is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
This morning I spent some time fooling around with JotSpot, a hosted wiki-engine that allows anybody to create a new wiki and share it with authorized collaborators instantly. It’s a pretty cool piece of work with a lot of smart user information architecture behind it. The JotSpot team has put some laudable effort into making this tool a solid user experience — no installation or server configuration is necessary, and I got a pilot wiki up and running in under ten minutes. But there’s not much new to be found in terms of design, unfortunately; in spite of its competence, the application doesn’t look or feel particularly slick. In fact, JotSpot got me thinking that the rendering of wikis, by and large, has been quite lacking to date.
What You Wiki Is What You Get
There is a certain necessity to maintaining a core architectural model that’s faithful to the basic wiki tool set, to be sure. But, by and large, wikis are executionally identical to one another when taken on the merits of design (that is, they all look like Wikipedia), and their particular methods of articulating interface widgets might best be labeled as “slavish.”
There’s a lot of room for design innovation in this space, especially as enterprises begin using wikis as collaborative tools more and more, which means that they will start turning to design studios (hopefully ones like ours) for implementation help — golden opportunities for scrappy designers to produce some truly innovative productivity solutions. At the risk of inflating the Ajax hype balloon a bit further: a wiki tool that combines the power of the format’s native interaction model with the fluid and transparent responsiveness of remote scripting will be a huge hit.
So I was feeling proud of myself for coming to this clever design revelation and all on my own, too, until I read, over at 37signals’ Signal vs. Noise weblog, a very clear intimation that their next product release is going to be a wiki. And then I felt behind the curve all over again.+