Design Research at the Wikimedia Foundation, also known as Design Strategy, seeks to understand the needs, motivations, goals and challenges of people who consume and/or contribute to free knowledge. We employ a variety of research methods to understand how individuals in diverse contexts use our products and other technologies to interact with Wikimedia projects. Our research informs the design of products, programs, and strategies that serve our users and enhance their experience on our platforms. We collaborate with product teams, designers, engineers, data analysts, global research partners, users, and Wikimedia communities around the world to ensure rigor and reliability in our work. Our goal is to support the creation of meaningful positive experiences for the millions of readers and contributors who use Wikipedia and its sister projects every day.
Design research is used to learn about the needs, motivations, and contexts of people we design and build for. It is used to iterate design and technological solutions to be intuitive, useful, usable, and fit within (and not break) users' workflows. In order to do this work, we perform both evaluative and generative design research using qualitative and quantitative methodologies. There is not a clear distinction between evaluative and generative research, so we often do both in projects.
Generative research (for example: Contextual inquiry, unstructured interviews) provides a better understanding of needs, goals, challenges, constraints, contexts, and motivations of people who want to or do access and potentially contribute to free knowledge. are generated from this work are more likely to succeed because they are informed and created from understanding the people (and their technology) who will use them, their needs, contexts, constraints, etc. Generative research is many times done at the beginning of a product development cycle, to inform the project's direction.
Evaluative research (for example: usability testing, concept testing) is an important set of methods the team employs to evaluate concepts, prototypes and current functionality with users. Testing functionality and ideas with the users we are building them for, ensures that functionality is usable and useful for the people they are being designed and built for. Evaluative research is done within product development cycles in close collaboration with product development teams. Evaluative research generally is faster, and requires less participants than generative research.
Visit our Design Strategy website to learn more about our priorities, our projects and how to participate in our research.
Participate in Product Design Research
We are always in need of research participants. Learn more about our research participation program and sign up to be added to the participant pool.
Design Research Monthly Readout
This is a monthly research share hosted by WMF Design Research and WMDE. It takes place on the 4th Wednesday of the month at 16:00-17:00 UTC. Research topics are posted to the event invitation (Google calendar) one week prior to the meetup. This event is open to anyone at either foundation.
Design Research Clinic
The Design Strategy team hosts regular office hours for Wikimedia Foundation staff and contractors. This is an opportunity for staff and contractors to discuss and receive guidance on how to use design research to inform your development goals.
What to expect in sessions:
- Each session is 30 minutes long, private, and bookable on our Clinic Calendar.
- Each session will be staffed by one researcher who is available to help WMF teams think through their research questions, scope upcoming research, review research plans, or otherwise provide advice.
- Examples of types of conversation topics:
- User needs and behaviors
- Existing research plan/protocol review
- New product idea/design strategy
- While all the researchers can answer questions about research methodologies and scoping, the following depths are available with individual researchers
- Ana: design strategy, multi stakeholder or international research, ethnography
- Claudia: community moderation and Anti-Harassment Tools
- Daisy: usability, surveys, Product teams
- Eli: language, usability, contextual inquiry, prototype testing, international research
- Mike: language (quantitative/qualitative), survey design, testing, evaluation
- Bethany: Research participant recruiting, multilingual research and usability testing, research and testing support for moderated and unmoderated such as translation, interpretation, rewards/incentives, local vendor search and contracting, planning phases, and wrap up.
When you book, please include a brief description of what you’d like to discuss as well as links to any relevant documents for the discussion.
Appointments are available to staff and contractors on our Clinic Calendar
Conducting design research: tools and resources
- A Beginner's Guide to Finding User Needs — free e-book introduction to conducting design research by User:Jan_Dittrich_(WMDE)
- Wikimedia Research/Usability testing — Short FAQ and How-to guide for conducting usability tests
- Research Based Design
- Wikimedia User Personas
- Design Strategy Website
- Wikimedia Foundation Research
- Wikimedia Foundation Design
- Index of Research Projects from around Wikimedia
- WMDE Engineering/UserExperience — Wikimedia Deutschland Design Research
- WMF Design Research Commons uploads