User:Nanonic/On Portals

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A Portal is a special type of construct on Wikipedia that allows users to browse a whole topic easily whilst also allowing editors and projects to showcase their work. Portals act as doorways to a subject and are also perhaps the only areas of Wikipedia where the aesthetics of page design matter.

The following are a collection of hints and tips for portal creators and maintainers that I've found, used or proposed in the past.

Considerations[edit]

  • Prepare in advance. Think about the topic you have chosen - how broad is it? how much content can you realistically feature? Most portals have a minimum of 10 articles for every "Selected.." box. If you can't find this many decent articles to draw content from, then you may need to consider if a portal on this topic would be appropriate right now.
  • Always remember that a Portal is only supposed to be a doorway to a topic, a special page where people can find information and links to articles about the subject. Detailed information on a topic should always be presented as a precis of an article that already exists.
  • The Portal namespace is probably the loneliest on Wikipedia, by this I mean that you will rarely "bump" into other editors here and the arenas for collaboration are few and far between. You will most likely end up maintaining the portal completely on your own. Be prepared for this!
  • There are two common methods to displaying content on Portals, queued and random. Queueing involves the maintainer selecting new articles/pictures to display each month, the random method involves the maintainer finding a selection of articles/pictures that will be displayed randomly on each page view.[1] You can switch between methods easily but current trends are towards random selection.[2]
  • Creating a portal is simple, finding content for it is hard - especially if you limit yourself to featured content.[3] Basic portals have "Selected article", "Selected biography", "Selected picture" and "Did you know" boxes; if you're using random content - that's 40 items that have to be found, judged on quality, edited down to size and included before you can remove that Portal under construction tag.
  • Look at a large selection of Portals from Wikipedia:Portal/Directory, especially the Featured ones. Consider whether you're going to copy the design from one of these and what the elements of that design are.
  • Have a glance at Wikipedia:Portal peer review and the advice given there to other Portal maintainers, it's a great place to pick up new techniques or get tips.

Design[edit]

  • Is the portal going to be maintained if you decide to disappear or get bored? If it isn't, consider using elements such as {{Random portal component}} to randomise what content you already have.
  • If the portal is not going to use randomised content, but will use dated queues instead - consider adding {{portalwarning}} or {{no selected item}} to a related project page. These templates automatically enable a warning display when they detect that the next page in the queue doesn't exist.
  • Use Wikipedia:Colours and the colour choosers linked there to find a good complementary colour scheme. Try and avoid the use of garish or bold colours and make sure you balance the colours so that readers' eyes don't bleed.[4]
  • User /box-header and /box-footer! Don't make your own fancy box enclosures as other templates such as the random portal content ones drag their settings from these. It is also worthwhile to note that the box portal skeleton template and other basic portal forms use these two as well, a lot of portal maintainers know what they do and where to find them - make things easier for whoever might take over from you by using common techniques.
  • If you're going to use random content, you must include a prominent "Show new selections" link. Refreshing the page doesn't come close to purging.
<div style="text-align:center; margin:-7px; padding-bottom:12px;">{{purge|'''Show new selections'''}}</div> <!-- This is the show new selections clickable link -->
  • Add notes to your code (like I did just there). They're easy to add and help users who've hit edit, and just see a pile of transcluded templates and gibberish, understand what all that does. You could even be really nice and create an instructions page[5] for people who want to help maintain the portal.
<!-- this is a note -->
  • Design for the widest selection of screen resolutions. There is no point spending hours tweaking the colours if the portal breaks when viewed on a 800x600 sized screen. Similarly, try to avoid the use of banner images welcoming people to your portal unless you're prepared to create them so that they scale to lower resolutions too. If a horizontal scrollbar pops up at low screen sizes, that's just bad design.
  • Check your design in another web browser. For Windows users - there are slight differences between how pages appear in Internet Explorer and Firefox.
  • Tab your portal if it becomes over-long. Does it seem a chore to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see some content? Split your portal into two or more pages and hive off the boring stuff over there but try to keep a balance between shop window and project promotion. Sure you want to show off your brilliant articles but you also want to drag viewers into contributing to any tasks you have listed, try to get both mixed together.
  • Consider using content layout templates such as at Portal:Religion/Selected article/Layout. This helps to standardise the formatting of each box on the portal. If you do decide to use layout templates, use different ones for each "Selected.." box - this means that you can tweak them without them impacting on other areas.

Content[edit]

  • Selected content should be from articles with no major issues. Don't showcase articles that need a lot of work done to them and are plastered with notices saying that too. They shouldn't be stubs either, if it's not at least Start class, please don't add it.
  • Similarly, selected content doesn't have to be all Featured. If you don't have enough of these super-quality items to choose from, lower the bar. Most portals accept GA's and above as well as High or Top importance articles too.
  • Check for consistency. Do you bold your article titles in the lead? Do you bold and wikilink them? Do you do this for all of your content? Really? You sure? Have another look, it won't hurt.
  • Check for readability and typos. You find an article, say "ooo, this'll go great on the portal but it's a bit long so I'll hack it down a bit" and whack it on. Job done? No, make sure after your trimming that the snippet makes sense and check for any spelling errors.
  • Be date neutral. This is important to stop your selected content blurbs disagreeing with the live article. Avoid using "currently" "will" "is expected to" and other present or future forms. Be ultra formal and consider using something like "in January 2008" or leave the information out altogether.
  • No matter how many links to nominations you put in, you're not going to get many that are acceptable - if any at all. You know what your criteria for inclusion is - so tell everyone else too, write it on the page. If you want the nominators to write the blurb for you, tell them.
  • All pictures have to be free and the licensing must state this, we're not allowed to use any non-free images outside of article-space. Media that is unfree will be automatically removed by a bot at some point, usually when you're not around, thus leaving a big white spot on the portal where something should be. If you can't use a free picture, don't use a picture at all.
  • All pictures should have a caption explaining what the picture is. Adding captions helps people who are using screen readers, text browsers and search engines understand your images.
  • Don't add sister project links that lead nowhere. Including a link to Wikiversity for a Pokémon portal is not going to help anyone and will more than likely end up in the reader finding an empty page if they click it, so trim your outgoing links to ones that actually work. In fact just don't use {{WikimediaForPortals}} at all, make your own version or copy another portals bespoke box and edit it.
  • Make sure you edit your blurbs/excerpts for the Portal. Things like infoboxes and citations have no reason to be included, if someone wants to see them - they can follow your links to the article itself.

Reviews[edit]

  • Comments, help and criticism are great ways for you to find areas to improve. Everyone suffers from topic blindness after a while, if you stare at the same page for weeks and weeks there is bound to be something you've missed or a simple mistake you've made. Just be mindful that if you release your creation into the wild, expect the wild to throw it back at you.
  • After your portal has been around for a while, you may be visited by the interlanguage link bot fairy. This is a great excuse to go scouring portals in other language versions of Wikipedia to see what content they're using. If you don't understand the lingo, look at the pictures they're using - good images are generally a right bugger to find.
  • Because Portals are generally created and maintained by only one person, you, it's easy to get a bit too parental in your approach to it shouting "MINE MINE" at anyone who dares to change something. Always remember that you don't own anything on Wikipedia, welcome the fact that there is someone out there who looks at your creation, welcome their insight and contributions.
  • It's always good to get a review on your work, check out Wikipedia:Portal peer review and consider putting your work up for comment. And whilst you're there, review someone else's.
  • Periodically check all your subpages, make sure they're not out of date.
  • The process for promotion to Featured portal is probably the least stressful on Wikipedia,[6] this doesn't mean you don't have to work for it, you do. Some portals take years to come up to standard. If you've passed a peer review, why not go for the shiny star.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ This is a purely personal choice on the maintainer but if you don't have a WikiProject to take over if you decide to leave Wikipedia or get bored, it's better to plan to randomise sooner rather than later.
  2. ^ A large portion of recent Featured portals have focused on the use of randomised content as a way of keeping portals fresh. Using the queued method results in broken portals more often than you'd think, see Category:Portals needing attention
  3. ^ My current record is 1hr 28mins to create Portal:Football in Argentina, Category:Football in Argentina portal, set up the Wikinews bot and prepare all the random subpages. This does not count time taken to find content, because as of 17 December 2008 - I'm still looking.
  4. ^ See for example Portal:Royal Air Force/Aircraft
  5. ^ See for example Portal:Association football/Instructions and Portal:Association football/Instructions/Advanced
  6. ^ Have you seen Wikipedia:Featured picture candidates? What language are they speaking?