Last year, I was redesigning the main page for new wikis, and I noticed a weird thing. There was a line on the main page that said "This wiki was founded in (Month) (Year)." I looked at what people were doing on that page, and I found that a number of people were filling in the month and year, but keeping the parentheses, like this: "This wiki was founded in (March) (2008)." Seriously. That happened a lot.
People did the same thing in the Featured article section. There was a message in italics -- Add your featured article in this box! People added their featured article... and they wrote it all in italics.
What I learned was: If you're going to give people a format, don't give them the wrong idea about how to fill it out. It might seem obvious to me that they're supposed to take the parentheses away... but a new wiki founder (who's nervous about doing things right) is grateful for anything that looks like instructions.
So we launched a new "Create a new article" feature in February, which added an option for a "Standard layout" for newly-created pages. This format follows a typical wiki page -- a picture on the right, an introduction and a couple of sections -- set out in a way that a newer contributor can follow along.
On newly-created wikis, I've been seeing mixed results. A lot of people are using the standard layout the way that we'd hoped; adding a picture and filling in the sections. A minority of people just fill in one of the sections, and don't change anything else, so the page ends up looking half-finished. There are also a lot of people on new wikis creating a bunch of new pages, and not editing them at all -- so it's hard to tell if the standard layout is helping them, or not.
So I'd like to ask for some feedback from the community. What are you seeing around Wikia? What's been happening on the wikis where you're active?
When contributors use the Create a new article feature, do they use the image placeholder and the section headings, or do they leave parts of it untouched? Knowing your wiki as well as you do -- does it feel like this feature has encouraged new contributors, or confused them?
I'd love to hear about what you're seeing out there on the wikis! We're always trying to make our wikis more accessible so that new writers can join in and add their knowledge -- your feedback on this will help a lot.
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