Wikipedia:Thinking outside the infobox

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The phrase "Thinking outside the (info)box" has many possible implications, as with the underlying phrase. It is very easy to code a small infobox outside, and below, as an extension of a formal template-infobox. Also, the structure of an infobox has implications, outside the English Wikipedia, for the other-language Wikipedias.

The use of infoboxes in Wikipedia articles has both advantages and disadvantages. While an infobox can provide a condensed summary of related data, it can oversimplify the connections, such as when a territory changes boundaries but is treated as being exactly the same place. However, there are other issues to consider:

  • Infoboxing outside infoboxes – Many infoboxes have been greatly extended in hopes of covering all possible situations. Regardless, custom data is sometimes needed, or the basic data is too wide to fit, without pushing the edges of the infobox into an over-wide display. Appending another infobox could handle those cases (see below: Quick impromptu infoboxes).
  • Gateway to other languages – Despite limitations, the infoboxes have proven invaluable to foster translation into the other-language Wikipedias, where the repeated items can be more easily translated, rather than having to interpret long sentences with complex verb and clause structures. Although each infobox provides only a small portion of the total information, those infoboxes have led the way to expanding coverage in many other languages. An article stub begins with one line + infobox, and it grows from there. The same could be said as a benefit of using lists, when kept simple for easier translation.

Quick impromptu infoboxes[edit]

Generally, a separate Wikipedia template page is created to store the layout of an infobox. However, when first creating a new infobox, it might be preferable to keep the infobox as hard-coded within the same article, to allow changing the infobox along with the article text for quick edit-preview. Also, if the infobox is of limited scope, there is no need to expand pages by adding a separate infobox page, infobox-talk, and infobox-history pages.

A short infobox can be coded as follows (as of 6 July 2010):

I am an infobox
Label-a value-a
Label-b value-b
{| class="infobox" style="width:200px;"
|colspan=2 style="text-align:center;"| I am an infobox
|'''Label-a''' ||value-a
|'''Label-b''' ||value-b

If a standardized infobox-template does not contain enough data fields, just create a follow-on infobox after the template (using the coding method as shown above).

Simplest infobox[edit]

The simplest possible infobox has just class="infobox" (box appears at right):

I am an infobox
{| class="infobox" 
   |I am an infobox

Note that the first line of text must begin with the vertical-bar ("|"), although it can be indented as a bar further along the line.

The width can be set, style="width:200px;". Each row is added by "|-" plus a line of column text (using the double-bar "||" to separate columns on one line):

I am an infobox
Data-label Data-value
Data2-label Data2-value
{| class="infobox" style="width:200px;"
|I am an infobox

Notice that the title "I am..." will not be centered, unless the 2 columns are spanned (by using the column prefix "|colspan=2 style="text-align:center;"|" enclosed in vertical-bars).

Appending a notes infobox[edit]

When a data item is too long to fit into a standardized infobox, consider appending a simple infobox for longer notes:

Formal Infobox
Common name: Wordiness virus
Medical name: (see notebox below)
Habitat: here, 19-Dec-2008
{| class="infobox" style="width:245px;"
|colspan=2 style="text-align:center;background:#DDAA22;"|'''Formal Infobox'''
|Common name:||Wordiness virus
|Medical name:||(see notebox below)
|Habitat:||here, 19-Dec-2008
Medical name:
Ultraverboselongtalkingviralgermus, commonly abbreviated as "Ultraverb" by clinic personnel.
{| class="infobox" style="width:245px;"
|Medical name:
|colspan=2 style="font-size:87%;"|
: Ultraverboselongtalkingviralgermus, commonly abbreviated as "Ultraverb" by clinic personnel.

For any item too wide, or too wordy, to fit in a standard infobox, just place "(see notebox below)" as the connection to the custom-coded notebox infobox.

Also, notice setting the background-color as gray/grey by use of the HTML CSS custom style directive (style="background:#DDDDDD;") placed before the "Notebox:" text.

Colors could also be brown (#DD7722).
Colors could also be dark tan (#DD9922).
Colors could also be tan (#DDAA22).
Colors could also be beige (#DDDDBB).
Colors could also be ochre (#DDDD11).
Colors could also be dark brown (#CC6622).

Rather than fear the coding of infobox details, more writers should learn how infoboxes are coded, to more easily expand, or correct, the details of various infoboxes.


Users should learn how to create infoboxes on the fly, and learn how to spot/correct problems in infobox format. It is not necessary to code every infobox into a separate template page, outside the article. Some infoboxes should be coded inside an article. General reminders:

  • Learn to code a custom infobox, as specific inside one article, outside infobox templates.
  • Consider appending a custom infobox, below a template infobox.
  • Note how using common infoboxes can simplify translating that box data into other languages.
  • Avoid putting complex data in an infobox, when that data is better explained in text outside the infobox.

It is always important to think outside the infobox, as to the effect it has outside the English Wikipedia, in the many other-language Wikipedia articles. That viewpoint can focus the choice of wording, and the amount of complexity, to be used when developing infoboxes.

However, don't overuse infoboxes, when the details are better explained outside the infobox, in the article text.

See also[edit]