Greplin founder Daniel Gross tells me that Wikipedia search is “broken” in the sense that most people use Google to search Wikipedia, typing in something like “Beatles White Album Wiki” to get to this page of results. He re-imagines a world were people could use Wikipedia search for that functionality and in addition get beautifully visualized layout of links and images, essentially a more visually appealing way to learn from searches.
“I don’t think there is something specific about Wikipedia search that is specifically bad, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be infinitely better. If a good designer sunk deep thought into a search interface specifically for Wikipedia they would be able to build something that would make people shocked.”
Entrants can send in static comps as .jpeg .png or .pdf files or actually build out a product, by the deadline of August 18th. While the winning entry won’t necessarily be built out by Wikipedia (which isn’t affiliated with the contest), the winner will receive some pretty amazing prizes including the placement of their Twitter handle — in Helvetica Neue Bold of course — on a billboard in SOMA and a trip along with the runner-up to see a talk by data visualization pioneer Edward Tufte. Winners will own their own work and can give Wikipedia the option to use it under the Creative Commons licence.
What’s most impressive is the coterie of judges Greplin has brought on to moderate the entries, design luminaries like Google lead search designer Jon Wiley, Milk design lead Daniel Burka, Dribbble founder Dan Cederholm, Milk founder Kevin Rose, former Twitter product manager Kevin Cheng, Sidebar director of user experience Dan Rubin and Khan Academy design lead Jason Rosoff.
“I’m excited to see the myriad of approaches that people might take,” judge Daniel Burka said regarding what exactly he was looking for. “I think a few of the big opportunities in the search might be around more visual browsing of search results, incremental searching, and improved display of related content after a direct search (e.g. I search for Titanic and go to the Titanic page with the ability to navigate sideways through related results).”
On a base level, if you’re interested in getting Burka or any of the people above to see your work you should enter this (I would if I were a designer), but the grander idea is that why shouldn’t designers contribute to the design of Wikipedia the way laymen contribute to its over 3.5 million articles? “There’s a ton of unrealized potential,” Gross says.