Wikipedia:Avoid template creep

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Screenshot from Tim Duncan article
Screenshot from Dave Bristol article

Template creep, also known as creeping templatitis, is the tendency for some Wikipedia articles (and talk pages) to become gradually cluttered with templates. While templates are intended to provide useful features and simplify the editing process (indeed, many are now vital to the functioning of Wikipedia), their overuse can violate the KISS principle (upheld in Wikipedia policy nuggets such as avoid instruction creep and ignore all rules), create a barrier to editing for newcomers, and may also infringe on what Wikipedia is not. Always keep in mind the scope of Wikipedia when adding new features or functionality to it in the form of ingenious templates.

Template creep should be avoided in general, but specific cases should be judged on their own merits according to the pertinent policies and guidelines. As of July 16, 2007 there were 94,631 pages in the template namespace, excluding redirects. Many of these are redundant, replicating functionality with only minor variation.

Always ensure that templates are categorized and named appropriately or intuitively to facilitate their proper use.

Steps to take[edit]

  • improve and standardize templates to reduce clutter, ease navigation, and simplify the editing process
  • remove inappropriate, excessive, or trivial inclusions of otherwise worthy templates
  • delete redundant and inappropriate templates (at Wikipedia:Templates for discussion)

WikiProject Templates is a project to manage the template namespace. The following are some more specific examples of efforts to standardize, "wrap", or shrink excessive/cluttering templates. Such measures can assist in reducing or mitigating the effects of template creep, but they should not be used merely to hide or excuse template creep. Note that the use of new templates to manage or "skip past" other templates can itself be a form of template creep, as would creating a template message for articles suffering from template creep.

Navigational template creep[edit]

The images to the right are examples of the proliferation of "navigational templates" in Wikipedia articles. These examples are from sports-related articles, but the same problems can be found in many kinds of articles on Wikipedia.

In these examples, some of the templates seem to be useful, but they increase the visual size of the article far out of proportion to the importance of the information they provide, and may not provide any substantial, relevant information at all beyond what is already in the article text. Some should be kept and made to collapse by default. Some should be removed/deleted as trivial, or replaced with categories, lists, or the pertinent facts included in the running text.

Solutions[edit]

When reviewing an article for template creep, there are several questions you should ask in evaluating the importance and value of each template.

Is there a more current way of presenting this information?[edit]

Article presentation practices on Wikipedia have evolved over time. In many cases, newer practices have replaced older ones—a properly filled-out infobox, for example, can replace some older templates. For instance, {{Infobox Politician}} includes entry fields for a politician's predecessor and successor in a position, and can be expanded up to eight times for additional positions. As a result, this duplicates—and consequently eliminates the need for—many succession box footers.

If an infobox is already present on the article, review it to ensure that it contains all the information that it's meant to contain, and then remove any footer templates that are duplicated by the infobox. If an infobox isn't present, add an appropriate one if possible and then repeat the first step.

Do multiple templates on this article give the same information?[edit]

Evaluate whether some templates on an article offer the same information as each other. For example, a template which lists all prior occupants of a position, such as {{NJGovernors}} or {{ABLG}}, duplicates and eliminates the need for a separate succession box identifying a person's immediate predecessor and successor in the position covered by that template.

A template which links all past general elections in a country, state or province, similarly, duplicates and eliminates the need for a succession box identifying the elections that immediately preceded and followed the one you're looking at.

Does this template duplicate information that's already in the article body?[edit]

Don't add a template to an article that already contains text links to the same information. For example, if an article on a particular election already includes a table listing the winners of each local voting district, then the article does not need to include a template that lists all the local voting districts in that country, state or province. If an article on a television network already lists all of the network's local affiliates, then don't add a template at the bottom which is meant to link those affiliates with each other. And on, and so forth.

Do we have two or three templates where one would do?[edit]

In some cases, two or more templates can in fact be merged into a single one.

For instance, radio markets do not require separate templates for AM and FM radio stations. A single radio template listing both types of stations is sufficient.

While a large television network with hundreds of affiliates, such as NBC, might be better served by separate templates for each individual state's affiliates, a television network consisting of just 20 stations nationwide only needs one template listing all of its affiliates—it does not need to be treated equivalently to NBC just because they're both television networks.

Similarly, separate templates for members of a legislature and ranking officers of that legislature are not necessary—these can almost always be integrated into a single template, either by listing cabinet ministers as a separate group from non-cabinet representatives within the same template, or by simply using text formatting. See for example {{Ontario MPPs}}.

If separate templates are needed, can one just link to the other instead?[edit]

In some cases, it is appropriate to have two separate templates, but they're not both needed on the same article. Sometimes the most appropriate response is for two related-but-distinct templates to simply provide links to each other instead of duplicating each other's content. For example, templates for adjacent television or radio markets should provide a single link to each other under "See also", rather than directly including each other's radio or television stations under a "notable out-of-market stations" section. Once this is done, each station's article should only include its primary market template. For example, a television station in Burlington, Vermont does not need the {{Montreal TV}} template on it, even though it's viewable in the latter city—the Burlington/Plattsburgh and Montreal television templates already include direct links to each other, making the second template redundant on any given station.

Where does it belong?[edit]

Use the template for its primary purpose only; don't use it to create extra links from a related topic that isn't actually part of the template's intended purpose. For example, a template for the highway system in a particular state legitimately belongs on the articles about those highways. It does not belong on the article about the state itself, nor does it belong on articles about individual cities served by that highway system, nor does it belong on tourist attractions located along those highways, nor does it belong on the parent article highway. Each of those less-relevant topics should only include text links to the relevant articles: the state to the basic overview article about its highway system, the cities and attractions to the specific highways by which they're served, etc.

Conversely, a broad overview template on a topic does not need to be applied to every individual example of that topic in action; the general {{Telecommunications}} template, for instance, is meant for very general aspects of telecommunications, and thus does not need to be added to every individual television or radio station.

Also, review whether some internal Wikipedia templates, such as Wikiproject tags or internal task flags such as copyediting or cleanup notices, should or could be placed on the talk page instead of the main article.

Do we really need this template at all?[edit]

Just because a template can be created doesn't automatically mean that it should be. {{Outer Ring of Golden Horseshoe}}, for example, significantly overestimated the actual importance of the topic—it conflated three distinct regions whose primary social and economic relationships are with the immediately adjacent parts of {{Inner Ring of Golden Horseshoe}}, not with each other, and consequently skirted the edge of being original research—and even the Inner Ring template, while not as inherently ludicrous, was still of uncertain value compared to the {{Greater Toronto Area}} template that it replaced.

Templates should also be as specific as possible, and should not have arbitrary or subjective inclusion guidelines. For example, a template listing historical winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics may be valid, but a template providing a subjectively-chosen grouping of "Notable economists" is not. Similarly, a template for writers who have won a specific literary award may be valid, but a template that lists a subjective subset of "Notable American writers" should not be created.

Companies or organizations which merged into other companies do not require a succession box template to reiterate information that should already be present in text. For example, we do not need an infobox to inform us that the Conservative Party of Canada succeeded the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance as the main Canadian conservative political party—especially given that there's already a "Canadian conservative political parties" navbox.

I've removed as many templates as I'm able to. Can I make the remaining templates less obtrusive?[edit]

If an article still has a lot of navboxes, the state=collapsed format can be used to force them to collapse. Alternatively, arrange templates under a collapsible "templates" header bar such as that seen on Toronto or on the more recent version of the Tim Duncan article that was cited as a visual example above. Do not, however, do this as a matter of course; this solution is not a license to simply hide existing templates behind a curtain without actually doing anything to help reduce the larger problem.

See also[edit]