Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Infoboxes

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An infobox template is a panel, usually in the top right of an article, next to the lead section, (in the desktop view) or at the very top of an article (in mobile view), that summarizes key features of the page's subject. Infoboxes may also include an image, and/ or a map.

Infoboxes generally use the template software feature. (It is possible to hand-code an infobox using table markup, but this loses the advantages of standardisation and reusability.) The templates have parameters; to work properly, the parameter values have to be specified when the template is inserted in the page. This allows each infobox to show information relevant to the article subject, while requiring only a minimal amount of coding within each article.

Design principles[edit]

Purpose of an infobox[edit]

When considering any aspect of infobox design, keep in mind the purpose of an infobox: to summarize key facts that appear in the article. The less information it contains, the more effectively it serves that purpose, allowing readers to identify key facts at a glance. Of necessity, some infoboxes contain more than just a few fields; however, wherever possible, present information in short form, and exclude any unnecessary content. Do not include links to sections within the article; the table of contents provides that function.

Using an infobox also makes the data within it available to third party re-users such as DBpedia in a granular, machine readable format, often using microformats.

Overall approach[edit]

The recommended process for creating an infobox template is simply to begin, and to gather as many requirements as possible. Test the base format for a new template as a static table first, then once consensus is reached, migrate it into template format. The template should be reviewed before being used extensively in articles in case the template or defined parameters need modification to minimize re-works. If new fields and parameters are added, articles must be updated to reflect the new requirements. If parameters are renamed or removed, many articles will likely be unaffected, since extraneous parameters are ignored.

Style, color and formatting[edit]

General consistency should be aimed for across articles using the same infobox. A good guideline is not to add extraneous style formatting over that in a default infobox without good reason. Infoboxes may tend towards greater abbreviation than that generally used in article bodies. The general guidelines WP:NBSP (use of non-breaking spaces), WP:MOSNUM (numbers and dates), and WP:COLOR (use of color) are likely to be particularly relevant. As with navigation templates, the purpose of the infobox is for its utility, not appearance; therefore, infoboxes should not be arbitrarily decorative.

Consistency between infoboxes[edit]

For consistency the following guidelines apply:

  • Before creating a new Infobox template, check first to see whether a suitable Infobox already exists.
  • Name the template [[Template:Infobox some subject]] (some subject should be in the singular and capitalized as per normal usage—see WP:NAME, e.g., "Infobox settlement" or "Infobox NFL player").
  • The {{infobox}} template can be used to create a new infobox easily. If for some reason {{infobox}} is not suitable and the table is to be created manually, the template code should use class="infobox" for the main table declaration. This automatically picks the right alignment, font sizes and spacing to fit in with existing infoboxes. A width of 22 ems (22em in CSS) is suggested as an additional declaration to match the {{infobox}} default.
  • The template should have a large, bold title line. Either a table caption or a header can be used for this. It should be named the common name of the article's subject but may contain the full (official) name; this does not need to match the article's Wikipedia title, but falling back to use that (with the {{PAGENAME}} magic word) is usually fine. It should not contain a link.
  • Parameters in infoboxes should be named, not numbered, to provide for future use. A parameter value can contain images (i.e. full image tags), or parameters for parts of an image tag such as the image name, size and caption.
  • Parameter names should use lower-case unless they are proper nouns.
  • Parameter names should be consistent between infoboxes. For example, {{Infobox person}} uses |birth_date=, as do many other biographical infoboxes, so it would be foolish for a new biographical infobox to use, say |date of birth=, rather than reusing the existing parameter name.
  • If a parameter is not applicable, or no information is available, it should be left blank, and the template coded to selectively hide information or provide default values if not defined.

Causes of inconsistency[edit]

A number of factors can cause inconsistency in available summary information for a particular type of article:

Historical incompleteness 
Certain desired information may simply have been lost over time. For example, an infobox describing a modern bank may provide certain financial information that would be unavailable for a medieval one.
Hierarchical inconsistency 
Infoboxes that indicate hierarchical relationships may have subtly different requirements depending on where in the hierarchy the subject of the article is located. For example, an infobox for corporations will be different between an article describing a parent company and indicating its subsidiaries and an article describing a subsidiary and indicating its parent.
Feature inconsistency 
Items within a single set may have optional features that would commonly be listed in an infobox. For example, an infobox for an article about a university may include a motto; but not all universities have them.
Lack of information 
Some items in infoboxes may not be readily available or not available at all, such as the producers of an album or film. In these cases it is better to provide available information while concealing fields for which information may not be available.

General design considerations[edit]

The availability of optional fields does not mean that all fields should be made optional, nor that large numbers of rarely used fields should be added without regard for the layout and ease-of-use of the infobox template. In some cases, the markup for the field still needs to be downloaded even if it is not displayed. Creating overly long templates with a number of irrelevant fields is not recommended.

As you design an infobox template, consider the following questions:

Is the field of value?
How important is the field to the articles that will use the infobox? Is it summary information, or more extended detail that may be better placed within the body of an article?
Will the field be relevant to many of the articles that will use the infobox?
If the field is relevant to very few articles, it should probably not be included at all. Conversely, very common fields may be included—and made optional—even if they are not applicable to a few of the articles in question.
How likely is the field to be empty?
Any field that might reasonably be empty should probably be optional. However, a field that is usually empty may not be particularly useful or relevant.
Can the field name be reused from elsewhere?
For instance, if adding a field for the date on which the subject died, to a biographical infobox template, use |death_date= from {{Infobox person}}, and not a similar name like |date_of_death= or |died=.
Is it for people, places or organisations?
If so, include an hCard microformat—see the microformat project
Is it for a dated event?
(Such as a record release, or sport fixture) If so, include an hCalendar microformat—see the microformat project

Geographical infoboxes[edit]

Infoboxes for geographical items should generally be headed with the article title, although the formal version of a name (e.g. Republic of Montenegro at Montenegro) can be substituted. Alternate or native names can appear beneath this. Extensive historic names are often better in a second infobox, as at Augsburg.

Dynamic templates[edit]

In theory, the fields in an infobox should be consistent across every article using it; in practice, however, this is rarely the case, for a number of reasons. Infobox templates should be designed to dynamically adapt themselves to the absence or presence of particular fields.

Like static infoboxes, they are designed to present summary information about an article's subject, such that similar subjects have a uniform look and in a common format. However, the template technique allows updates of style and of common text from a central place, the template page.

While there are several alternatives to dynamic infoboxes, such as using multiple (forked) templates or leaving fields blank, they should be avoided, for a number of reasons:

Readers greatly outnumber editors 
The most important group to consider are the casual readers of Wikipedia, who will never do any significant editing. Infobox templates that contain many blank fields, question marks, or "Unknown"s present an unprofessional appearance, diminishing Wikipedia's reputation as a high-quality encyclopedia.
Article editors greatly outnumber template editors
The average editor will merely use templates without making changes to them. To make things easier for them, we should aim to minimize the number of different templates they must be familiar with; creating multiple forks of templates is therefore undesirable.

Implementations[edit]

Conditional templates[edit]

Special "templates" that selectively show or hide particular content (such as table rows) within an infobox based on the value of one or more template parameters.

{{#if:{{{party|}}}|<tr><th>Political party</th><td>{{{party|}}}</td></tr>|}}

Name-resolved meta-templates[edit]

Several sub-templates (and independent templates) have a common name prefix. They are included in an infobox based on the value of a particular parameter, which acts as the name suffix. For example, we create {{Infobox Ship/Military}} and {{Infobox Ship/Civilian}} and use {{Infobox Ship/{{{type}}}}}. Using |type=Military in an article causes {{Infobox Ship/Military}} to be used.

Multi-part infoboxes[edit]

Rather than having each field correspond to a parameter on one template, the infobox consists of an individual sub-template for each field; see, for example, Template:Taxobox.

Interaction between multiple templates[edit]

Templates can be designed in a modular way, such that various combinations are possible. A combination may even appear on the page as a single infobox.

For example, if the WikiProject Saints group wanted to design a template based on their static Infobox, they could use Template:Infobox Biography, and design a project-specific template with only additional information, and the pages would render both "stacked" together.

Using infoboxes in articles[edit]

Shortcut:

The use of infoboxes is neither required nor prohibited for any article. Whether to include an infobox, which infobox to include, and which parts of the infobox to use, is determined through discussion and consensus among the editors at each individual article.

The meaning given to each infobox part should be the same across instances of that type of infobox. For example, for a particular infobox type, if one of its fields is called "weight", it would be inappropriate to sometimes use this field to denote "weight at birth" and other times "weight at maturity".

Each infobox type should have documentation giving instruction on how each part/field may be used.

Like navigation templates, infoboxes should:

  • Avoid flag icons. For more information about flag icons, see MOS:FLAG.
  • Avoid redlinks. For more information, see WP:REDLINK and WP:REDNOT.

References in infoboxes[edit]

Shortcut:

References are not needed in infoboxes if the content is repeated (and cited) elsewhere or if the information is obvious. If the material requires a reference (see WP:MINREF for guidelines) and the information doesn't also appear in the body of the article, the reference should be included in the infobox. However, editors should first consider including the fact in the body of the article.

List of templates[edit]

See WP:List of infoboxes for the main listing. See also any relevant WikiProjects, and a list of templates starting with "Infobox ...".

See also[edit]

Other types of templates: