The Signpost

In focus

Thinking inside the box

Contribute  —  
Share this
By Urban Versis 32

Optional: Hi! I'm Urban Versis 32. This is my first article to The Signpost. I figured I could write about an aspect of Wikipedia that has not been featured here for a while – userboxes. These are basically rectangular boxes designed to be put on your user or user talk page, and are a great way to display one's interests. Here's an example of a simple userbox:

A userbox is a small rectangular box that looks like this.


There are many different kinds of userboxes. Some are red. Some are blue. Some feature images. Some don't. But they all take that rectangular form, and they work very nicely when put together. On the right, I put together a group of userboxes that could appear on someone's userpage.

You can clearly see the variation. That's why they're useful: there's a userbox for everyone.

To find a userbox, simply go to Wikipedia:Userboxes/Galleries and navigate through the list. If you want a list in alphabetical order, go to Wikipedia:Userboxes/Galleries/alphabetical.

History of the userbox

With a little digging through Wikipedia's archives and discussions –and thanks to some input from users Xaosflux, ZLEA, and Adam Cuerden – I managed to find a basic, semi-detailed history of the userbox.

The early days

Userboxes as we know them first came with the idea to create boxes for Wikipedia:Babel signifying the different languages the user spoke and proficiency level in them, such as the userbox below.

fr-2Cet utilisateur peut contribuer avec un niveau intermédiaire en français.

Original idea and creation

The earliest userbox-related edit I could find was made by NSR on 2 July 2005, with the edit summary of "box test", when they created the Template:Userbox page. The next creation of a userbox page was Wikipedia:Userboxes, created by Cedrus-Libani on 18 November 2005, which documented some of the earliest userboxes.

Wikiproject userboxes

Then came the proposal by Daykart for a WikiProject for userboxes. This eventually led to the creation of WikiProject Userboxes on 22 December 2005, created and headed by Ian 13. Userboxes were beginning to take off.

Controversies and the Great Userbox War

As userboxes gained more popularity, controversies started to arise, such as the Great Userbox War (GUW). The GUW (circa early 2006) was caused by various factors, but it primarily involved Jimbo Wales desysopping five administrators due to the deleting and undeleting and edit warring of a userbox and a few duplicates of it, all of which stated "This user identifies as a pedophile" (see Signpost coverage).

After the initial controversy, the Arbitration Committee decided to hold a vote to see who was most responsible and to figure out the consequences for the eight main users involved. I won't go into exact details for each user, but here's the basic run-down, with the information gathered from previous Signpost coverage (see the arbitration case for more info):


Policies and proposals

This controversy and others sparked debate for more strict rules and policies to be put in place, like the February 2006 userbox policy poll, the May 2006 userbox policy poll, and the "German rule", which duplicated the way userboxes were being managed on the German Wikipedia.

For a time, a list of all userbox nominations at MfD was maintained, although it is now quite out of date.

Recent controversies

There have also been some more recent deletion discussions of userboxes. Three examples help highlight this:

Modern userboxes

These controversies, polls, and flamewars eventually gave way to what we know as userboxes. We have userboxes that are very different from each other – from shortwave radio to animal care, userboxes have it all!

SWThis user has a shortwave radio.
This user cares about animals.

How to use userboxes

Now, how exactly do you add a userbox to your userpage? The simplest way is to copy the link of a userbox from the galleries, and paste it where you want it on your userpage while in "Source" mode. For example, if you copy-pasted {{User wikipedia/Member}}, you would get

This user is a member on the English Wikipedia.

Most userboxes are by default left-aligned, though various tricks exist to put them in different locations.

Say you want it in a group, like in the example list of userboxes above on the right. You'd use the following code, but paste it at the top of your userpage:

{{Userboxtop|toptext=Your title here}}

Insert userboxes in this space


You can also put userboxes in tables to arrange them in groups or achieve specific layouts. For example,

{| style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; border: none;"
| {{User:UBX/clothing designer}}
| {{User:UBX/dressmaking}}
| {{User:UBX/crochet}}
| {{User:UBX/embroidery}}

will give you the following centered table of userboxes

This user likes to design clothes.
This user is a dressmaker.
This user likes to crochet.
This user likes to do embroidery.

How to create a userbox

If you cannot find a userbox that suits your needs, you can always create one. If you scroll down to the Creating a new userbox section of the userbox page, it may seem a little confusing at first. However, it's not really that difficult after you get the basic skills down for it. If you don't wish to create a userbox manually, there's a great tool that you can use to create userboxes called The Super Simple Userbox Maker by User:The Userboxer. The tool is very easy to use and pretty self-explanatory.

Manually creating a userbox

Basic knowledge in templates can be helpful, but it's easy enough to learn. I will explain the basis here.

To create a userbox, you must use the template {{userbox}}. There are many options to creating userboxes, e.g. image borders, userbox borders, text borders, and backgrounds. The userbox at the very top of the page, reproduced here for convenience,

A userbox is a small rectangular box that looks like this.

is generated with the following code

{{userbox|#c8a2c8|yellow|[[File:Crystal kthememgr.svg|40px]]|A userbox is a small rectangular box that looks like this.}}

Here's a breakdown of the arguments of the template.

And there you have it – a guide on creating your first userbox.

Two important facts to remember: the left side of the userbox (which contains the image) is referred to as the id of the userbox. The right side of the userbox (which contains the text) is referred to as the info of the userbox.


I have interviewed some users about their experiences with userboxes.

How did you first get into userboxes?

How long have you been using/creating userboxes?

Why do you like userboxes?

What's your favorite userbox and why?

Helpful links

In this issue
+ Add a comment

Discuss this story

The Userbox kerfuffle I remember is when an admin named "Kelly Martin" thought that userboxes were so inherently stupid a concept that she felt perfectly free to delete any that she didn't like, with no process. I don't remember the "war" described above at all, though it apparently took place shortly afterward... AnonMoos (talk) 04:51, 2 September 2022 (UTC)[reply]
  • That's what I remember too. Katietalk 17:17, 2 September 2022 (UTC)[reply]
And consequently she hasn't edited since a flurry of sarcastic ArbCom !votes in 2008 (Although she's still occasionally active on Commons) Daniel Case (talk) 05:38, 8 September 2022 (UTC)[reply]


The Signpost · written by many · served by Sinepost V0.9 · 🄯 CC-BY-SA 4.0