In the beginning, there was wikitext. Way back at the end of the last century, who might have suspected that this novel markup language would one day be the framework for the amazing array of fan communities that comprise Wikia, or the vast repository of human knowledge that is Wikipedia? As platforms for collaboration grow and evolve, the tools we use to contribute to them have to do the same. For almost two years, Wikia and the Wikimedia Foundation have been working together on an editing experience that's elegant, intuitive and most importantly, shows the user what the published page will really look like. Today we're excited to announce the first beta release of the VisualEditor feature on Wikia.
Making a first edit on a Wikia community should be a streamlined and straightforward experience. The new user should feel that the tools provided set them up for a successful edit. As most of us know, learning the ins and outs of wikitext can take a little while. And even in our current visual editing mode, those green puzzle pieces that stand in for infoboxes and templates can be a little…puzzling. The ideal experience for newer users is something that's truly WYSIWYG, which is what's expected from a text editor in this day and age. It's also important that things work just as well in the other direction – edits made in a visual mode should not produce unintended changes in the source code.
You can see how VisualEditor works by editing articles (and creating your own) on the Community Test Wikia. This is a beta release, focused primarily on text editing and changes to the existing layout. There's a smooth and elegant transition between reading and editing, even at the section level, that keeps the user focused on the content while providing the tools they need to make an update. You'll still see every part of the article while editing, even if some elements can't be changed yet. There's lots more to come soon, like a redesigned flow for adding images or videos, and the ability to switch between VisualEditor and source mode during your edit. What if you want to check things out in source mode? The current Wikia editing experience is still available, just choose "Classic editor" from the "Edit" drop-down menu and you'll find tabs for source and the older visual editing option there.
Wikitext editing won't be going away, but once the new VisualEditor has all the features you need (and some new ones too), we'll be retiring Wikia's current visual option. We're focusing on improving the experience for newer users, but it's likely that more seasoned Wikians will also find benefits in this new editor once it gets a wider release. Even if you're an experienced editor who prefers wikitext all the time, you can think back to the days when you were taking your first editing steps and just wanted to fix a typo or add a few sentences. We're opening the doors for a new generation of fans and contributors, and making sure they're able to confidently stick around and keep enriching the content that we all love.
You can find a few more technical details in the Community Central Forum and on the VisualEditor Help page. We're looking forward to hearing your feedback and answering your questions. Let us know what you think! We'll follow up soon with another blog post focusing on some of the under-the-hood aspects of VisualEditor, how it works and where we're heading next.
Note: The VisualEditor beta release is very limited at this time, and is on a separate release cycle from Fluid Layout.