iKnowHow: building a wiki for the voluntary sector (part nine) Reading, evolved
Well first things first, a quick plug: today we launch the third and final subject for our iKnowHow wiki project; giving you complete access to all of our material on commissioning and procurement.
So, back to the issue of this blog: how to strike the right balance between creating a good reading experience and making it obvious that a wiki guide is editable? After all, most people come to our site to read information and advice – they don’t want their reading experience interrupted by big edit buttons and menus. However, wikis thrive with lots of editorial input – it needs to be obvious that people can edit them (and easy for them to do so).If you’re Wikipedia this is not so much of an issue. How many people can honestly say they’ve noticed the little ‘edit’ tab in the top right of every article? I hadn’t before I started on this article. But Wikipedia doesn’t need me to, it’s doing just fine. When you’re starting out, like iKnowHow, you probably need to be a bit more brazen about the editorial access you’re giving everyone.
Our decision to make the editing tools as prominent as they are was arrived at during user testing. Early designs had subtle, discreet wiki tools that only the most attentive would have noticed. Everyone we tested said – if this is a wiki, I want to know about it, I want to see a sense of community around each article, I want to know how I can get involved. The other issue at stake here appeared to be: the subtler the editing tools, the more they conferred a sense of elitism. People we spoke to were suggesting that if only the very best could notice the editing tools, maybe only the very best would use them.
Of course, we want everyone to use our wikis.
So, we make it pretty clear that our guides are for editing. However, we’re careful to protect the reading experience. At every stage in user testing we asked our volunteers whether the changes we were suggesting would negatively affect their opinion or experience of the article as a reader. If they said yes, we would reconsider.
Now we face our biggest challenge – and it comes in the form of a glossary. This being a ground-breaking wiki and all, we didn’t want a conventional glossary that simply listed lots of words in alphabetical order. Too dull. We wanted an interactive glossary – one where people could mark words they didn’t understand and contribute definitions to words that other people had marked.
This creates highlights on important words throughout the text – but in so doing starts to impact the reading experience in ways that no other wiki would.
Everyone we’ve tested has given this approach the thumbs up. But what about you? How would you feel if the web article you were reading provided pop-up, editable definitions of important words and allowed you to flag other words you didn’t understand? Is this the reading experience evolved? Or one gimmick too far?