Forums: Index Help desk Trying and failing to change default skin
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I've been trying to change Common.css so that Monobook will be the default skin for all users. I'm not skilled with any kind of code but I thought I could just copy the style sheet from Wikipedia's CSS catalogue into my wiki's Common.css page. It hasn't worked so far. I changed my skin so that I see Monobook when I log in, but as soon as I log out it changes to the grey-and-gold look. I just want it to look like Wikipedia or Wikia home. —This unsigned comment is by Kiwalesti (wallcontribs) . Please sign your posts with ~~~~!

That's because the new skins, either slate or smoke, are now default skins for all anonymous (=not logged in) users and you cannot change that, no matter how hard you try to alter Common.css. However, you and other users can set Monobook as their default skin on their preferences. I mean, the new skins are actually pretty nice, so there's no need for newbies to see the boring Monobook skin. :) --Jack Phoenix (Contact) 21:15, 26 May 2007 (UTC)

They may "look nice", but they take up an insane amount of space and get in the way of the actual content. The interface alone should not take up half the space on the most widely-used resolution, 1024x786. As far as I can tell, the new skins were designed first and foremost around adopting a particular ad size - the 300x250 box. I am disappointed by that. --GreenReaper(talk) 17:42, 27 May 2007 (UTC)

That doesn't make sense, though. I've visited other wikis that are hosted on Wikia, and several have unique styles that I can see even if I'm not logged in. Monobook or not, I want the site to look the same whether a visitor is logged in or not. —This unsigned comment is by Kiwalesti (wallcontribs) . Please sign your posts with ~~~~!

That won't work, because a skin is more than CSS. Other skins have different generated HTML, and different ID and classes for many of the UI objects. Some even have custom javascripting. It is virtually impossible to turn such a skin into Monobook with just css. --Splarka (talk) 06:24, 27 May 2007 (UTC)
There's a thread about this on Perhaps some of the Javascript on there might help you, or at least provide a starting point for a solution to this problem. --GreenReaper(talk) 17:29, 27 May 2007 (UTC)

Hi, I've been having a similar problem. I don't mind the slate skin, but I want to have a unified look to the site that matches my original site from where most of my contributors will come from initially. I have edited the monobook skin to match. I understand that I can't change the default using CSS, and I tried the Javascript that Greenreaper suggested but to no avail (the java seemed to freeze my browser). I want to contact an administrator who could possibly change the default skin. Anyone have any idea who would be best to contact? my wiki is at artheat database Robertsloon 15:36, 31 May 2007 (UTC)

Or maybe even if somebody could help change the grey and white areas of the slate skin to black it would help too 17:30, 31 May 2007 (UTC)

As the slate/main.css file is loaded after the MediaWiki:Slate.css file (a bad design, IMHO), you have to use !important to override the body background color. fixed? --Splarka (talk) 07:21, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

Thanks so much Splarka, looks great. Robertsloon 11:16, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

Suggestion: Tool to Set one Skins As Default for All Users

Hello. Why do not Wikia Make one tool to set One Skins As Default for ALl Users. Self i hate all the others Skins. Im Only Liking Monobok!

Well, the new skins are like in beta-testing or so, and it's encouraged to report problems and bugs in them so that they can be fixed. :)
Anyway, there's a good reason why Special:Preferences exists. However, I'm quite sure that the new skins might encourage new readers possibly to register an account and to contribute! Also, IMHO, it makes pretty clear that Wikia is not Wikipedia because we don't use the same skin and so on. Yes, Monobook is popular and great skin, but slate or smoke will be the default for new visitors. Registered users can set their skin from the preferences panel. --Jack Phoenix (Contact) 14:48, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

This should be Possible. But im want all of my visitors and members and all to have Monobok Skin - -- 14:54, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

Well, it's not possible. However, think about it: the new skins might encourage newbies to contribute. Isn't it better to have a new skins and say, 20 new members rather than old skin and no new members? ;) --Jack Phoenix (Contact) 15:03, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

User preferences are nice, but it should be the community's choice how their site looks to visitors, not Wikia's choice. Why should we create the content if we don't have control over its presentation? It's fine to give more options and set defaults, but if they are defaults that cannot be changed by the community, then that is a big problem. Honestly, I'm just fine with the site looking similar to Wikipedia - it means users familiar with that site will have a good idea how our site works as well. Change for the sake of being different is not a good reason. As for encouraging users, I fear Wikia is trying to impose a half-baked technical solution to a social problem. There are plenty of ways to generate contributors. Very few of them need involve changing how the site looks or works; the most effective ones apply to any site. Did Wikia decide educating founders was just too hard? --GreenReaper(talk) 15:12, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

I think there is a problem with the Slate skin. I made a Hebrew wiki, and only in the Monobook skin it looks fine. In the Slate skin everything looks REALY bad... --אורי הולנדר(talk) 06:47, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

Then you should report whatever is wrong with the new skin making it bad in Hebrew so it can be fixed. They are working on a new version of the skins. As for the comment about the 300x250 ad size, the fact that that size stretches the sidebar has been reported and even the techs didn't like that, so I suspect that in the next version of the skins the ad size is going to be stepped down one level like I suggested. Many of the other things mentioned that aren't that good about the new skins are also being fixed.
The new skins were introduced for 2 main reasons; users requested many of the features specific to the Magazine skins such as the article rating, and it wasn't possible to add these to monobook. And, because it was users who requested the new skins. They are still being made because there is plenty community consensus being thrown at them to continue.
Community consensus is nice, and it's a nice thing to claim to support a cause, but I haven't seen any of that here in the discussion of switching defaults to monobook. All I've seen is a bunch of lone admins come in and shout "I Want Monobook for my Wiki" out of their own personal preference with no community backup. No one has supported the question "does your community agree?". No one has bothered to bring in a voting topic in their wiki with a poll on if people are fine the new skins or they want it changed back (With the exception of one or two wiki, namely Uncyclopedia I believe, which was never included in the plans for switching from monobook because it's a parody of Wikipedia). And you can't even complain that the number of admins here asking for monobook is consensus. Only a few dozen admins have actually requested a switch back to monobook, and there are around 2000 admins so the few people saying that their skins should be monobook are but a insignificant pinprick of the Wikia admin population.
And even when it boils down to it. Community consensus is jack shit, if you're a registered user you can pick your preferences, the only people that matter in this are the readers. And I don't see any readers complaining, I barely even see many editors complaining. The people that matter are the small anonymous people who aren't saying anything. As for community consensus against the use of the new skins.
Quoth a user "I love the new skin! While it does take some getting used to, it's a wonderful improvement over the dated MonoBook layout." [1] (Agreement by another user [2])
Quoth a user "when will the rest get the upgrade? the new skin looks good, can't wait to use it." [3]
Quoth a user "Anyway, it's turned out very nicely. I'm loving the smoke skin already. It's definitely a step up from the .wikia skins." [4]
Quoth a user "Hey, you are doing a nice work with this new version.... thank you!" [5]
Quoth a tech "As for GreenReaper's comments about ads... yes, we do need a better ability to pay for the site... but that wasn't the overarching reason. Mostly it's because as we tried to add simple functions to Monobook it was hard to find space..." [6]
~Daniel Friesen (DanTMan, Nadir Seen Fire) (talk) tricks Jul 2, 2007 @ 07:43 (UTC)

There are plenty of people saying quite the opposite - some in the very same threads. Would you like me to pick them out for you? :-)
We can all appreciate that there are bugs in the first version of anything. The real problem was the way this was done - no special page to select the sidewide skin, and reasonable requests to back the changes off being initially met with "well, this is the way it is now, tough luck".
Your view seems to be that the opinion of site administrators and indeed the whole of the site's community should be discarded because Wikia knows better. That is what really got up our noses, and still does. Developers claim to speak for the "small anonymous people" - but it's hard to believe, because as far as I know they don't say anything to anyone. That's why they're small and anonymous.
Let's be honest (or, as they say in Poland, let's talk like real people): Wikia has been doing what they think is best. Some of us disagree. The fact that more people have not disagreed is a reflection of how they did the rollout as much as it is of the skin itself. If they'd sprung Smoke overnight on the ten largest wikis in Wikia, I'd bet hard cash that they'd have had a horde on their doorsteps. They knew there'd be complaints, which is why they didn't do it that way.
Indeed, going down the stats list, the most active site I can see using the new skins is Figure 4 Weekly - and the four most active users on that site don't seem to be interested in talking in general, judging by their talk page and the site's forum. Doesn't seem to be much of a community there.
The next most active is forscherliga, dedicated to a World of Warcraft clan. And, hey, what's that on their front page?
Wir empfehlen den Skin "MonoBook" für einen höheren Komfort beim Surfen und bearbeiten. 
or, translated,
We recommend the Skin “MonoBook” for a higher comfort with the Surfen and work on.
Heh. Looks like the founder of that wiki has been asking for exactly the same thing - "monobook for all". Funnily enough, he's not had much luck.
I had a wander down the list, and it seems like they were an anomaly - not because they didn't like the skin, but because the others hadn't been moved over to the new skins yet. So much for 2,000 admins. In reality, I suspect very few wiki admins and certainly very few users are aware Wikia plans to change the skins, for all that they've tried to announce it. Most wikis are pretty self-contained and only start complaining when something is broken. :-)
It's easy to say "hey, Wikia hosts the site, they write the software and the skins, they have the power to change it". But we, as communities, see ourselves as having ownership of our wikis, because we live there, and we are the ones who have created the content - the reason people come there in the first place. We've spent the time making the wikis what they are. They are our homes. Whether or not our views on how it should best be presented to users is worth less than Wikia's is a matter of opinion. Certainly, they have the technical power to change skins - as they've demonstrated - but in our view, switching the skin and telling us it can't be switched back is way out of line. We're not "Wikia's site on the furry fandom" or "Wikia's site on Star Wars". We're WikiFur and Wookieepedia, and we think we should have the deciding say in how our collective content is presented to others.
Arguing that a skin which has 50% less area for content on 1024x786 (the average user's screen) is "better for readers" is disingenuous at best, too. Now, I have no doubt this will improve, and when it does we will all have the chance to re-evaluate the skins. However, at this point it has not improved - so wiki administrators old and new who are concerned for the usability of their wikis are quite rightly upset when they see Slate and Smoke applied to new wikis and are told that it will be the way things are from now on, and eventually for them as well.
Wikia won't hear from the regular users because they expect us to go to bat to fix it - after all, in their view, we run the site . . . don't we? And they've not heard at all from most existing wikis because it's completely off their radar. So please stop acting like there's some vocal minority of cranks who are dissatisfied with the current implementation of the new skins, and with the plans to impose any new skin unilaterally "for the good of the readers". The vocal majority just isn't here yet.
Users like change when it gives them options about how to run their sites. A good example of this is adding extensions such as DPL and EasyTimeline, which they can take or leave as they wish. Most likely, a fair chunk of wiki users and admins would love the new skins if they were improved and presented as an option for the community. That's when we'd see the polls you're looking for. But there's a large proportion who are going to raise hell for sure if Wikia just changes what they've got. We're just the tip of the iceberg. --GreenReaper(talk) 09:48, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

I don't particularly like the new skin either, but Monobook isn't the one I prefer; I have my preferences set to Classic, which I like much better. But what I wish I could do is have some of the features in the new skin, like the "top content" box. Is there any way that this could be done? -- BruceG 14:28, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

I agree that it should be up to the individual community to decide on the default skin. If users already have the freedom to choose any skin, giving sites control over the default isn't going to take that away.
If the communities weren't meant to have any say in what the end user sees, the style sheets would be completely locked. Instead, they're not, and one of the reasons for that is so that wikis can diverisfy and distinguish themselves from each other. Fastening them all to the same default skin, while it does distinguish us from Wikipedia, damages this important ability for the wikis themselves. In the long run, I think it's really the diverse nature of our sites' content that separates us from Wikipedia, and a uniform look will actually impair that.
Supplying just the option to change it isn't playing into some minority of admins, it simply empowers the community to decide. If, as was claimed above, no communities want monobook, how is adding the option even a problem?
I can understand if Wikia doesn't want to reverse a decision based solely on the opinions here, but it should make an effort to gather more. Please convert some of the larger wikis, like Memory Alpha or something, and see what people think. Is there some sort of technical reason this can't be done? - Kuukai2 22:39, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
Gotta agree STRONGLY in this case. It is redicious that all of us with smaller wiki's are guinea pigs for the new skin that takes up FAR to much space. WillSWC 03:06, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
Here's a survey from the .hack//Wiki, where the skin change was unanimously denounced. I strongly recommend users of other wikis to gather opinions like this, so that it's easier for Wikia staff to see what the various sites think. I'm not trying to make a point that "Quartz is bad" or anything. I respect the effort that went into creating it and the features that it provides us. It expands what we can do with site design, and I'm not saying that it isn't tremendously useful, I'm just saying that it isn't necessarily going to suit every site's needs, and that each wiki should be allowed to decide for themselves what those needs are. - Kuukai2 02:38, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

This discussion has been going on in the wikia-l mailing list as well. I don't want to repeat myself, so here's a recent post where I put up a few screenshots for comparison. Obviously my main interest there is content size - only the one-column even comes close to the current area (the CSS I used includes modifications to make all the widgets work under the reduced width). Lest any of you think 1024x786 is unrealistic nowadays, current statistics suggest that almost 50% of readers are using it. Our wikis have to have good usability at that resolution, otherwise they are going to put off half of their audiences, and detract from their main purpose - presenting content to people. And the last thing we as admins want to have to do is explain to our users why we allowed Wikia to make a change that made it harder to use the site. --GreenReaper(talk) 01:55, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

A question... if the skin were to be changed so that logged in users had a thinner sidebar, to match the smaller ad, what problems do you forsee? and would those problems be worth it for the extra space for logged in users? -- sannse@fandom (talk) 01:02, 11 September 2007 (UTC)
I got 2...
  1. The biggest point of much of the extra space in Quartz is for foreign languages. Shrink it without eliminating the fact that the sidebar has 2 columns within it and things start wrapping badly.
  2. Eliminating the fact that Quartz has 2 columns in it's sidebar is a very bad idea. Take away the 2 columns, and you eliminate one of the reasons I like Quartz more than Monobook. Monobook has vertical space issues. One of the reasons Quartz was created was because of Monobook's vertical space issues. The sidebar in Monobook grows and grows, it can easily grow so tall that it takes up more vertical space then the windows has or even what the content takes up. The 2 column sidebar on Quartz is a brilliant fix for that. It manages to take the content that Monobook makes stretch the page, and nicely display it within the window area. I've seen some pretty long Monobook Sidebars turn into easy to read sidebars in Quartz because of that 2 column sidebar layout. I'd actually favor a Ad size for Logged in users which trades out some the vertical ad space currently used for more horizontal ad space.
But I did suggest an idea in the mailing list of the ability to select a left or right oriented sidebar, add an additional sidebar on the opposite site, and toggle the sidebars into 2 or 1 column modes. For those users who have exceptionally wide or tall screens or have some personal preference. ~NOTASTAFF Daniel Friesen (DanTMan, Nadir Seen Fire) (talk) (tricks) (current topic) Sep 11, 2007 @ 02:04 (UTC)
I would never have suggested significantly narrowing the sidebar without switching back to one-column. That would be silly. It had to more than double in size to start with to fit them in (which is why we were having this discussion about content area to start with). As for the benefits of two-column vs. one-column, I respectfully differ. I do not care if (say) I have to scroll a bit to see one of my widgets, because I so rarely need to look at any of them in the first place. All of the main "navigation" bar fits on 1024x786, even at where it has been extended. 95% of the time I either want to read content, or I want to edit content, and both of those actions benefit from a larger content area. Regular users are likely to use them even less - perhaps looking to the first few on navigation as shortcuts to get back to the front page and recent changes. The key editing and history controls are all at the top. I'm sure it's great to have more area for your widgets if you actually intend to use them, but the reality is most users are not going to go beyond the tools that are presented to them, if they're even there to edit at all. If the sidebar ends up being the longest part of the page,what does it matter? They'll stop reading once they get to the end of the content - and hopefully not have to scroll to see it. --GreenReaper(talk) 02:40, 11 September 2007 (UTC)
The most obvious issue I see is that people using the site as users may design pages that look good with the logged-in user skin, but which look less good for visitors. Ultimately, though . . . this is going to happen anyway to some extent, because some people are going to be using monobook, which has a 30px larger width as compared to the default Quartz. At least one-column users with smaller screens are more likely to be able to see all the existing pages as they were intended to be seen under Monobook. This problem is something that can be controlled on key pages by users who are aware of the issues (on WikiFur we have a special 800x600 version of the main page which is switched to automatically), but part of Wikia's communications to site leaders as part of any skin rollout should be that they need to be aware of skin issues and test occasionally under different skins.
Another issue is that widgets may be less desirable, because it is more likely that users will have to scroll to use them. I would suggest offering collapsible widgets as a partial solution to this. That way either people can have the screen longer, or they can have fewer widgets, or they can have collapsible widgets that take a single click to open for the less-commonly-used tasks, as they choose. Options are good. :-) --GreenReaper(talk) 02:49, 11 September 2007 (UTC)
What about either another preview button ('preview in default/logged out skin') or a widget/link that can be clicked on any article to view it in the logged out skin? Would that be a useful way of helping editors see how pages were affected by the changes?
On widgets, yes... the latest versions are all collapsible. Quite a neat effect from what I've seen on test :)
Perhaps we should move this conversation to another page? This one is getting very long, and is rather off the original topic now -- sannse@fandom (talk) 17:11, 11 September 2007 (UTC)
Discussion continued at Quartz Improvement Discussion on the Inside Forums.
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