MediaWiki is the software that Wikia runs on. The MediaWiki pages on your wiki allow you to customize your wiki to a greater extent. Any page with the prefix MediaWiki: is in the MediaWiki namespace. This guide will walk you through the basic MediaWiki namespace pages that you need to know as an admin. It will be split into three sections, welcome messages, code pages and miscellaneous.
Ever go to a wiki and find that after your first edit, you have a message from an admin on your talk page and a barebones page on your user page? These are done through MediaWiki pages. The details are on User:Wikia's user page. Once the message is customized, the Wikia bot will place what is in the pages on every new user who edits the wiki's user page and talk page.
Welcome User PageEdit
The MediaWiki page to change the basic user page is at MediaWiki:Welcome-user-page. Here you can put whatever you want to appear on every user's user page before they customize it. Bleach Wiki uses a simple page with a place to fill in a picture or list your favorite pages. On my test wiki I decided to joke around and make people list the reasons why I am their favorite person.
There is a lot of customization you can do on this page so think of what you want to include on the pages. Remember, you want people mostly editing content, not their user pages, so it is good to keep it simple. Make it inviting but not so much so that a person only edits their user page. You want to direct them to your content.
The talk page welcome message is controlled with the page MediaWiki:Welcome-message-user. There are actually several different pages to control various conditions with this message but this is the basic one you should worry about. If you look at other wikis, you may notice 4 variables in there. $1 $2 $3 and $4. These are all variables that point to different pages depending on certain conditions.
$4 is the name of the user whose user talk page this message is on. So if a user named Helllo95 edits your wiki, and your welcome message says "Hi $4", the message on their talk page will say "Hi Hello95". Should a user named Blablabla edit your wiki, their user page will say "Hi Blablabla". Most welcomes messages you will see will start with this as it is inviting when someone sees their name.
$1 is the page they edited. So say your welcome message says "Hi $4, thanks for your edit to $1". If Hello95 edits the page Test on your wiki, they will receive a message that says "Hi Hello95, thanks for your edit to Test". Many wikis like this option as it seems a little more personal if you recognize what they did. Most wikis I have seen are using this variable.
$2 is the signers talk page. So if I signed the message, $3 would display User Talk:Godisme. [[$3]] would display User talk:Godisme and [[$3|my talk page]] would display my talk page. The reason a variable is used here is because the person who signs the message will be different form user to user. More on that later though.
Finally $3 is a link to your user page. If I were to sign the message, $3 on the MediaWiki page would display Godisme.
As I stated earlier though, the "signer" of the message varies. You can control who signs the message through the page MediaWiki:Welcome-user. Here, you place one of 4 options to control who is $2 and $3. Placing @latest in there will make it so the message is signed by the latest admin or staff member to make an edit on the wiki. @sysop will restrict this to only the administrators of your wiki. @disabled turns off the welcome message meaning that new users will not receive the messages. You can also place a username in there so that the message is always signed by them.
Take a look at Bleach Wiki's welcome message. The admins of Bleach Wiki decided to use the welcome message to point out the policies of the wiki. Conspiracy Wiki uses a little bit more of a fun message that uses the humor of the wiki to point out some of the articles on the wiki. How you use the welcome tool is up to you.
You can see Help:Welcome tool to see the other pages that control welcome messages. These include the pages for placing a message on anonymous users' talk pages and the message left if Wikia staff are the ones to place the message.
One of the best ways to spice up your wiki is to use CSS and JS. Wikia supports the use of these two scripting languages through a few different MediaWiki pages. CSS controls how things look. With it, you can change colors to various things, bold items or change borders. JS controls how things function. You can add functionality such as a preloaded template on all new pages, change functionality such as changing where a button links or just enhance features. Be warned though. You need to know what you are doing here as small mistakes can screw up your wiki big time. On Bleach Wiki, a missing } in a piece of code meant that anytime anyone tried to edit something, the content was replaced with a template meant for blogs. There are 5 code pages you should know about.
For the most part, your users will be viewing your pages in the wikia skin. Any CSS placed in MediaWiki:Wikia.css will affect things only for that skin. With css, you can remove the "added by" on images, change the colors of the forumheader to look better or add colors to areas that the theme designer does not allow you to. CSS also allows you to bypass the size limit on backgrounds so you can use a larger image and not have to meet that 100kb limit.
On the other hand, you have MediaWiki:Monobook.css, which controls CSS for the other skin, Monobook. Due to not having a theme designer for Monobook, if you want to customize it, you have to use CSS. You can do some very good looking and differing designs with just a little css. My test wiki has a customized look I threw together for anyone viewing it. Bleach Wiki uses a transparent content page to show the background beneath. Zeldapedia uses a little different but very customized design.
Much like CSS, there is one page for each skin to control the JS on the skin. These are MediaWiki:Wikia.js and MediaWiki:Monobook.js. These pages should be used to fix issues on the individual skins. For changes to the site as a whole, a different page exists which controls both skins. That is MediaWiki:Common.js. Any JS placed on that page will affect both skins. Utilizing this, you can add extra buttons to your wiki such as buttons to easily change the skin you are on or add fast delete buttons for admins. If you look at a blog on Bleach Wiki, you will see a blue box at the top of each one. This template is auto loaded when you make a blog page, much like the forumheader. This was done with js.
For all your coding needs, check out Dev Wiki, which is a collection of various CSS and JS code pages submitted by various users.
You have new messagesEdit
MediaWiki allows for customization of all the different messages on your wiki. One of the most requested messages is the "You have new messages" message. If you go to Harry Potter Wiki, if you receive a message, it says "You have a new owl". On Ninja Gaiden Wiki, the message will say "Ayane has thrown you a new kunai". To change what yours says, you will need to see two pages. The first changes the "You have" part. MediaWiki:Youhavenewmessages is a little weird looking. Pulling it up, you will see "You have $1($2). The $1 and $2 are variables which you will change in the second page. For now, replace "You have" with anything you want. Then head over to MediaWiki:newmessageslink. This page lets you change the "new messages" part. Simply replace the "new messages" with the end of your message and save it and you now have a customized new messages message.
Community Corner and Site NoticeEdit
With the introduction of the wikia skin, the Community Corner on Special:WikiActivity was added. The corner can contain anything you want on it and is generally used to inform users of what is going on around the wiki. You can customize it by going to MediaWiki:Community-corner. When you update it, a message bubble will be sent to all users who have recently edited the wiki. By default, this will say "Community Messages have been updated". However, you can change this by going to MediaWiki:Communitymessages-notice-msg. Using this, you can send a message to the entire wiki.
For Monobook, a simpler solution exists. MediaWiki:Sitenotice allows you to place a custom message at the top of every page that will not go away until it is dismissed. Using this, you can send a message to the whole wiki, announce something, get the news out or anything else.
Sometimes you will have a large piece of code like a Facebook like box that will screw up other things on a page if placed there. A solution to this is MediaWiki and the verbatim tag. Ninja Gaiden Wiki uses templates on the main page and the facebook like box would not have worked well if placed directly on the page. Instead, the like box was placed in a custom MediaWiki page that I created. MediaWiki:FacebookBox. What I did then, was go to my Facebook template and put <verbatim>FacebookBox</verbatim> and the box appeared. What Verbatim does is it pulls the code from the MediaWiki page placed between the tags and puts it on the page but without all the code there to screw things up. Verbatim tags come in handy in many places.
If you are using the wikia skin, you might have noticed the navigation at the top of pages. You can customize this through MediaWiki:Wiki-navigation. The page is customized through various levels. Starting with three asterisks (***), you have a level 1 header. So ***Page, is a level 1 header that will say and link to the page, Page. You can change what it says by putting ***Page|word. That will display word but link to Page. ****is one level lower. If you have the expanded wiki nav activated on your wiki, you can go another level further with *****. Remember that each of these is linked by default. If you do not want something to be a link, wrap it in . For an example of a customized Wiki nav, see Ninja Gaiden Wiki.
The MediaWiki namespace is a very powerful tool to use in customizing and maintaining your wiki. This guide is but the very basics of what it can be used for. If you are looking for a MediaWiki page but it is not covered above, see Special:AllMessages. All Messages lists all MediaWiki pages on your wiki. Most of them will be red links, meaning that the default message has not been replaced. What that page also does is keep a record of the default message vs. what you currently have in there. A very handy feature for going back to the default.