Why are Wikis so Ugly?

When we experience something new, for most of us the first thing we experience is visual. We quickly form a gut, glandular reaction based on the way things look. Wikis are not visually attractive to most people. They are mainly black text on a plain background. Neither, though, is the novel, or the poem visually attractive. They possess beauty in the ideas that they represent and the experiences that they can give us through imagination and the power of the mind.

Wikis are not ugly because they don't have beauty; they are ugly because the viewer has chosen to evaluate aesthetic quality based on aesthetic characteristics that wikis never had. The flaw lies not in the wiki, but in those viewing it. Quality of any thing, even aesthetic quality, should be evaluated on whether or not it accomplishes that which it seeks out to do. Wikis never tried to look pretty. Wikis exist to give multiple minds a place to converge and think together on a topic. Wikis give us a unique way to communicate and work.

Those who see wikis as ugly have mistaken simplicity for being simple. Evaluating the beauty of a wiki based on visual aesthetics is like evaluating the quality of a ship builder based on how well he sails. It doesn't make one lick of difference whether or not John the shipwright can sail. All that matters is that the boat floats. Wikis float, and float well.

The beauty of a wiki exists in its simple elegance. The beauty of a wiki is in the stripped-down, lightning fast mode of GroupThinking. The beauty of a wiki is in the content, the ideas, and the inspiration. Wikis have aesthetic value; it's just not a visual aesthetic. Don't hate a dog for not being a cat. A visual aesthetic in a wiki would only serve to weaken its beauty. The beauty of a wiki is not in sensory delight, it is in utility, and so images should only exist for utility's sake. It doesn't make a difference whether text is black, blue, red, or green, unless the colors serve to organize and enhance a message; an idea.

The aesthetic of the wiki is an aesthetic of the mind, and it is beautiful.

Consider WikiMinimalism


I agree in principle, but I also think that basic formatting can enhance not only the esthetics of a page, but also its usefulness. Given the lack of visual cues, organization is even more important to the functionality of a wiki page. Functionality is what wikis are about.

This is one of the objections I had when first using a Wiki. I had worked with Dreamweaver and Quark Express and enjoyed being able to use different fonts, colors, and images. With a Wiki, I have to concentrate on mostly content. So my words have to be more precise to convey the meaning I want to present. SharonSimpson

I agree Sharon. I like the purty colours and the pictures!

This is the reason behind my Wiki's Aren't So Icky 1.0 - 4.0.

"So my words have to be more precise to convey the meaning I want to present." I find this intimidating. I don't feel as though I am a particularly good writer, I know my grammar skills are lacking at times, etc. Maybe that's why I've adapted so readily to blogging... I can make it up as I go (made up spellings like purty) and it feels more like I'm writing in a journal or some other very laid back style. With wiki's, especially since I've only used them for classes, I feel I have to be more precise and I (usually) edit and spell-check before posting.


You know, I was surfing around the wikisphere and visited the WikiFish. It is a collaborative effort by the students and staff of the Auburn University of Architecture. It uses texture, colored font, and links to grab your eyes and capture your attention.

Add me to the "wikis are boring to look at list." Wikis would be more pleasant to work with if we could add some color to them - there's too much white space. While I don't mind writing concisely, I haven't found that the media makes any difference - blogs, wikis, or paper. Of the three, I find blogs are more enjoyable because:
*I don't have ugly eraser marks on my computer screen, and
*If I don't like the way a sentence comes out, I can delete, delete, delete.
Okay, I'm digressing. Color. Makes all the difference in the world. Even if you had a white blog with black font - that would be boring too. In fact, I find the absence of color distracting. Makes me want to skip over all that black font and white space until I find something more appealing to the eye.


page started by JessicaTheroux

see also TheWikiAndTheBook

I am always a person who is more attracted to graphics, color, pictures, and overall a visual concept before I read anything on a page. With making a MySpace page you can decorate and make a graphical page that captures the eye's attention and draw you in. However, with a wikki it is plain and overall to me, boring. You can write and add pictures, but there is no color or graphics. The visual concept is gone. For someone who is like me, the wiki kind of turns you away at first. They are very bland and everything is just black and white.


Graphics and varied displays can add meaning to text. Taking a lesson from Amelia Bedelia, for example, a picture can describe in a concise manner what words would have clumsily, or at least not as humorously, tried to display. Wordless books work. Perhaps a wordless wiki (FlickrWikr?) is unreasonable, but some additional formatting features are not. Colored text can help to display meaning at a different level. It is often true that gray makes me feel drab and business-like whereas red is energizing or noted as a warning. More importantly, however, I find that different formats and styles help to organize text efficiently.


This reminds me of that one The Onion article. Anyways, I agree with the OP mostly - there's nothing about improving the aesthetics of a wiki that HARMS it per-se (I'm trying to create a wiki skin based on Art Noveau typographic styles, though nothing is really coming of it), but the handful of options we have on the basic wiki setup are more than enough for any purpose I can think of.

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