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Introducing Updated Global Navigation

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Greetings Wikians. My name is Chris, aka Rupert Giles, and I’m a Product Manager at Wikia. Over the past several months the team I’m working on has been experimenting with a lot of new and updated features. One of those features, global navigation, is nearly ready for a site-wide rollout, and I wanted to give you a sneak preview.

There were a few goals we tried to accomplish with the new navigation - get more users to search, expose users to our new content hubs, and lastly to provide a consistent experience across screens and devices.

Search is one of the most important features on Wikia today. Due to the passion and dedication of our fans we have over 300,000 communities and 32,000,000 pages of content. Many of these communities are so large that it is effectively impossible to find what you are looking for without search. Today there are over 2200 communities with more than 1000 articles. The Lyrics Wikia has over 2,000,000 articles! That’s astounding.

The new navigation puts search front and center by fixing the global navigation to the top as you scroll down, allowing you to search for content no matter where you are on the page. In addition we’ve provided users with the ability to search for other communities by toggling the input field.

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Secondly, we relaunched and expanded the number our content hubs to better reflect the diversity of our communities on Wikia - growing from three vertical Hubs (Gaming, Entertainment and Lifestyle) to seven (Games, TV, Movies, Comics, Music, Books, and Lifestyle). To make it easier and encourage you to participate - get your community promoted and involved - each new hub exists as a wikia, connecting you directly with the marketing and community development teams that program the Hubs.

Starting today, you can see all seven new hubs appear in our new navigation across English and Spanish in beta communities that we have listed below. The expanded hubs, with Entertainment broken out into TV, Movies, Comics, Music, and Books, have also launched in French, Polish, and Japanese. With the new navigation, you'll easily be able to find amazing communities, programs, and articles across all of Wikia. Check it out.

Finally, as part of a broader initiative to upgrade the user experience around Wikia, we updated the look and feel of the navigation to be more consistent across all communities, screens, and devices. Our audience is increasingly moving to mobile devices and we wanted to make sure to provide high quality support no matter how you view Wikia. This new navigation will better adapt to your screen size by adjusting the widths of things like the search box or the “Start a wikia” button.

The new global navigation is currently live on a handful of beta communities. You can try it out here:

We will keep the beta live for 1-2 weeks. After that, we will make a few minor adjustments and fix any bugs that might pop up before rolling it out Wikia-wide. You will then see the new global navigation across all languages.

We’ve got much more in the works including updating local navigation and a new search results page. I can’t wait to share our progress with you so be on the lookout for more posts in the future.

Feel free to share any feedback you have in the comments or on the respective communities. Bugs can be reported to Special:Contact.


Update 10.13

The global navigation beta ends today. It will be taken down on all the communities listed above, but will remain up on Community Central. Thank you again to everyone for your feedback!

Update 10.17

Hey everyone. First off, I want to thank all of you here and on the beta communities for providing a ton of great feedback. It’s helped us identify quite a few key bugs and areas to focus on moving forward. I can’t thank you enough for helping us out.

I’d like to quickly address a few of the themes I saw emerge from the comments and talk about next steps. The list of items below is by no means exhaustive but these were the most common bits of feedback here and on the individual beta communities.

Size of the navigation

The most common response we saw was that the nav is too large. There are a few ways we can address this issue:

  • Shrink the overall height of the nav and tighten up the elements within
  • Hide the nav as the user scrolls away
  • Hide the nav as the user scrolls away and bring it back when they start to scroll up
  • Leave behind a smaller version of the nav as the user scrolls away
  • A user-based preference that will define the nav behavior

I can’t say for certain which direction we will choose, if any. We are going to keep an eye on key metrics and goals in addition to general user feedback. If we don’t see the numbers move in a positive direction we will test out different solutions to arrive at the best outcome.

Custom theming & CSS

Possibly the second most common feedback was to have the ability to support custom theming on a community by community basis. In this case we made an explicit design choice to use Wikia branding in the header instead of the individual community. The reason being that in early 2015 we plan to roll out a true global site search. This means being able to search for any piece of content no matter where you are. Such an experience effectively necessitates a couple things - that search should be in the global nav and that the nav should have a visually consistent Wikia theme. Were the nav to be styled to match the local community’s theme, that wouldn’t give any indication to the user that you can search for other content.

Note that this only applies to the global CSS. You are still free to update your personal CSS if you would like change your own view of the the navigation.

Notifications

Quite a few of you mentioned that accessing notifications is more difficult in the new nav. We are exploring a few ways to optimize this behavior. In the short term, the simple solution is to automatically open the notifications drop down if you have any to read. This will remove the extra step currently in place. Long term we’d like to take a look at how notifications look and work site wide. The new nav was intended to be a simple reskin of notifications without tackling the functionality in a major way.

Next Steps

So what are the next steps? We are currently fixing the bugs identified as part of the beta period. In addition we’re optimizing the experience based on the feedback and metrics we’ve seen. Once that is complete our intention is to roll the navigation out to the wider audience in either late October or early November.

As with anything we do we will continue to monitor the metrics and feedback and make continued optimizations to the experience. Please don’t hesitate to provide us with that feedback or file a bug at Special:Contact.

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