What do you think of this Template Guidelines policy page draft?

+18 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

This is a rather technical question and won't be of interest to everyone. But I did want to make sure that anyone who is interested gets a chance to weigh-in.

Check out http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Template_Guidelines

What do you think of it? What would you change? If you would change something, it would be great if you'd post a draft of how you would phrase things here.



in Policy and Style by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
I didn't take it as a dig! Roots templates are project templates and should be placed accordingly.  (Italian roots isn't a official project yet)
I really don't think this has anything to do with the status of Italian roots - as it is mention in same sentence as One Name Studies -- it has to do with placement and look on the page.   I'll be glad when we "get" official status, tho.
I was talking about placement of roots templates. I only noted the "status" as a side note. In hopes of a Leader reading my comment might decide to take on your proposed project Michael.
I haven't seen any real objections or alternative proposals, so I'm inclined to make http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Template_Guidelines official so that we can move on to subsidiary topics, such as the styling and usage of feature boxes on profiles.

My comments/objections below.... don't know how you would like to have the feedback..... 

A) The main objective is that instead of a policy why not start with user requirements and then decide if the user requirement is something Wikitree should support or not....   

B) This voting in G2G seems odd when you don't have defined problem/user requirements... We have voted about hatnotes when no one understand what a hatnote was.... then 3 weeks later we get odd solutions like Europe (en) someone is trying to link on every Europe category to all other Europe categories with hardcoded text on every category that don't work on small screens we get a mess....and today we have 11 languages and if WIkitree expand we will have maybe 50 languages.....

Same problem with Category:Monroe_Township,_Allen_County._Ohio we now have in WIkitree a solution with 22 links on every category ==> if you have to add another Monroe Township then you should update 23 pages (why not use a Free space page that you include)..... (compare wiki and one disambiguation page). If you don't know the county system in the states how will you find it?

Feels Wikitree need to have some kind of development advisory board that could point on solutions better to maintain and that we do the same.... 

C) What is a feature box I don't understand? I see no definition more than this
"They feature content that is visually and functionally separate from the main body of the page." 

C1) Is a hatnote a feature box? A hatnote is at the top of a page and the function is just to explain the context of a page and point on a disambiguous page = functionally separated from the main body....

D) Why don't we add a section about that you prefer server based CSS in the policy document.... The inline CSS we get in all templates is a mess and will make today's good behavior on a small device screen as a smartphone not good at all.....

E) Think we should define in the document that a template must support small screens and big screens.... 

The guidelines are not clear and I believe they still need more clarification.

The guidelines were put out without any real discussion with the template project. Seems the involved project should be part of that discussion or at least be aware new guidelines are coming out.

Cynthia brought up some good points and questions about the template project and role.
Michelle, what exactly is not clear, and what still needs to be discussed? Please be specific and start those discussions.

A.) We need policies, not just discussions. Policies help avoid and resolve conflicts between members. You may not be aware of this, but there have already been serious conflicts about usage of templates.

B.) We don't really vote in G2G.

C.) A feature box is visually and functionally separate from the main body of the page. If you have specific questions about what that means, feel free to ask.

C1.) Yes, if it's visually and functionally separate from the main body of the page. We should probably discuss specific hatnotes separately.

D.) It does say "Formatting and styling on WikiTree should be universal. It is subject to change based on overall website design considerations ..." and we have a separate page on inline CSS.

Allowing some inline CSS in templates was a compromise made at the time the CSS policy was established. We have an admittedly slow development cycle. We may not be able to write a class that suits every need as soon as a need emerges. So, Leaders can create templates that do styling or use custom styles. But they may be changed later. Anyone who creates or uses them needs to understand that.

E.) I like the idea of a recommendation that all templates should be responsive. And they should all have good documentation, etc. But it's hard to require things like this. You can't just say it "must" be done.

Magnus said:

A) The main objective is that instead of a policy why not start with user requirements and then decide if the user requirement is something Wikitree should support or not....   

Chris said: 

A.) We need policies, not just discussions. Policies help avoid and resolve conflicts between members. You may not be aware of this, but there have already been serious conflicts about usage of templates.

These don't seem mutually exclusive to me. Templates based on user requirements can and should be developed according to established policies and guidelines.



9 Answers

+11 votes

Would it be possible to add a link to a list of approved templates?

Hopefully the approved templates will include examples of proper useage.

Thank you.
by Philip Smith G2G6 Pilot (270k points)

Most template pages should be up to speed on how to use them.
We need to get the guidelines settled and then review everything in the Templates category. I'm sure that some of them will not be recommended.

http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Templates (the page linked in the proposed guidelines) 

http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Category:Templates  (this page isn't linked in the proposed guidelines.) 

+7 votes

I think your guidelines are a good starting point Chris.

One thing that perhaps needs addressing is [Template position]. I find that some templates - such as the "Succession Box"  work very well at the top of the biography. Other templates such as "User Ethnicity" work well as a sidebar. Still other templates like some of the large "Projects" and "One Name Studies" templates are best suited for the bottom of the biography.

While Style is another issue not to be discussed here I will say that visually there is often too much "white space" on many templates. Also in many Project templates unnecessary wording could be eliminated such as "If you are interested in this profile,"

by Eugene Quigley G2G6 Mach 7 (75.6k points)

You also have the dimension that today all of us a big screen surfing at home then we view the same page on a small screen like a mobile device that we use both in portrait mode and landscape mode ==> different screen width....

The answer is Responsive design ==> we display a wiki profile in different ways dependent on the screen size.....

Step number 1 is we stop do inline css sizing instead use CSS classes see comment ==> then you can present the templates different if the user has a big screen or a small screen....

+10 votes

Great start - much needed.  Thank you!

Things to think about for standardization:

Limits on size, Limits on artwork, Limits on colors used

Combined projects template

I personally like the placement of templates at the top of the profile only.  We have so many templates now though, that it can get a crowded look.  Some of these profiles fit into several projects.

Some of the templates need to be culled (but as you said, after guidelines).  I am seeing templates when categories are more appropriate.


Michelle brought up several important considerations in her G2G Question, "Should freespace pages used in place of templates fall under the template project?"  A couple of questions Michelle raised which may not be addressed by the Template page draft (or may be addressed somewhere I haven't found).

Only leaders can create and edit templates, but members are finding a sort of work-around and creating Free-space pages using the template brackets - which then acts as a template.  So use of the actual html language for templates {{ ...}} is evidently not restricted to leaders.

Is there a way to track or find these Free-space - Template hybrids? 

I am trying to help a newer member who created one of these in error - can it be deleted, and if so, how? 

Page could address the role of the Templates Project in the process?



by Cynthia B G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
edited by Cynthia B

I agree - a clear and succint outlay of templates - what goes, and what is iffy and what should be discouraged or is a defnite no-no (I also learned something new today - transclusion ...). Even for someone like me who has not had much exposure to the bigger world out there of IT and syntax ...

Cynthia I agree. I'd still like to know why any user can create a template using a freespace profile.
+6 votes

The draft speak about a naming standard I miss a standard of documenting a template. Most templates I have seen is just code and you have to guess why it was created....

Suggestion: Add some standard header that should be used... maybe a non issue if we just create project templates...

One design pattern they use at Wikipedia is to add the documentation in a sub page /doc and use a template {{Documentation}} in the template page that includes the subpage ==> you can have different permissions on the documentation page and the template...  

If Wikitree should be able to add value for our users we need to get a development process based on user needs ==> why a template is created should be motivated with an user story. 

E.g. template misnamed category is just motivated that it is used for misnamed categories not what is the purpose of it and why its important from an user perspective.... no comments has been added in the changelog feels odd as it seems to be used on more than 12000 categories 


by C S G2G6 Pilot (273k points)
edited by C S
Magnus most template pages have usage descriptions. Some really need no explanation. The templates on WikiTree are simple for the most part compared to the advanced templates Wikipedia uses. The advanced templates on wikitree have instructions on useage.

Misnamed Category seems pretty straight forward.

Adding user stories is great when you are working large projects. We use them when designing web pages for charities. The changes comments allows you to comment if needed. Not all changes need an explanation as the changes feed shows the changes.

Adding {{Documentation}} to a template page is a good idea. Not sure how many pages would benefit from this.
+4 votes

Miss a section about server based CSS to avoid todays templates with inline Css not following Wikitree color schema

Why we should not use inline CSS:

  1. Difficult to maintain if you should change the style of more templates or need to make them work on mobile devices....
  2. Easy to make mistakes if people are not webdesigner 
  3. Makes the code dirty
  4. Every template creator create what he/she think is good design ==> right now we are getting a color schema that differ from the one Wikitree use ==> it gives a bad impression for the reader and makes it tougher for users to read.....

Good design pattern is to use server based CSS styles see example MediaWiki:Common.css ==> the layout is separated from the code and is reused i.e. the way a wiki use templates.... ;-) 

When we start working more active supporting users on mobile phone then having a server based CSS makes life much easier compared to hardcoded inline CSS:

  1. we can use media queries based on the screen size see article
    @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) 
    ==> this part of the Style sheet is used if the device screen is max 480 px
    		div#header {
    			background-image: url(media-queries-phone.jpg);
    			height: 93px;
    			position: relative;
    		div#header h1 {
    			font-size: 140%;

    ==> creates smaller graphics

  2. doing responsive design and let project graphics float in another way for small screens.....

  3. Excellent tool to test design is the Chrome Developers tool that can emulate different screen size and mobile phones,,,,

    1. Overview

See Best practice with CSS - CSS tutorial and classes 

by C S G2G6 Pilot (273k points)
edited by C S
+5 votes

"navigation boxes when a class of profiles or categories can benefit from a particular method of navigation" 

What navigation boxes exists today and why did we create them?

Is it ok to create better navigational boxes? I think the out of the box category structure is not user friendly for navigation.... I did a small check on the Swedish Category pages and my feeling is that noone clicks an hierarchy of 12 levels we need better navigational boxes if people should find/use material we create.... We also need better tools to monitor usage pattern so we can see what pages are used...

by C S G2G6 Pilot (273k points)
edited by C S
+8 votes

I created a G2G question Templates friend or foe and got no feedback...

My feeling is most people don't have wiki experience and dont understand what can be created with a template ==> a discussion like this will die.... its like asking a tribe in inner Africa about internet ;-)

Is there any work done investigating what benefits we could have? Do we gather user stories why people use Wikitree and see how we can implement them?!?!? 

In G2G I see more focus on a rule based development model (get a feeling of russian planned economy) instead of a how should we match user stories/requirements....

I add some comments to this Answer of different user stories I think Wikitree should support....

An User story is in simple language what an user would like to achieve i.e. nothing with how its implemented....

As an user doing genealogy.... I would like to.... so that I can...

by C S G2G6 Pilot (273k points)
Tusen takk, Magnus!

I selected your answer as best, and I don't care if anyone else comes along and removes it!

I think you've hit the nail on the head with your answer and following comments.

It's important to have a focus on the customer: the users of WikiTree. There needs to be these kinds of User Stories to guide development of useful tools.

All of the things you described is exactly what I would have thought Templates would be about!

If these templates existed right now, then I also think that this could really make WikiTree even more powerful and bring it up to the next level.

Thanks Eric then we are 2 out of 300 000 ;-) who like user stories.... maybe time for a project Wikitree User Stories ;-)

Sad thing is that I have a User story list for the Swedish Parish project and I have developed templates for external sources to match the user stories...... but the new draft tell me don't do this..... and the only explanation I have seen that every page should be possible to edit for every user on Wikitree so templates and maybe categories is something to complex... 

Reason I did this is that I didnt understand the development model Wikitree have,,,,,

We need a model with a vision, user stories.... today its difficult to understand what direction we have....

I feel we need to decide if we should be a simplified ASCII solution or a Genealogy website using Internet..... with maps, references etc.... and then we need a vision... after that requirements and user stories.....

Step 1: Is Chris must tells us what his vision is..... and what is not....
Feels Genealogy and a site like this has so many possibilities....

The new thing I am looking into is the Semantic web ==> which is the really cool thing when we publish the knowledge we have added using templates and combine that information with other sources like Gedmatch, FTDNA DNA research etc.....  the sky is the limit...

Thanks Eric for the feedback... normally you just hear to complex


I can tell that you have a software engineering background. Same here, and I've worked on Open Source software projects for 13 years. There are a number of similarities between that and WikiTree, in the sense that it is a collaborative community.
Here's another thing that I don't understand....

See this recent thread about "How do you store your boilerplate?":


The recommendations seem to fall into

1. Store it in a Word file, and copy and paste

2. Store it in your Scratch Pad, and copy and paste

3. Store it on a Free Space profile, and copy and paste

Really?! I thought this is what Templates would be for.... If it's a *boilerplate* text, then there ought to be some sort of Template for it.

I don't understand why there isn't the ability to have user-created Templates. Then, if certain Templates seem to be more universally-useful, then promote them to system-wide Templates. That way users can, in a way, contribute to more and more usability of WikiTree.
Eric, the boilerplate that the members are discussing in the other question are things like the wiki markup for templates themselves. You wouldn't want a template that inserts the DateGuess template. :-)

Ideally we would, and I'd like to say will, have ways to make it easier for members to insert commonly used codes. But everything takes time.

Magnus, things taking time is about the only way I know how to respond to you. You've posted at least six different answers to this question, some with many follow-up comments, and at least three or four comments on other answers, some of which you've since hidden. You're going too fast for the rest of us.

I can't follow you. I respect you and think you have great ideas, but I don't have time to fully understand everything you're saying. I'm sure Eric understands you more readily than I do.

I follow you enough to know that some of the use cases (what you call "user stories") fit with the feature box function of templates that the proposed style guide outlines.

Some of your other responses are just making good points about CSS, responsive design, good documentation, etc.

I'm not sure if you're arguing against anything on the proposed policy page on templates. If you are, and I hate to say this, maybe you could reply again? I'd like to finalize the policy and then move forward to discuss styling for template feature boxes.

You'll notice that I didn't reply to various members' posts about styling of feature boxes above. I think that's a separate and equally important question.

I think policy questions needed to be addressed slowly, carefully, and one at a time.

Hi Crhis,

Thanks for the explanation. And yes, I do understand that things take time. I know it's a challenge to prioritize all the different things to do here on WT.

Regarding User Stories, this is a common concept in software development and specifically those that use "Agile" software engineering practices. It is a way to put yourself in the mind of your end-user and figure out what things they would like to do with some system. This is a way of helping you to discover Requirements for that system, and then take that list and build them into the system.

In good Wiki fashion, here is more information about User Stories:


Specifically take a look at the Format:


And Examples:


There is a section about comparing with Use Cases:


After familiarizing yourself with above, you can then go back up in this thread and re-read Magnus's suggestions. He has separated each concept, and each starts with a User Story.

Take a look at his first suggestion for a Geolocation feature. He starts off with a User story, which gives the rationale for why someone wants to have this feature. He then goes on showing how this feature is available in Wikipedia, and an example of how we can use that template in WikiTree.

Magnus described User Stories for all these features:

  • Geolocation
  • Simplified Map
  • Boilerplate (with six examples, listed as A-F)
  • Info Box
  • OCLC World Cat
  • Misnamed Project Category


I hope this helps with the explanation. Both Magnus and I have backgrounds in software engineering. Well, I do. I assume Magnus has because the language that he is using above.

Magnus's answer is not about the proposed policy on templates. As I understand him, he is advocating focusing LESS on making up policies about things, and focusing MORE on creating features that are helpful to both beginning users and to advanced users. Do this by using more templates, essentially shortcuts, that do even more in their functionality. By focusing more on the functionality and importantly, ease-of-use, of various templates, then you will naturally spend less time on developing policies of usage. 

Which path is better for the end user? A wealth of capabilities? Or more written rules on how to use, or not to use something? Rules should be baked into the feature, in a programmatic way. A feature should be, as we say in the industry, monkey-proof: easy to use, and difficult to break. There are many different kinds of people who use WT, with a wide range of skills. Features should be targeted to both Beginning Users (low wiki skill set) as well as Advanced Users (high wiki skill set). And make it easier for all of us to put together consistently useful and great profiles.

User Story Research Plan: As an user doing genealogy its best practise to have a research plan. As an user doing genealogy inside Wikitree it is important important that I can share my Research plan with other people working on the profile inside Wikitree and that we can see what progress we have done... to make it easier to collaborate the research plan should

  1. be easy to find
  2. easy to understand ==> some standard headline
  3. easy to update the progress positive/negative
  4. easy to discuss the evidence found and share how I analyze the evidences found   

See G2G

I think you are right.... We need to create a Free Space Project page, just for these User Stories. It might be a way to collaborate on the technical side of WikiTree.
Eric ... that was very eloquently put! Thank you!

>> create Free Space page

I have used a Google calc for managing Requirements/User stories.... 

Best would be if someone could write down the development process and then we could find the right tools to use...

One User story per Free Space page with Categories explaining what kind of User story it is and maybe a status could be also a way....

Best would be some kind of Whiteboard function to get an overview of status.... Most of the above user stories can rather easily be implemented with a template so its no rocket science implement them....  

The following User Stories are already implemented using templates 

+6 votes
I think some standards and guidelines are needed to prevent chaos. That being said, I also believe there needs to be some flexibility within those standards and guidelines to allow for creativity . . . if every single profile looks exactly the same, it is boring. Templates should be one of the tools available to show creativity.

". . . we're not talking about starting to enforce a standard. We never "enforce" style rules."

This quote was made while talking about the Sources help page, but I wonder if it doesn't also apply here?
by John Beardsley G2G6 Mach 3 (37k points)

Templates is for me not creativity its to fulfill an user story 

I think Chris has a point that to make collaboration easier ==> less complex profiles


As we have changed the game plan for who can contribute on profiles Pre-1500 why can't we do the same for projects pages trying to help other people doing genealogy?

A) Where is the focus of Wikitree on the reader/the writer/the information available

Sometimes in Life you need to make a choice....

A-1) Easier for the reader or the writer

A-2) Easier for the reader or restrict what information a reader get
- like no support for adding locations of a farm as we miss a good gelocation template
- not share that there is a picture database for the area they research
- not share that you have a forum with people experts on the area you are trying to research

A-3) Easier for a reader to navigate or let them use the standard categories with 12 levels clicking and never find a page...

B) Should everything be possible to edit for everyone independent of skill level

B-1) Wikiprofile page
Should every Wikiprofile be as easy as possible or is it up to the profile manager

B-2) Category pages 
A page with local resources that is administrated by a project

Not everyone has knowledge to add info. Is it a big loss if we focus on giving the end user a better experience and the writer needs to think about that the page need to be maintained...

B-3) Free space pages
Must everyone be able to update all Free space pages?!?!? Or can this page be more advanced and contain Geo locations of places, inline pictures..... 

+5 votes

One section about that a template should work on different screen sizes like also a small screen as a mobile device in portrait and landscape mode.....

Also add to the how to document a template section that we should have

Tested on mobile screen(small screen): Yes/No

As Wikitree works well on a mobile device (has css created for screens with max-width: 767px) a bad design of a template can destroy this behavior. So people doing templates or other solutions that should be (re)used on more places most understand the consequences of the design they do..... 

We have today a template like Template:Geographic_Location that I am not a big fan of when used on a normal screen but on a mobile it doesn't work at all....(used on more than 2000 pages)

The new category approach adding tables with 1 column for every new language (today 15 columns added) doesnt work on a small device screen see video....  ==> if this approach should be used on more category pages then we will get problems on all category pages....

by C S G2G6 Pilot (273k points)
edited by C S

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