Community Central
Community Central
Once you've read this blog, check out Part 2: "Community Connect Interview: Better Ads for a Better User Experience"

It's hard to believe it's been a month since Community Connect, our annual event where admins and editors from various communities meet up with Fandom Staff to share feedback and hear plans on the latest and upcoming developments for Fandom wikis.

We'll be publishing several recap blogs over the next few weeks that delve deeper into the topics discussed at Community Connect. Today, I want to provide a broad overview of the main theme of our presentations: improving the user experience, including the ad experience, which is a significant pain point for the community. That includes the following:

  • Fandom's commitment: We are committed to improving the wiki platform, making it even more useful for fans and editors.
  • Boosting user engagement: Our goal is to increase how often and how long readers use the wiki platform, benefiting from the content you create.
  • Addressing UX issues: There are many ways to improve the platform's user experience, and this blog will highlight specific examples we're working on.
  • Improving the ad experience: Enhancing the user experience includes improving the ad experience, which is crucial for both the community and business.
  • Your opportunities for feedback: We’ll discuss several ways for you to give feedback, including an upcoming event focused on the ad experience.

Tomorrow, we'll also be posting a full transcript of the Community Connect session about ad improvements. In the meantime, let's dig into today's topics!

Problem Statement: The User Experience is Cluttered[]

Let's start with a simple but powerful fact: Fandom has a lot of traffic. We have 2 billion monthly pageviews from about 350 million monthly unique users, making Fandom one of the top sites in the world. Numbers like that are partly due to SEO optimizations, but the core value at the center of it all is user-generated content: 45 million pages across 250 thousand wikis, created by you and editors like you over the last 20 years (yes, this October marks the 20th anniversary of Fandom!).

This traffic serves a specific utility: reference content. People type questions and keywords into search engines representing things they want to learn, discover, or even confirm (solve a theory, win an argument, etc) across gaming, anime, movies, TV, books, music, and more. They find a page someone like you has worked on and get their answer. They may spend a bit of time on the site but, on average, tend to leave after that.

Why is that? The next great page is just around the corner, so why not stay? Sometimes it's the utilitarian nature of their search—they need information quickly (“help me beat this level of a game” or “who is this character in the show I’m watching?”) and return to their activity. In other cases, it's about the platform's design. We’ve tried a lot of things over the years but it’s accumulated in ways that make the page feel overwhelming. So even an intended engagement driver that, in theory, should be useful is lost amongst an overwhelming amount of modules, buttons, and of course ads, reducing the effectiveness of all of them – as well as the content, which is and should be the page’s primary purpose.

A screenshot from Wowpedia showing clutter in the user experience.

UX clutter on Wowpedia, which contributed to the community forking in 2023.

On the right, you can see a screenshot illustrating this issue. Last summer, we ran two experiments that you can see there and had an in-content video ad unit stacked below the table of contents, creating a meaningful gap between the introductory section and the main content.

This screenshot is from Wowpedia, and I chose it intentionally because such issues contributed to most of the Wowpedia community forking from Fandom last fall. Similar sentiments were expressed from other wikis on the platform too, most of which didn’t fork – but that doesn’t make the pain point any less real or in need of solving.

So, let's solve it. You don't like seeing the user experience like this, and neither do we. Now, we have the right mix of ideas, eager staff and community members, and knowledgeable team members to make genuine improvements for editors, readers, and the business.

The What: Turning Traffic into User Engagement[]

Let’s start with a slide Peter Mansour, Fandom’s Chief Product Officer, shared:

The Engagement Pyramid representing the growth of audience engagement on a platform, from Traffic, to Engagement, to Loyalty, to Registration.

If you’re wondering what all that means, don’t worry! The Engagement Pyramid is our way of showing how we can build on traffic, represented by the number “1” because it’s our starting point to build upon.

For today’s blog, the focus is on number “2” – Engagement. The way we think about it is simple: we want to encourage those 350 million users who visit Fandom every month to stay on the site longer by exploring more content, whether it’s additional game information, recaps of the latest shows, or whatever their interests may be.

We have everything needed to achieve this: 45 million pages of reference content (wikis), gaming how-to’s and walkthroughs (GameFAQs), ratings and expert analysis (GameSpot, Metacritic), listings on what to watch (TV Guide), and great game deals (Fanatical). Fandom owns all these properties, each one a utility to drive Pageviews per Session – the number of pages a user visits each time they come to Fandom, and a key success metric that we measure as we work on engagement.

We can accomplish this by carefully (through experimentation) putting the right content recommendations and utility drivers in front of users. In the next section, you’ll see some examples of our approach to this. As you look at some of these examples, here’s an important idea to keep in mind: improving the user experience, in a way that can also improve the ad experience (more to come on that), will require making the platform even more useful to people beyond their initial pageview, which involves trying new things and thinking about page elements in new-to-Fandom ways that helps guide users throughout their experience.

The How: Features to Drive Engagement[]

At Community Connect, Peter and members of our Product and Tech teams gave us a preview of some of the features the teams are working on to help accomplish these goals. The preview that this blog is about to provide is pretty high level, but we’ll also have follow up blogs that provide more insight into these features and how we’re thinking about them.

Note that these are not all of the features that were discussed at Community Connect (we can share more of those in future blogs), but rather some highlights that we thought would be particularly interesting for this blog.

Interactive Maps with New Functionality[]

A screenshot of the Progress Tracking feature in Interactive Maps.

Progress Tracking in Interactive Maps

This year, we’re taking another crack at adding even more features to Interactive Maps, a popular feature we rolled out to the platform in 2021 and 2022. You may have seen some of these enhancements already, like Progress Tracking, which we’ve been experimenting with the last few months. Enhancements like these were inspired by the MapsExtended script on Dev Wiki, created and maintained by Macklin, a Fandom Star and Pillars of Eternity admin who’s been a huge help in getting features like Progress Tracking natively integrated into the Interactive Maps feature.

This feature allows gamers (gaming representing over half of Fandom’s overall traffic), to track where they’re at in a game. As a follow up experiment to drive registration (which generally keeps users more engaged), we’re prompting users to register to continue their tracking as well. Additional features we’ve been working on are a full-screen mode for Interactive Maps, and the ability to embed Interactive Maps. Maps are a great tool for people to spend more time on Fandom, so the more we can make them useful for people, the more likely they are to stick around. We’re so confident in Interactive Maps that we’re going to continue looking at other features we can add as well, including drawing more inspiration from MapsExtended.

Global Navigation Experiments[]

A screenshot illustrating what the new Fandom global navigation experience could look like.

A mock of what the new Fandom global navigation experience could look like.

Another feature we’re excited about, which has received positive feedback from Fandom Stars (a tough crowd to please), is our New Global Navigation. We’re currently experimenting with it, and you can see an example using Fallout on the right.

There are two sections of this new navigation experience:

  • A left nav bar focused on user utility. By using features like Popular Pages, we can provide relevant wiki links based on wikis a user has previously visited, rather than the generic links currently provided under the Anime, Gaming, Movies, and TV icons.
  • A top nav bar focused on site utility. Moving the search bar, user profile, and notification links back to the top aligns with standard best practices for search bar placement, making it more likely users will interact with those features. We saw similar positive results last year after moving the Register and Sign in buttons back to the top of the page.

The Global Nav experiment is ongoing to ensure it meets our success criteria before deciding on a full rollout to all users. If it’s successful, and pending further experimentation, the global nav could become a new space (like the Mobile Drawer as well, discussed in the next section) to bring new functionality and features to the site without crowding the page.

Mobile Drawer Experiment[]

A screenshot mock of Fandom’s upcoming Mobile Drawer experiment.

The upcoming Mobile Drawer experiment.

Another important feature we’ve developed is the Mobile Drawer. You can see its default, expanded, and collapsed states on the right, represented through Final Fantasy. The idea is simple: create new “real estate” on the page to consolidate key Fandom widgets and modules – like Popular Pages, Others Like You Also Viewed, and even widgets from properties like GameFAQs – into a more organized and less intrusive space than the scattered layout they have now.

As with most features, we will experiment with the Mobile Drawer before deciding on a full rollout. We want to find out if this new placement leads to the same or better usage as the current layout. This feature exemplifies our commitment to trying new things and thinking about page elements in those “new-to-Fandom ways” I mentioned earlier. If successful, we’ll be able to make important progress in de-cluttering the mobile user experience by consolidating engagement-driving features in one place. Most importantly: it gives us a place to put our stuff, which helps get it out of the way of your content.

One exciting aspect, particularly regarding ads, is the potential to monetize the space around the Mobile Drawer. Other platforms and publishers successfully use a similar feature and have seen success with a single, powerful ad, which generates a large amount of their mobile ad revenue. As we experiment with monetization in that area of the page, then if we could achieve similar results, it would open up opportunities to reduce ad clutter on mobile and further improve the reader experience.

How Engagement Can Improve the Ad Experience[]

Engagement is an important piece of any platform’s ad experience. The more engaged a user is, the more ads they see. Simple, right? More time on site means more ad exposure and more revenue. Additionally, advertisers generally want to spend more to reach an engaged user. This means Fandom can generate revenue based on engagement rather than sheer traffic, reducing the need to bombard readers with ads and giving us space to explore new ad formats and placements, as Fandom’s Chief Revenue Officer, Jeremy Steinberg, shared at Community Connect.

For example, our Monetization Product team is tasked with making product improvements that generate revenue. As Peter also discussed at Connect, the team has nearly hit their goals already – less than halfway through the year – without adding a single new ad unit. They achieved this by improving page load speeds which in turn increases engagement via more pageviews per session, leading to better revenue performance. They made the platform work better for users instead of adding more ads, and made more money at the same time.

Performance matters and that will continue to be an important focus for us. And as we continue to make the platform work better while seeing success with engagement features like the ones discussed in this blog, we can also experiment with ads in a more sophisticated way. That includes where we place ads, or how many ads we have, or how often a user sees an ad, or which ads users see depending on their interests.

At Fandom, we’re confident that improving the ad experience adds value for the community, further cleans up the user experience, provides better opportunities for advertisers, and strengthens Fandom’s business by creating a cleaner platform.

Of course, change takes time, especially with site-wide UX improvements. You’ll naturally see new features before the full cleanup is complete, but we’ll keep testing and iterating to see what works and share those results with you. We also, candidly, sometimes face challenging economic realities, because the performance of the overall economy has an impact on our business. That may require tough decisions in the interim while focusing on our long-term clean up goals. In those cases, we will communicate those decisions to you. We are, at the end of the day, committed to finding solutions and partnering with the community in key areas of this experience.

Announcement: Upcoming Community Ad Bash[]

Right before Community Connect, we held an internal staff event called the Ad Bash, where Fandom staff spent time over two days as logged out users and reported any problematic ad experiences they encountered. We got about 100 reports, which we’re currently going through to determine which ones were bad ads, which were bugs, and so on.

But we’re not done yet. We are inviting you to participate in a Community Ad Bash to tackle ads that aren’t working well on the site. Together, we can identify:

  • Broken ads
  • Ads that are behaving badly
  • Ads that work as intended but are confusing

Stay tuned for more information about when the Community Ad Bash will be held and how you can participate. We hope you join us! It’ll be optional, but a little time spent working together can make meaningful improvements in the user experience.

Product Support: Our Ongoing Partnership With You[]

The Community Ad Bash is just one way we want to partner with the community to drive engagement and improve the user experience. We also have a Community Product Support team dedicated to working with the community and our Product teams to facilitate community testing and feedback on new features. We introduced this team in our 2024 overview of Fandom’s Community team and discussed it in detail at Community Connect in a presentation by our Product Support Lead, Antonio Castro.

The Product Support team, established at the end of 2023, aims to align the community's needs and desires with our business goals for product features and developments. They focus on facilitating testing of new changes, investigating and prioritizing bug reports, ensuring the community's voice is heard in the development process, and providing a platform for Product and Tech team stakeholders to engage with the community.

You’ll see the Product Support Team becoming more active within the community throughout the rest of the year. They will be central in announcing when features, developments, or improvements can be expected, including the ones in this blog.

Final Thoughts[]

Working with you will be a vital part of the success of these initiatives. We want to provide utility to you (new features like Interactive Maps improvements) and more utility for readers (finding more content), and we want to improve the UX for everyone, including the ad experience. One slide we showed many times at Community Connect illustrates that commitment to partnering with you to achieve these goals:

An equation representing Fandom's committment to drive engagement in partnership with the community, leading to improvements in the site's user experience including a better ad experience.

In the meantime, after reading everything that was discussed today, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions and feedback – including in the comments. There are a lot more exciting details to come, so be sure to keep an eye on the Fandom Staff Blog, join the Fandom Discord server, and keep an eye out for those updates. Thank you for reading!

Once you've read this blog, check out Part 2: "Community Connect Interview: Better Ads for a Better User Experience"

Fandom Staff
Hey I'm Brandon, VP of Community at Fandom.
I'm a huge fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel.
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