall? That's an attract. Ever smell a nice steak as you're considering where you're going to eat? That's also an attract. Attracts need to catch your attention, while not being annoying, a bit of mental roach bait, if you will. In this case Wikia's attracts are the little "random wiki" and "create a wiki" buttons on the pages. The "who's editing" vaguely counts as a attract/history button, but it honestly isn't very good at either. The other buttons work well and I don't have a problem with them
7 Title/8 Page Options/9 Search:
I like the title here, it makes it stand out more then on Monaco. Also I like the page options as a drop-down button. Search is also in a good place. In general the top part of Oasis is rather well-designed, and it has a nice look to it... unlike the article space. It's not unlike a date who focused on making their hair and face look nice, while forgetting they were still wearing their grease-stained wifebeater and faded jeans.
And heeeere's where it starts to go south. Now at first I didn't mind the right-aligned sidebar, but after looking at a lot of pages with infoboxes, it does end up looking cluttered. On top of that the widget area doesn't hold any actual widgets that people can disable. Now Wikia said the reason that they're removing the widget carousel is because of a lack of use, but if they made an option for admins to set the default widgets for people to see (and made developing for them more user-friendly), then I bet they would have been used a lot more. They're not making these little monstrosities removable, so why didn't they do that in the first place? My ideal answer? Create a separate div here that people can customize/add to in css, and add the Mediawiki Widget extention to the server. This way admins can develop what they want their users to see, and users can override the admin's choices in their personal css. You have a oversized sidebar? Use it for something people want.
12 Video ad:
I hate video ads with a passion, but at least it's here rather then in the article space. I honestly don't believe the bs about how Wikia couldn't talk to their sponsors about getting the darn thing reduced in size. "people practically mutinied the last time we did it, and they're leaving now" seems like a good incentive to compromise if I wanted to advertise with someone. Either that or the people who handle the advertisers are in fact semi-sentient hunks of bacon.
13 Spotlights/16 More spotlights:
I know they want to sell other users about what's on the site, but horizontal spotlights at the bottom work so much better then the ones on the side. I'd say they should have one spotlight on the side, if they're going to do it at all.
This is it kids, the thing you've been waiting for. Practicably everything about the failure of the new skin is in this little field. Firstly the fixed-width tripe is just that, an excuse on par with the left-over cow innards from yesterday. If this thing is made for older monitors I have some bad news for them. I'm on a older monitor and it looks like the mess said cow laid out as it kacked. Fixed width is used on facebook and brochure-type business sites for a reason. Content there is entirely for show or small snippets of information. People don't go on facebook to read a novel's worth of information. They go on there to post short messages and play amazingly addictive flash games. On a major company's website they're trying to sell you something, they don't want you to read much, just enough for you to get the impression they wanted to send. Oasis is fine on small articles and the front page because of that: there's not much information. However the more info you put in an article, and the more pictures, charts, or infoboxes, the more it becomes unreadable.
Now I mentioned that the layout looks like a decaying bull's watered-down fecal matter on my monitor, but how does it look on the World of Warcraft wiki? Answer: worse. Yes that's right, increasing the article size just means I have to scroll horizontally now too, instead of just vertically. This is a designers nightmare. And what's worse, they could have solved the problem in a better way. A simpler, better option would be to make the sidebar/exc area float right, so the text wraps around it once the bar ends, much like how the text here wraps around the picture. It doesn't fix the matter of not being fluid-width, but it utilizes the space available. Dear god this thing is a mess, but there are at least ways to make it manageable.
Everything from here on fits in the "eh, I'm neutral about it" area. I hate that floating footer so much, but at the same time it doesn't affect me much on short pages and on a longer page I tend to scroll down once I hit the halfway page mark anyway. No my big issue is that adding anything useful to it is a pain in a half. I can't just add something to it with a few helpful suggestions. No I have to find the page, type it in, and then hope that it magically adds it to the toolbar. So far, it hasn't. So yes, out of all my issues with the skin, there was one, one thing I got used to. Congrats Wikia, it only took you alienating a good chunk of your users to prove that you were right on one minor point. I am clapping as slowly as I can.
Now I've gone over a lot of comparisons already, so I'm just more going to point out some of the defining features of this skin.
Right there where you need it, but in gets in the way. Also I would have liked it if you could embed templates in the navigation. If I could have done that then I wouldn't have raged so much at the fail support for widgets. All in all it's simple, it works, but it could use improvement.
These are more out of place the further down you go. They don't occur naturally enough to do their job well, and so that small "pull" that an attract is supposed to have entirely falls flat. In addition while it's easier to get to the staff blogs on this skin, getting around Wikia in general is a bit more cumbersome. You really do feel like each wiki is separate, which is both a good and a bad thing.
God I hate the ads in this layout. Intrusive to the nth degree and they actively get in the way of some of the features. Whoever thought that ads should go before the widgets and in the middle of the article should be dragged out into the street and clubbed with a dead seal pup.
Needs more widgets that the admin can enable. Ones that'll show up by default, but users can turn off and on at will. Other then that, it's great.
Is freaking perfect. It's fluid-width, it flows naturally (the side bar on the left), the information is there and not cramped, what freaking more do you want?
I can live with it. Not great, but not horrible either.
Could they have made Oasis better? Of course they could've. In fact it could have been a major step forward when it comes to wiki skins. It has a lot of good features, but just the execution of those features cripples the entire thing. The problem is that it only looks good on one kind of wiki, the ones with short pages, one pretty picture, and not much else. it doesn't translate well to academic wikis. It doesn't look good on wikis that use a lot of tables or images. It's like one of those flash sites that look pretty, but don't do much other then that. The sad thing is that it could be fixed, and should be fixed, but the people who could provide good constructive advice are mostly gone now. If Wikia hadn't resorted to censorship, banning, overly-slick PR talk, and swallowed their pride about this thing, they could've had a rockin' new look for wikia. But now?
Now they only have spineless, boot-licking fans that don't know to concrit to save their life, and the people who stay on only to make sure their wiki doesn't get adopted. Do you really think any of those people are going to willingly contribute anything of value to this site now?