Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Make the Source of All Knowledge Easier to Use

Admit it, you look at it. And you like it.

I'm talking about Wikipedia. As much as it tends to be the butt of so many jokes, and constantly demonized in college classrooms, Wikipedia is one of the greatest sources of knowledge on the Internet. It epitomizes the best and worst of the Internet. On one hand it has an article on, well, pretty much anything you could imagine. But, not everything is necessarily factual since Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone.

Wikipedia has come a long way over the years, including a tightening of sourcing and many entries are carefully policed by dedicated contributors who know and care about specific topics.

But one area in which Wikipedia seems perpetually behind is design. Wikipedia pages are long, text-heavy and can be difficult to navigate. This is even true on mobile devices. While I've heard rumors Wikipedia is working on addressing this, the site still looks very much like it did 10 years ago.

Fortunately, there's a great FREE solution to this: Wikiwand. This fantastic browser plugin (available for Chrome, Firefox or Safari) instantly converts any Wikipedia entry into something readable, easily navigable and actually enjoyable to read. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by a Wikipedia entry, you feel a desire to continue reading.

With Wikiwand, notice how the entry navigation is always on the left, allowing you to quickly jump to anywhere in the article. In the traditional Wikipedia view, this left-hand navigation is taken up with a bunch of links you've probably never clicked on.

The text is larger and more friendly. Plus, with extra padding and white space, it's easier on the eyes to read part-way across the screen rather than the full distance.

With Wikiwand, you can easily customize your view, including font style, screen color, margin and font size.

If you click on an image, it opens up an image gallery displaying all images featured in the post.

There is also a great mobile app for iOS, with an Android app currently in the works. This app functions much the same as the desktop version, but is optimized for mobile devices. It works faster than a traditional web browser and is super slick. The only downside being you must specifically search within the app, rather than doing a generic web search in your Safari app.

The best part of Wikiwand is that it runs in the background on your desktop. Once installed, you never have to think about it. All Wikipedia entries are instantly made beautiful. It's one of those extensions I can't live without.
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