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Fixed Width, Sidebar, and the Removal of Monaco

As we read through the comments on the announcement about the timeline for the new skin, we’re seeing one big theme coming through -- many of you feel like the Wikia staff is ignoring negative comments about the change, and that we’re dodging questions that don’t have easy answers.

We’ve addressed many questions in previous blog posts and the FAQ -- including questions about photo attribution, wordmark, sitenotice, and why we’re implementing the new skin sitewide and removing the Monaco option. However, we recognize that you may not have seen these answers, or if you have, you’d like more details about the reasoning behind some of these decisions. We’ll address a couple of the biggest issues here, and provide more information in an upcoming post about beta feedback next week.

First, we understand that many long-standing members of the Wikia community feel a strong affinity for Monaco. You’ve requested that we leave Monaco as an option, and when we announced that Monaco would be removed on November 3rd, we know that it came as quite a shock. The truth is, we can’t afford to keep Monaco as a skin option. It’s a complex, sophisticated skin that requires more resources to run correctly, and would multiply the work of the technical and community teams. Having multiple skins also creates an inconsistent experience across Wikia, and we want to help people move around the site and feel comfortable contributing to every wiki.

We’ve also seen the strong sentiment against the decision to move to fixed width, and the resulting size of the sidebar and content space. When we started the design process, we knew that there were several problems with Monaco that we had to solve. We’ll explain how the fixed width helps to solve some of those problems.

One big problem with Monaco was that elements on a wiki page could collide with each other in unexpected ways. Veteran wiki editors know how annoying it can be when you discover that the page that you thought was designed so well turns out to have huge empty spaces when it’s viewed on a screen with a different browser resolution. Floating ads can cause that problem -- but it can also happen because of the interaction between thumbnails, galleries, infoboxes, tables and bulleted lists. Essentially: it’s really hard to design a good wiki page if you don’t know how other people see it.

To solve this problem, we created the new look with a fixed width, which gives contributors the ability to create pages that will appear as intended every time, no matter the screen resolution or monitor size.

Implementing fixed width solved the wiki page design problem, but that left the issue of collision with the 300x250 box ad. In order to attract advertisers to our site, we need to have a 300x250 ad near the top of the page -- this is a standard ad unit that we can’t do without. Until now, we’ve floated that ad inside the content space -- a compromise that nobody was happy with. That ad interrupts the flow of the content, and it causes unexpected collisions. We needed to solve that problem, too. We investigated a lot of different options -- and in the end, we found that the best choice was to set the sidebar width to 300 pixels.

The sidebar isn’t just for the ad, though! The sidebar has always been a popular way to showcase the latest content on wikis -- the article titles in the Latest Activity module are the #2 way that people navigate around the site, after the search box. We’re taking that even further by adding modules to showcase the latest photos, new pages, and leaving room for even more creativity in the future.

We agree that the width of the sidebar makes the content space smaller than it used to be on most browsers. Over time, you may find that you want to look at how thumbnails, tables, galleries and infoboxes fit into the new article space on your wiki. The upside of this design is that you can design pages that always look the way you expect.

We understand your concerns about these changes, and we absolutely understand that change is hard -- especially when it concerns a wiki you’ve spent countless hours evolving into something great. That’s why we want to give you some context around the decisions we’ve made. We all have the same goals -- we want your wiki to be amazing. We want to show off the work you’ve done, point people towards the freshest and most exciting content, and encourage new contributors to share their knowledge.

Wikia’s look has been evolving for a long time, and it will continue to grow and change as we keep learning. Strangely enough, the passionate support that people are showing for the Monaco skin makes us a lot more confident. It took people a while to get used to Monaco -- and now lots of people love it. We can’t wait to see the amazing wikis that you build when you start using the new look.


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