In March 2021, we announced at Community Connect that we were beginning work on a new feature called Interactive Maps. Then, in May 2021, we talked more about the tool, and at the beginning of this year, we gave another peek into it in our blog post about 2022 plans. This has been a long-requested and much-anticipated feature, and I am so happy to finally announce that Interactive Maps are now live for all communities to use and bring the world that your community is all about to life in brand new ways!
I call it a new feature, but really, it is new-ish. Fandom implemented a map feature called Wikia Maps in 2014, and Gamepedia had IP-specific solutions for interactive maps, as well. However, Wikia Maps was retired a short time later, and Gamepedia’s maps were never centralized into one tool. Until now, we were never really able to give these tools the love and support they needed, but the call for adding a unified, customizable mapping tool has continued to be one of the most requested features from users.
So why now? Gamepedia was never able to build a fully-realized maps feature due to the small size of their dedicated development team, and Fandom’s legacy platform was an impediment to effectively building new features due to the significant technical debt that was present on the platform. The Unified Community Platform (UCP) led to a cleaner codebase for Fandom to build features upon, and the Unified Community Experience (UCX) – including FandomDesktop – was built to be a more adaptable site design that had the addition of new features in mind. The launch of Interactive Maps is a direct result of the work that went into UCP and UCX, and we promised the community we would deliver it once those projects were completed. That promise is fulfilled today, and we’re thrilled that we have the chance to finally get this into your hands.
How Community Feedback Guided Interactive Maps
We sent this information over to the community test group, along with set-up instructions, and we were on our way! In the months since we started this first public testing, we received some amazing feedback involving initial features, design choices, and usability that was absolutely crucial to shaping the tool as you see it today. We have been able to knock out a few bugs along the way, too. Massive thanks to all of our map testers for providing their valuable insights throughout this process!
Our next step was to make the creation of Interactive Maps available to everyone, and a big portion of that was to create a visual editor tool that would simplify the building experience. Not everyone is comfortable or familiar with using JSON, so it was important for us to have a more user-friendly option. The team was able to create a tool similar to the current Theme Designer that allows for users to easily upload a map image, place markers on the map, add descriptions, and more without needing to work with the JSON source code. (You can still see and edit the code in the source editor!)
Now it is time for the public launch, woohoo! With the launch of the visual editor, we also added a link to it under the Explore menu on every wiki. Map creation is limited to users with specific rights, so everyone may not have the ability to create maps on every wiki. You can read more about rights as well as how to use the Interactive Maps tool at the Help page.
In the coming months, we will be continuing to evolve the maps tool and implement new features, including customization options (hint: custom markers!), additional moderation capabilities based on standard MediaWiki functionality, usability enhancements, and lightweight contribution options. As always, a portion of the development team’s time is dedicated to bug fixing, so if you find any bugs (or even features you think would be beneficial) please let us know so we can resolve those.
Happy mapping! We can’t wait to see what everyone creates!
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