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Agency 'redefines' Wikipedia

While some sites aim to remain at the cutting edge in design terms, some stay resolutely in the past. Jakob Nielsen's website, for example, has barely changed in years, sometimes even contradicting the advice he gives. A more widely used old-fashioned site is online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, which has a basic design and layout that appears to have stepped out of the 1990s.

The NEW! agency asked itself the question of what would happen if you had the power to make any site "more functional, more useful, better looking, [and] more pleasing," and drastically reworked the Wikipedia website accordingly. "We decided to spend two spring months on this project, looking for the ways how to make it better, reader or editor friendlier, clearer and aesthetically satisfying," explains the introduction on Wikipedia Redefined.

Although the agency defined its work as a rebranding exercise, reworking Wikipedia's identity around the iconic W, and coming up with a 'cluster' logo for WikiMedia, much of its work centred around the website itself. The agency said the current homepage is "overcrowded with [the] display of languages, which overshadows the main functionality – the search area," and proposed a reversal that somewhat echoed classic-era Google in its simplicity.

Further work was also done on the site's main design, including a large, clear toolbar for more easily finding options when researching and contributing to Wikipedia. Ideas for reworking the Edit section of a page, which "requires patience and dedication, and is quite noisy," also centred around user-friendliness and elegance, which would doubtless be welcomed by newcomers who find Wikipedia's current editing pages impenetrable.

A spokesperson told .net the response to the redesign has been great—New!'s site got 140,000 visitors in 48 hours, and the company received about 500 emails, most of which were positive: "It's great to start a discussion, and we'd love for our ideas to be implemented. We think Wikipedia was created by people who are not designers per se, but more programers of amazing things. To them, the possibilities look much more attractive than the design of them. But we think those two thing should go hand-in-hand"

On .net's concern regarding the design's top-heavy nature perhaps not gelling with the transition to smaller, widescreen laptops, we were told: "Our creative director was looking at the project files on his MacBook Air and didn't find any issues. It must be noted, though, that this is only the first step from the project. Loads of things could be done to improve it, and loads of things could be tweaked, but this is our general vision."