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Boxes, boxes and more boxes

Revision as of 19:21, January 27, 2012 by Jspoelstra (Talk | contribs)

Oh no, not another of Porter's essays!

— Vault editor

As you may have noticed or read, I've been cleaning up our template repository in the past weeks, making long due improvements and optimizations. By now, I have completed most of this overhaul except for some of our oldest and most-used templates: {{Infobox}} and {{Nb main}}, the templates which power all of our info- and navboxes.

The reason why I have been putting these off is simple: They are used on a large number of pages, and changes to them have a large impact on the wiki and its editors. For this reason, I'd like to outline the changes I have in mind and discuss them first before starting to implement them.

I've chosen to write a blog instead of making a forum thread because it was easier to structure my post and keep track of the feedback this way. The blog has ended up being rather lengthy - apologies in advance.

Infoboxes

I'll start with describing the planned changes to {{Infobox}}.

New options

New infobox options/features I have in mind:

  1. The ability to display up to 5 images in the main image area. The default size will be adapted automatically according to the number of images. This will allow infoboxes like {{Armor}} to work without the workarounds currently required; you will also be able to set up image displays like at Scientist Outfit without having to make a combined image.
  2. If no image has been specified, a default image would be displayed which, when clicked, will automatically take you to Special:Upload. The proper file name will already be filled in, based on the name of the page with the infobox and what you enter for games. This might reduce the number of improperly named files.

Make infoboxes easier to edit

Infoboxes should be as easy to edit as possible (like anything on a wiki). The following is what I have in mind to make the life of editors easier, based on common mistakes and unnecessary workload I've noticed:

  1. All name parameters will be made optional and largely be removed, i.e. they will only be needed on a few pages afterwards. The default name displayed will be {{PAGENAME}} stripped of any disambiguation suffixes in brackets (if there are any); this matches 99% of all name parameters which are currently in use and saves us unnecessary manual work for removing the disambig suffixes. For example, if an infobox is used on a page called "Example (Fallout 2)", the infobox title will be "Example" without anyone having to alter it manually.
  2. Some standard parameters will be renamed to improve clarity of their purpose:
    • px -> image size (to avoid impression that you do not need to add "px" when specifying widths)
    • desc -> image desc (this is often confused with a description of the article subject)
    • titlehead -> supertitle (simply to bring it in line with the subtitle parameter)
    • extra -> footer
  3. The game, game2, game3 (etc) parameters will be combined into one parameter: games. Multiple games will be specified by simply giving multiple abbreviations separated with spaces (e.g. instead of "game=FO3" and "game2=FNV", you'd use "games=FO3 FNV". This is necessary for technical reasons, and I think it'll also be easier to use. For some people who have been around for a while this will feel like going back in time (as I split games into multiple parameters only a few months ago), but doing it this way was my intention already back then; I've simply learned a few new tricks which allow me to do it now :)
  4. Getting rid of the whole "empty" mechanic. If a field is empty (literally, not set to "empty") and optional, it's not displayed. If a field is empty and required, a question mark (or something like that) is displayed. Yeah, it's as simple as that.
  5. Getting rid of the majority of type fields. These are mostly used internally to determine which parameters are required for a certain set of games; after the rework, this will no longer be necessary as the required fields will depend directly on what you enter for games. Only a few type parameters will remain, mostly those which alter the supertitle link (like type2 in {{Item}}, for example).
  6. All infobox templates will be renamed to have their name include an "Infobox" prefix, i.e. {{Armor}} will become {{Infobox armor}}. This will make it easier to find individual infobox templates as well as make the template purpose clearer for new users; it also frees up template names for other (more fitting) uses.

Make infoboxes easier to set up

The current process of setting up infoboxes is overly complicated for something so simple. You have to set up the right standard parameters, find the proper auxiliary templates to use, insert each row manually, pay attention to a lot of details to make sure that your optional field doesn't end up being required - and if you want to do something like add a header that is only displayed if certain fields are filled in or make a field only be required when the article subject appears in a certain game, it gets really complicated.

To make this process easier, the following improvements are planned:

  1. The number of auxiliary templates will be reduced. Currently there are 7, which can easily be combined into one without losing any functionality.
  2. To set up an infobox, you will no longer need to insert the rows yourself. All you will have to do is specify the labels and input parameters, similar to how the navboxes work.
  3. You will be able to specify individual rows as optional/required or optional/required for certain games.
  4. You will be able to set other conditions for displaying a certain row. This is for things like headers which should only be shown if certain other rows are shown etc.

Make infoboxes easier to read

I'd like to redesign {{Infobox}} to achieve better contrast and readability. In particular, I'd like to have a light background and dark text and a less "grid-like" appearance. Current considerations include the box design used on Fallout 3 Guide (the white boxes) and the design used on my own userpage.

Introduce infocards

Infocards are a new type of template I'm planning to introduce, primarily for usage on the various perk and stat pages, although I'm sure we'll find more uses for them later on. Basically they are the "smaller brothers" of infoboxes. While similar in function and appearance (only the coloring will be slightly different), they are designed to be used in individual article sections rather than at the top of an article. Their purpose will be to move information from overly large infoboxes at the top directly to the section they belong to. As such, their images will be smaller and they will have less fields than an infobox so they cause less whitespace than an infobox would.

As an example, take Action Boy. Rather than being crammed into one rather large infobox, the game-specific info (the requirements, benefits etc) would be moved to infocards in each of the article sections - leaving the main infobox simply to listing the perk's appearances. This saves the reader having to scroll up and down between game-specific sections and the infobox at the top on large perk pages, allowing him/her to simply click on the game he/she is looking for in the TOC and have all the info in one place. This way, we can also add the game-specific perk image to each section instead of increasing the size of the infobox even further.

Clean up current infoboxes

A number of our infoboxes suffer from, for the lack of a better term, "info creep", meaning they are listing far too much stuff to fulfil their original purpose as a concise article summary. A prime example for this is {{Stat}}, as seen in action on Perception; there's so much stuff in the infobox that looking at it is a bit like being hit in the face with a hammer.

Part of improving that is the introduction of infocards (see above); another part is moving stuff out of the infoboxes and into the articles. "Related perks" and "related traits" do not really need to be in the infobox, they are better off simply being listed in tables in the article. Aside from {{Stat}}, {{Person}} also suffers from info creep; the non-Fallout-related work doesn't need to be in the infobox either, it can be listed in the article. We'll probably need a separate forum topic to sort out the templates which suffer from info creep; these are just two examples. And before anybody says it, I know it was me who put that stuff in these infoboxes in the first place; it just wasn't a good idea ;)

That aside, I'm also planning to remove the appearances parameter from {{Character}} and switch mentions to use the same mechanic as outlined for games above, i.e. simply listing abbreviations. Having to enter the appearances separately when you already have to enter them for the games parameter seems like a waste of time, and so is having to type out game links manually for mentions.

Navboxes

No worries, the list of planned navbox improvements is not quite as extensive ;)

New options

An option to display images on the right will be added, both for the whole navbox and individual blocks.

Make navboxes easier to edit and set up

While setting up navboxes is easier than setting up infoboxes, there's still room for improvement:

  1. Currently we have more navbox meta templates than we really need: We have 1 meta template ({{Nb main}}), 4 intermediary templates ({{Navbox}}, {{Navbox collapsible group}}, {{Navbox columns}}, {{Navbox group}}) and 6 auxiliary templates. I'm planning to reduce that to 1 template (which will then be called "Navbox") and 1 auxiliary template for easier usage and maintenance.
  2. All navbox templates will be renamed to have their name include an "Navbox" prefix. For example, {{FO3 armors}} will become {{Navbox FO3 armors}}. This will make the template purpose clearer for new users; it also frees up template names for other (more fitting) uses. I'm also considering moving the game prefixes to the end of the name ({{Navbox armors FO3}}) to bring it in line with the naming conventions for the infoboxes.

Make navboxes easier to read

See "Make infoboxes easier to read" above. The navboxes will be redesigned to match the new infobox design.

Feedback welcome

Feel free to post your feedback below; whether you like/dislike certain ideas, other improvement suggestions, alternative solutions, it's all welcome.

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