Thursday, October 30, 2008

REDESIGNING WIKIPEDIA :: A Project in Productive Interaction

This is a complex project with a detailed record of my process. If you would rather read the project description and see the video prototype, find a computer with a large screen and go here.

Having gained a new understanding of how to apply design according to productive interaction, I immediately sought to apply this perspective on the Wikipedia assignment. Since Wikipedia is already a structure built with user-generated content I sought to find a solution gave even more power to the user and allow them to create their own sense of meaning.


As a group we agreed that Wikipedia users are currently creating meaning by compiling and juxtaposing information as the casually browse a topic and it's surrounding related topics. However, Wikipedia is not currently designed with the affordances to make this an easy process. I suggested the creative direction of treating Wikipedia as a structure where people experience journeys of information gathering. I felt it was important to recognize the nature of learning by browsing that occurs on Wikipedia and to embrace the spontaneous occurrence of jumping to link relevant and less-relevant topics. We agreed upon this direction, wrote a creative brief, and decided to tackle the task of creating the needed affordances.

To better understand how search topics and link topics relate I created a couple of maps visualizing this relevance using a vertical and horizontal planes as a guide. Link topics with high relevance to the search topic were mapped on horizontal plane while unrelated topics were on a vertical plane. I wanted to allow users to see this relevance before and after they clicked on a link as an indication of the path they were leading on their journey of gathering information.

DESIGN/FEEDBACK PROCESS :: My initial design stimulated my thoughts on the possibilities of tracking browsing and allowing others access to your journey as an additional layer of information through juxtaposition and compilation. I designed three initial applications for assisting in this: Travel Log, Saved Journeys, and Public Journeys. I presented this design and explained how a user would not only be able to track their browsing history for their own reference but would also be able to curate information for others to observe publicly. With feedback on my design and the other two designs by my teammates, we decided to further apply this idea of curation in our next iteration.

The next design was built out by one of my teammates applying an agreed upon structure. After the initial structure was designed I refined the design of functional elements and added the design of key features. One of my teammates took this design and created a working comp that was again presented to the class for feedback. Somewhere in this process of feedback we realized the power of these journey-related applications and proposed the idea of allowing for a customizable application space were any number of possible apps could be applied. This was one of the great results of the feedback.

Our final design took into account all of the feedback and added the additional in-depth design of the applications space. After my teammate made some initial aesthetic changes I designed the application space with examples and added additional pages needed for an accurate presentation of our concept.


Adding the application space increased considerably the work load on the programming end. At a certain point I realized that my teammate would not be able to complete a full and accurate representation of our concept with out some help. At this point I began programming certain aspects of the site mainly, Current Journey/Saved Journey/Public Journey applications, the Media Viewer and Assisted with the Britannica/CNN applications, Journey Mapper, Content Toggle feature.

I presented the final prototype of our site along with my teammates and we received great feedback on the idea of the customizable application space. Much of the feedback proposed ideas for other possible applications, which I felt was a manifestation of having a design that focused on being a structure for productive interaction.


I gained two overarching insights from this assignment. First, creating dynamic structures with the goal of productive interaction means you must consider what seems to be an endless amount of variables and possibilities. These considerations would then have to be applied to the design to create an comprehensible structure for interaction. Second, I became more accustomed to additive solutions as opposed to reductive solutions to problems. Design on the surface aesthetic level is primarily a process of simplifying for the purpose of communication. This is something I am very used to. However, when you are creating structures for interaction the design should give the user as much control as possible and therefore designing becomes an additive process.