This series of blog posts represents the coordinated effort of Fandom's "Best Practices" working group. The advice presented in the guidelines of these posts has been examined and reviewed for a community's best suggestions for success and growth by a panel of representatives from many areas of Fandom staff (including user and editor experience, growth verticals, and SEO). Wherever possible, these posts include applicable outside research from experts throughout the web.
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What is a Best Practice?
A best practice is a method or technique that has been generally accepted as superior to any alternatives because it produces results that are superior to those achieved by other means or because it has become a standard way of doing things, e.g., a standard way of complying with legal or ethical requirements. Best practices are used to maintain quality as an alternative to mandatory legislated standards and can be based on self-assessment or benchmarking.
For Fandom and Gamepedia, our content Best Practices are discussed and researched before publication. They are intended to be guides for communities to grow and maintain a successful reader base, editing team, and healthy visibility. We try to publish guides on a regular schedule that can be referenced by our staff, contractors, and users.
Why did we start our Best Practices initiative?
We had many teams with various levels of experience passing on their traditional teachings about how to perform all sorts of tasks, like launching new wiki communities. We compared notes and found that many of these traditions were contradictory or were outright at odds with known research from the search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience (UX) realms. Our content team, wiki managers, community support, sold campaign, and staff throughout the company all were using different playbooks. In order to train our incoming team members, we resolved to create a single area for education and research the best methods (rather than the traditional ones).
We found that many of our classic learnings were not applicable in the current era of the web and that we needed to go back to basics and examine our initial premises from the start. These initial discussions gave us a way to move forward confident that we were doing things the right way.
How do Best Practices actually function?
We (the Best Practices Working Group) are staff members from various areas of the company content ecosystem. Many of us have years of experience working with wiki content on Fandom and Gamepedia. We also have strong representation from our SEO team and consult with the UX, Design, and Research teams when needed. Most of us work with wikis on a day to day basis and see a variety of wikis. When we meet (usually twice a month), we begin with an opportunity to showcase potential issues and get feedback. Sometimes these inform the general theme of the day; for example, an odd looking infobox may spark a conversation about infoboxes in general. We bring to the conversation different variations, including some of the most exotic infoboxes we can find. Then we spend at least a week or two finding resources that touch on the topic, from a user experience and SEO perspectives and from similar concepts inside and outside the wiki realm.
We use an evidence based approach when possible. Frequently, our wikis are the only ones that have ever experienced given issues. Sometimes Wikipedia can provide some evidence with their policies and data. Occasionally, the internal search process uncovers reports we have already done internally — leading in some cases to their publication. We take the findings and weave them into a report (linked with citations) that is accessible to power users and avoids unexplained jargon so that moderately skilled users can follow along. The report passes through a number of our staff for review before it is ultimately published.
Who are Best Practices for?
Best Practices are written for a broad audience, and are intended to be accessible to wiki founders and editors that do not have a strong technical background. They are also directed to long-time and power editors. We have found that wiki editors that have led communities for years either naturally follow what we determine to be best practices, or they have followed paths that differ from our suggestions to their own mixed success. And we believe that if they find our suggestions represent a better way to approach what they have built, they need less experienced and technically savvy editors to understand conceptually (and to support, once they understand) what they are trying to accomplish.
What are Best Practices not meant to do?
We are not intending to say that there is only one way to do something, because we understand that there is a lot of variation.
Aren't Best Practices just a way to tell communities what they're doing wrong?
Absolutely not! Many communities have enjoyed success during years in operation, and they have often found creative solutions to challenges we have and haven't yet accounted for. We recognize that what worked at community foundation may not be the best strategy in the modern era, and we want to help guide communities to continuing and evergreen success with what we believe will help them.
|Images that engage||FishTank||2019-07-03|
|Images are key to growing a readership for a community's articles. Thinking about how and why images are used is important, and compelling images can uniquely inspire and engage your readers to contribute useful information.|
|The best possible local navigation bar||Mira Laime||2019-07-26|
|Users rely heavily on the local navigation bar to find their way around. Visitors should find what they're looking for easily, and be able to gauge very quickly what other kind of content there is to explore on a wiki.|
|Main Pages for Fandom||FishTank||2019-08-09|
|Main Pages are a gateway into the core of your community, and a hub for navigating within.|
|Categories and Navigation on Fandom||FishTank||2019-08-23|
|A broad look at using categories and other navigation to organize and map your community for readers.|
|Organized spaces on Fandom||FishTank||2019-09-20|
|Using curated categories to organize your wiki.|
|Articles on Fandom||FishTank||2019-10-07|
|Crafting articles to draw in readers.|
|Showing Data on Fandom||FishTank||2019-11-01|
|Displaying tables and other data fixtures in articles.|
|Templates and Scripting on Fandom||FishTank||2019-11-23|
|Infoboxes on Fandom||FishTank||2020-03-13|
|A deep dive into infoboxes, the most common article element.|