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The Future of Infoboxes on Wikia

Ducksoup August 19, 2015 User blog:Ducksoup

Hey y'all! A few weeks ago, I talked with you about how Wikia makes product decisions in order to evolve, to maintain a modern platform, and to keep up with industry standards and consumer expectations. (You can see my blog about that here.) Today, we're taking another big step in the evolution of Wikia. Specifically, we're talking about the future of Infoboxes on Wikia. This may seem like a small part of the platform, but, as I'll explain here, Infoboxes are an important part of Wikia and we've made some important changes to how they’re created.

Infoboxes are everywhere on Wikia; they’re a key part of our traffic. Pages that include at least one infobox comprise about 60% of traffic in every individual community. And that’s for good reason! Infoboxes are popular because they’re a simple, powerful way to summarize a community's content.

So why are Infoboxes important? In a word: mobile. I shared a graph in my forum post about Infoboxes a couple weeks back, and I want to share it here as well:

Wikia mobile traffic growth

Mobile is the future. Not just for Wikia, but for the web as a whole. Take a look at the recent trends and future growth predictions for mobile traffic - it's staggering.

Infoboxes are special here because not only are they integral to Wikia, but their wikitext and styling simply don’t translate well to devices that aren’t a desktop or laptop. We’ve used “hacky” solutions for a long time - one engineer says a workaround was “does it have two columns? Then it’s an infobox.” - but the time has come for us to have a real, sustainable solution.

The key takeaway here is that Wikia traffic is changing, and infoboxes need to change with it.

The new type of infobox - we like to call them Portable Infoboxes because the markup allows any infobox to be ported to any device - is simple, functional, and does some neat tricks that the old markup doesn’t. For example, you won’t need extra code to auto-hide empty rows and groups, and all images will be converted to the correct size on the back end. We also made sure that a custom class can be added to each template, so styling will be quick and easy. They're also very similar in design to current infoboxes, with the primary changes being behind the scenes.

In order to make adopting Portable Infoboxes as easy as possible, we have developed a migration tool that will quickly and easily convert your current Infoboxes into Portable Infoboxes. That tool is live now - just navigate to any of your Infobox templates and take a look at the right rail. You can also visit Special:Insights on any of your wikias for a broader view of which infoboxes need to be migrated.

We will also be answering questions and fielding requests over the coming weeks. We want to set up biweekly “livechats” in the Getting Technical section of the forum. If you’re there during the to-be-announced days and hours, we’ll be able to answer questions quickly, while making sure that everyone who wasn’t there still has access to our responses. The times and dates for those will be announced soon.

This is a big step, and we want to thank the community for spending time working with us on this. We developed a framework, then opened the discussion to you, and your feedback was tremendously helpful. The end result is a product that will play a critical role in ensuring your content can be consumed anywhere, on any device.

Wikia is The Social Universe For Fans, By Fans, and we know that steps like this are what will keep your communities as the center of the fan universe for years to come. This is a big undertaking, but it will pay dividends. This migration will ensure that your work can be seen by anyone, on any device, from now until Cthulu's return. Tablets, tiny phones, giant phablets, Oculus Rift, tickers in Times Square; it makes your work native to any platform.

I’ll be answering as many questions as I can in the comments. Thanks for reading, and as the Elves of Witcher would say, va faill!

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