Open Encyclopedias


Airline encyclopedia from yesteryear

iOS Simulator Screen Shot Sep 2, 2015, 3.36.41 PM

Airliner article on an iPhone 6

If you go and play with Microsoft Encarta from 20 years ago you’ll discover a ton of fun functionality that doesn’t exist in it’s successor Wikipedia. Games, quizzes, tours and more.

Today’s encyclopedia experience is pretty poor compared to the books I’d immerse myself in as a kid. I used to love trawling through books full of detailed content and serendipity.

The ’90s CD-ROM encyclopedias had tons of features but lacked in content. Today that is reversed. Thanks to wikipedia there is tons of content but very few features by comparison.

So I’ve built something to try and see what a topic-specific encyclopedia would look like today on a modern interface. To try and take what Encarta looked like in terms of features and marry it with open content and design elements from those paper encyclopedias. The result can be downloaded for iPad & iPhone today (Android and Windows coming if iOS works out).

Why airliners? I used to love reading through books full of them. But I could just as well go build an encyclopedia of cats, trains or planets. The point is that it is not the whole of wikipedia. It’s curated and specific to some topic.


Boeing 747 article on an iPad

The encyclopedia includes badges which are granted upon reading certain sets of articles. For example, if you read about Concorde and the TU-144 (the two supersonic commercial airliners) then you get the supersonic badge, and so on.

The content works better the larger the screen (e.g. an iPad) but goes all the way down to an iPhone 4S. You’ll notice there are things beyond wikipedia – for example the title images are also open content and add some color to the page.

The encyclopedia is entirely offline so you can use it for a car trip or plane ride. It’s hard to convey the depth – but there are hundreds of articles in there which means hours of reading and exploring. A portion of the profits of course will go to wikipedia.

Basically, the whole thing is designed for what I would want if I was 7 or 14 again and had plenty of free time and an iPad instead of a dead tree to page through. Maybe nobody will be interested, I don’t know. If you’d like to see something different (a feature, a different encyclopedia) then click here.



Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes