|This page in a nutshell: Navbox templates can be useful as a tool for navigation.|
This essay explains the benefits of navboxes (navigation boxes), and explains the goal of placing navboxes on all articles where they could be useful. The essay suggests strategies for achieving that goal.
On Wikipedia, a navbox is a template that lists at least several and sometimes hundreds of pages that are related. The relationship between all the articles in a single navbox is such that the reader of the current article will be readily referred to other related material with a single link.
While a navbox may appear redundant to a category or list, it is not the same as a single category, a group of categories under one parent category, or a list. Each section of a navbox may seem to be a carbon copy of a category or list, but that is not always the case, and in many cases, the navbox "categories" do not reflect Wikipedia's custom for creating and organizing categories or for lists.
A navbox serves the function of a see also section, but does so more effectively by implying a one-for-one relationship with the other members of the set. More articles can be listed in a navbox. While a "see also" section cannot be practical in listing more than a handful of the most relevant articles, a navbox can list dozens of related articles that can be subdivided into their own sections.
Navboxes also help provide more links to articles listed within. Wikipedia has numerous orphans (articles with few pages linking to them). The main drawback to an article being an orphan is that few people know it exists, and there are few ways for it to be found and therefore improved. When an article is added to a navbox, in most cases, it is instantly de-orphaned.
The success of navboxes can be seen in this (uncontrolled) study of this navbox, which has shown that in the month following its creation, readership of the articles contained within increased by 8.5% (an average of 406 views per article) and editing of these pages increased by 37% from the month prior to its creation.
The goal is to have a navbox in every article that the reader might find useful. This would apply generally to articles in main namespace. Navboxes can also be used to link certain types of project pages (including essays, policies, and guidelines). Disambiguation pages and lists are exempt, though they may be used on some of these pages when editors agree.
There was a proposal to place one or more navboxes in every article, but it did not succeed.
There is no deadline to achieve this goal.
How to achieve this goal
There are various ways you can work to achieve the goal of having a navbox in every page.
Before you start
Before you start, one rule you should know is that an article should only be placed in a navbox if it truly belongs there. No one should go out of their way to place an article in an existing navbox if it appears incongruous.
Likewise, no navbox should be created just to accommodate a single article. A navbox should only be built if there is an existing group of articles in which a person who reads one is likely to want to read the others.
Identifying articles in need
There are many ways you can find articles lacking navboxes. You may know of some already because you have created, edited, or just read them. You can search for articles by using the random article tab. Or you can search categories to your interest for possible articles that can be placed in an existing navbox covering that category, or one that you plan to create.
Before you create a new navbox, you should first try to determine if one covering that subject is really useful or needed. If you feel it is, you can go ahead.
Also, make sure that there is not a nearly identical navbox that already exists. In some cases, it may be more practical just to add more listings or even one or more new groups to an existing navbox. More likely, if you do not see one on any of the pages you plan to include in one, it is out there to be created.
Regardless, there are no blanket guidelines for when to create or expand a navbox. It is all a personal judgment call.
In order to create a navbox, you must be a logged in registered user, just as if you were creating an article. There is no minimum to the number of edits you must have, and you do not require any type of special status, though you must have knowledge in the wiki format. If you are editing an existing navbox, you do not need to be registered or logged in unless it is semi-protected.
For detailed instructions on creating a navbox, see Help:Template. Or you can just copy and paste the wiki text from an existing navbox, and then replace its unique information with that which you plan to add to your new navbox. But if you copy-paste, be sure to replace everything as necessary, including its categories, or else the new navbox will have some elements that do not make sense. Even if you do not copy-paste, just studying the wiki text can help you learn navbox construction.
Navboxes can be created to list groups of related articles. While categories can be used to help find these related articles, they do not have to be followed exactly. Please note that a navbox must be a listing of articles, and though a few red links that represent potential articles are acceptable, a navbox is not a directory of non-notable listings that have little or no potential to ever become articles.
Some examples of possible navbox topics can be:
- A broad concept and all the articles in that concept
- A group of jurisdictions contained within a larger geographic area
- A listing of all of something within a jurisdiction, especially when that place is well known for that item
- A company, listing all its key people, products, services, and other related articles
- A band, listing all its members, albums, songs, and other related articles
- A sports team, listing all its members and other related articles
- Groups of living species within a larger group in which they are contained
The typical navbox has and should have around 10–100 articles listed, though there is no blanket guideline on this number, and there are plenty of exceptions either above or below this range.
If a navbox grows to be so large that it cannot be seen in full on a standard sized computer screen, it should be split into two or more navboxes with links to one another within. Until it is split, it should be autocollapsed so it can only be viewed when the "show" link is clicked.
While it can be frustrating when you cannot think of a good navbox in which to fit an article, there are some navboxes that are not recommended or should absolutely not be created. These include:
- A collection of targeted redirects or piped entries to portions of the same single article. While these may make up some of the listings on a navbox, and doing so is often beneficial, a navbox should not be redundant to the table of contents of a single page.
- A collection of red links that will likely always remain as such. It is acceptable to include some red links in a navbox that may become future articles, and this is actually encouraged, since it lets others know what articles are yet to be created. But a navbox should not be a collection of titles that will probably never be notable enough to have articles or will not be for many years ahead given the pace of creation.
- A listing of articles for which there is no reasonable theoretical limit to the numbers of articles that can be included. Some examples are a list of people who are notable for the same reason but otherwise have no connections, or companies within the world or a country providing the same products or services.
- A collection of minimally related subjects. For example, people who are notable for having committed the same type of crime in unrelated incidents.
- A very small collection of articles that can be counted on the fingers of one hand for which that is the limit. It is preferable, instead, to find a broader category to create a navbox about, or to add such a listing to one that already exists.
There is theoretically no limit to the number of navboxes that can be placed in a single article. There are many articles that have several. This has advantages and disadvantages.
Some advantages to having two or more navboxes on a page are:
- More links to the article from others
- More pages that it is possible to navigate to from the one on which it is placed
Disadvantages to having two or more navboxes on a page are:
- All navboxes will appear "autocollapsed," requiring them to be opened to read
- If the navboxes were created or added by different users, edit warring can occur over whose navbox is more important and therefore should be listed first
- The size of the navbox tends to increase, sometimes substantially.
- Wikipedia:Avoid template creep — An essay on navbox overuse.
- Wikipedia:Avoid trivia sections – When the end of an article is cluttered with navigation templates, it often amounts to little more than a "trivia section", which should be avoided.
- Wikipedia:Not everything needs a navbox – One of the ways to fight template creep is to stop making so many templates.
- Automatic Navbox Generation by Interpretable Clustering over Linked Entities — Describing approaches to automatically construct Navboxes.