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September 11, 2014 / carlispina

See Wikipedia in a Whole New Way with WikiWand

WikiwandWikipedia is a great resource for learning new facts, settling disputes about trivial knowledge, and even kickstarting research projects, but many users would agree that its interface isn’t up to the standards of many modern websites. WikiWand aims to solve this issue by rearranging the great content that has made Wikipedia so popular in a new, more engaging and attractive manner. This browser extension, which is available for SafariChrome, and Firefox, completely updates the look of Wikipedia entries, pulling photos to the forefront where available and eliminating some of the extraneous information found in the side and top menus in Wikipedia. While these aesthetic touches are nice, perhaps the most useful aspect of WikiWand is that it also moves all of the article navigation and section headings to a persistent side menu that is visible no matter where you are on the page. Making it much easier to navigate within articles, particularly those that are quite lengthy, without having to scroll to the top to find the article outline. WikiWand also uses a responsive format that rearranges and resizes the content to optimize it for the size of your screen or browser window. While I did encounter a few minor layout issues caused by this approach, it will be an improvement over the the current standard Wikipedia layout for users with some devices. Users will also likely appreciate the slideshows that WikiWand automatically generates for each article’s images. The top menu on each WikiWand page also makes it easy to navigate to entries on the same topic in different languages and to search Wikipedia for other information.

Though WikiWand does offer a nice, clean layout for Wikipedia articles, its reach does not extend beyond this to other content. While there is a dropdown menu that provides links to edit an entry, to view the history of an article, or to visit the article’s talk page, all of these link users to the standard Wikipedia site without this improved look and feel. Similarly, if you click links to Wikimedia Commons content, these pages will open in a new window and appear in the standard Wikimedia format. My one complaint about WikiWand is that I find it unfortunate that it somewhat hides the editing option. Given that many Wikipedia users don’t realize that anyone can contribute to Wikipedia even in its current format, further burying the editing function may lead to even more confusion and a loss of potential contributors. Overall, even with its limited scope and the way that it obscures some of Wikipedia’s functionality, I think WikiWand is a nice tool for those who find the current look of Wikipedia off-putting.

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