Wikia CEO Gil Penchina yesterday about the most recent re-design of the Wikia site. I wanted to know their goals and what progress the company has made towards that vision. The site'’s rebuild takes advantage of recent technology advances, uses a more Web 2.0 style interface and has better navigation tools. According to Gil, these latest improvements are geared to provide an overall better experience for Wikia users. Some of the aspects that have been added are: simplified editing, voting functionality, a new skin, photo tagging, YouTube video uploads, a simpler two column format and last but not least, a new logo.I talked with
A Thriving Wikia
Sometimes I think we take the very best of the Web for granted. Wikia and its renowned cousin Wikipedia are often the most valuable sources of information we use, yet they always seem to be upstaged by more mercurial sites. Wikia is a for-profit company founded by Jimmy Wales, one of the Web’'s most renowned entrepreneurs and the founder of Wikipedia. Wikia was originally founded under the name Wikicities by Wales and Co-Founder Angela Beesley in 2004.
The Wikia communities create free content via the MediaWikia software. CEO Gil Penchina reiterated the vision of Wikia in our conversation yesterday: “To be the definitive, unbiased resource of the Web.” According to Penchina, Wikia is exactly on course with the growth rate Wikipedia has demonstrated and the site currently receives from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of visitors each day.
Wikia vs. Wikipedia
Aesthetics and Content View-ability
The Wikia site has always been rather striking and it remains so, in that sort of familiar Wiki way we have grown accustomed to. The two column format actually helps one to spatially organize the information better and therefore navigate more easily. Centering the content and moving the tools and edit functions to the right adds greatly to the user’s viewable content area. It takes a minute or two to get comfortable with, after being familiar with the 3 column layout, but it really does allow more space for the tons of categories and navigation links. New users will view the new skin, but all users have the option to revert to the traditional Wikia skin at any time.
Tools and Web 2.0
Based on user feedback gained via polls, Wikia has supplied what their users voted as their most desirable improvements/additions. The core tools and links combined with graphical images and new elements have been consolidated on the right to simplify navigation, add function and to help new users to find their way around Wikia.
I noticed that these tool elements can also be dragged and dropped to a user’s preference too. Outside of simplified navigation and reorganized spatial considerations, Wikia users will find themselves at home as processes have simply been streamlined and accentuated with the YouTube, sharing and voting aspects.
Notes and Conclusions
These recent changes might seem a little underwhelming to many people, but it is very important to take note of what Wikia is in relation to our more “Hollywood” type communities. As Gil mentioned early in our conversation, the goal of this community is to become everyone’s resource for “unbiased” information and online experiences, within their personal interests. Gil told me that Wikia currently has over 40,000 pages of content relating to Star Wars alone and another 33,000 dealing with WOW. These subjects may not be for everyone, but the shear weight of all that information on relatively obscure topics is illustrative of a community dedicated to people and their passions.
I asked Gil if Wikia is where he thought it should be right now, and he related a question he asked Jimmy Wales when interviewing for his current position. Gil asked Wales if he thought lightning could strike twice in the same place, to which Wales obviously replied yes. Gil’'s answer to me reflected his genuine appreciation and amazement at yet another lightning strike at Wikia. These visions of Jimmy Wales’ occupy what could be argued as the true heart of user generated excellence. In the final analysis, Wikipedia and Wikia are about the hundreds of thousands of talented and inspired people who make up a great community. What is Wikia? Think of Wikipedia as a great reference book in an immense library, while Wikia is the library.