participatory web | July 15, 2012

Why Wikipedia is Ugly: Sue Gardner Says Form Follows Function

The Atlantic recently called Wikipedia’s design “pretty ugly” in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek critique of the site’s “homeliness.” Well, it turns out that the homeliness is intentional—and, according to Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation (Wikipedia’s parent), it’s part of the site’s “awkward charm” and functionality. Gardner says the design of the world’s biggest online encyclopedia keeps the experience feeling simple, friendly, and user-generated.

From The Atlantic:
"Wikipedia has always been kind of a homely, awkward, handcrafted-looking site," says Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. And that homeliness, she notes, "is part of its awkward charm." Wikipedia's just-rolled-out-of-bed-looking interface sends a clear message to users, Gardner said, in a panel at today's Wikimania conference. And that message is, basically, that the site has better things to do than obsess about its appearance. Wikipedia "is clearly not designed—at all—by marketing people," Gardner notes. "It is clearly not trying to sell you something."

One thing Gardner does admit could use a refresh is the editorial interface. She’s made it clear she’d like to see Wikipedia’s user base hit 1 billion within five years, and to do that, making editing simpler for the general user is has to be high on the to-do list. Gardner’s track record since arriving at Wikipedia from the helm of suggests this is more than doable: in that time, she’s successfully introduced major initiatives focused on organizational maturity, long-term sustainability, and increased participation, reach, and quality of the Foundation's free-knowledge projects. In her talks, she discusses the future of the participatory web through the near-perfect case study of Wikipedia.

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innovation | July 12, 2012