Now and then, we like to give the community a chance to get to know people at Wikia who don't post on the staff blog regularly. Today I’ll be talking with Emily Massa, one of Wikia's User Experience Designers, about her most recent project, the updated design for the Wikia Mobile experience that was released in December 2013.
What were the goals that you wanted to achieve with this new design?
When I first started on the project, I wanted to focus on a couple of the core elements that make up the mobile article experience: the content and the user’s means of moving through it. The information architecture is crucial, as it determines how a user will interact with the site. I improved the Table of Contents, so that it is much more functional while still feeling clean and easy to use. With this change, we have the ability to navigate to all sections of an article’s content, no matter how short or long, with just a single tap. All sections of each article page are now expanded by default, so it is much easier to read with a continuous scroll. And keeping up with the latest trends, I refreshed the overall look to abide by flat design philosophy. In summary, I wanted to keep things simple and easy to digest, and I believe we have achieved our original goals with the latest mobile web refresh.
What were some of the challenges that you faced?
Real estate, real estate, real estate. That’s one thing all designers struggle with when converting a desktop site into a mobile one. When trying to display all the information you would normally display on a big monitor down to a tiny screen, we need to start picking and choosing exactly what’s the most important. For instance, I’ve wrestled with the big tables and long info boxes and condensed them down to mobile friendly versions. But that’s kind of the beauty of it—you have to really prioritize and end up with the essentials.
Needless to say, we have a complex site that encompasses many different subject matters (from gaming to food), contains many different features (from communication tools to article editing tools), and serves many different kinds of users (from newcomers to seasoned veterans). It becomes a challenge to balance all of these different variables. To simplify decision making, we really have to focus on primary use cases. Most mobile readers are going to be new to Wikia. How can we entice them to come back, make it clear to them that the site is generated by users like you? Most mobile editors will be advanced Wikia users. How can we make their jobs easier? These are questions we ask ourselves everyday.
Lastly, this is a fast-moving industry—especially when it comes to mobile. This means that even though we make plans, we often have to make quick adjustments and sometimes we even have to abandon entire plans. An example is the iOS 7 release last Fall which changed Safari mobile quite a bit. We now have to be much more careful in placing elements on the left edge of the screen because swiping from the left edge of the screen in mobile Safari will actually bring you to the previous page. We are still making adjustments in this case. But I can’t complain too much. All of this makes my job that much more interesting.
Where do you look for inspiration when you’re creating designs for Wikia?
At the end of the day, it’s our users who we want to design for, so I can say they are the biggest factor in my inspiration. It’s fascinating to watch how people use our applications day-to-day and to draw from that source of unexpectedness to make improve and innovate. In addition, what better way than to download all of people’s favorite mobile apps and to learn what’s so great about them—so much so that I ran out of storage on my phone!
What do you like about working for Wikia and what are your favorite Wikia communities?
The amazing people that I work with and all of the mobile challenges that we face everyday. For my favorite wikia, I have to say Big Bang Theory. Sheldon is hilarious!
What creative work do you do outside of Wikia, and where can users see more of your work?
I’ve been doing a couple of mobile projects outside of Wikia with my boyfriend. Luckily, he is an engineer so we get to combine forces and make our silly ideas come true. I also do identity design and branding on the side. You can see some of my work at http://emilywkmassa.com.
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