Growth/Personalized first day/Newcomer homepage

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This page describes the Growth team's work on the "newcomer homepage" project, which is a specific project under the larger "Personalized first day" initiative. This page contains major assets, designs, and decisions. Most incremental updates on progress will be posted on the general Growth team updates page, with some large or detailed updates posted here.

The coding for this project began on 2019-02-19, even as the design and planning work continues. Our goal is to be presenting our first minimal homepage by the end of March 2019.

Current status[edit]

  • 2019-01-16: team decision on pursuing "engagement emails" and "newcomer homepage".
  • 2019-02-19: engineering work begins
  • 2019-03-14: live user tests of mockups complete
  • Next: continued design and engineering investigations, beginning of coding work.

Summary[edit]

We know from research that newcomers arrive at the wiki with something that they are trying to accomplish.  If they can’t accomplish it, they frequently leave and don’t come back. It’s even hard for a newcomer to get started on their goal, partly because there is no clear starting place.  We can build a starting place that orients newcomers toward accomplishing the goal they describe in the welcome survey.

The concepts of a "homepage" and of a "profile page" are similar and related (see the Glossary section below for definitions). Both are personal spaces for a user, but the difference is that a homepage presents tools and resources that the user needs to consume, whereas a profile page allows a user to broadcast information out. In this project, we will be working on a homepage.

We want to:

  • Present useful and actionable (personalized) content, with the most relevant content prioritized.
  • Connect the content in the engagement emails to content on wiki via the newcomer homepage.
  • Make it clear how to visit and revisit your homepage (habitual place for an editor).
  • Increase activation and retention.
  • Learn more about what types of content is effective in driving activation and retention rates.

We do not want to:

  • Build a structured profile page (yet -- potentially in a future project).
  • Interfere with newcomers who want to return to editing context after account creation.
  • Make the homepage static and uninteresting after the first visit.
  • Personalize so much that the homepage is invasive.
  • Overwhelm users with too many options.


The sections below may be changed significantly in the coming weeks, are too technical or less relevant for the understanding of the project. We have decided not to have them translated.

Why this idea is prioritized[edit]

We know from our research that newcomers feel disoriented in the Wikipedia editing world.  While experienced editors know how to stitch together disjointed pieces of the wiki into a cohesive experience (talk pages, user pages, WikiProjects, watchlist, categories, page history, etc.), newcomers do not know how to use them together.  They wonder, “where do I start?” We can build an entryway to surface the things newcomers need to know and do first — a centralized location to orient them, and for them to return to for future work.  Such a page could contain the same kinds of content that we want to send via engagement emails, but in more actionable depth.

  • Provides a central place for newcomers looking for a place to begin: between 30% and 40% of newcomers visit their own User page on their first day in the wiki, even though there is nothing on it, and no particular effort to drive them there.  We believe they see their own username and are hoping that it will be a "homepage" or "dashboard". User testing for the welcome survey also surfaced a desire for a "dashboard" to get started.
  • Provides an entry point for newcomers confused and unfamiliar with Wikipedia communities, concepts and policies: newcomers struggle with Wikipedia’s policies, and are confused about how Wikipedia works and separated from its community (research findings #5 and #8). They don’t know where to get started, as there’s an overwhelming number of potential pathways.
  • Provides a place for newcomers looking for help content: between 30 and 40% of newcomers visit a Help or Policy page on their first day in the wiki.
  • Provides a central place to provide progressive pathways to editing: another research finding is that new editors benefit from progressive learning, and have trouble discovering and using editing tools. (research findings #7 and #9).
  • Homepages are a common means of orienting users of software: virtually all other community contribution platforms (e.g. TripAdvisor, Wikia, Yelp, Reddit) make some use of a “home” concept where users start their session and get oriented.
  • Provides a destination to re-engage with users who have returned via off-wiki communication.  As this project is done in parallel with the engagement email project, it is beneficial to have a single location that users can click-through from to measure the efficacy of email campaigns.

Glossary[edit]

There are many terms that sound similar and can be confusing. This section defines each of them.

"Main page"
Currently exists. The page you get while visiting https://XY.wikipedia.org/. It displays the main page of the wiki (e.g. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipédia:Accueil_principal)
"User page"
Currently exists at User:Yourname. Many users build user pages that behave like home pages, dashboards, or profile pages.
"Homepage" or "dashboard"
Does not exist. This is the thing we're building in this project. Contains information and tools for the newcomer to consume.
"Profile page"
Does not exist. Like a user page but structured. Photo, name, interests, things users want to say to the outside world.
An important distinction between a "homepage" and a "profile page" is that a "homepage" contains tools and resources a user needs to consume, whereas a "profile page" contains content that the user wants to broadcast out to others. Many software platforms mix those concepts into one page, but we are going to start out simply by working on a homepage and keeping the concepts separate.

Design[edit]

The current designs for this project and for the engagement emails project can be found in these clickable mockups. Specific images are shown below for convenience. We will deploy early versions of the homepage as soon as we have sufficient modules built for it to be valuable for newcomers. Then additional modules can be added over time.

Homepage layout[edit]

In general, the homepage is designed to have a series of modules arranged on the page. We want to be able to present different layouts with different combinations of modules depending on the newcomer's responses in the welcome survey and their edit history. Below are two potential designs. We will also need to design for mobile, and that effort is underway.

Location[edit]

A major consideration around a newcomer homepage is where it will be located and how newcomers will find it. The team is considered several options and arrived at a decision:

  • Add it as an additional tab in the User space: when a user is viewing their User page, they see tabs for "User page" and "Talk". We could add a tab for "Homepage", and make it the default tab until a user has content on their User page. It would be important to still indicate to the user that they can set up their User page. We chose this option because we believe that many users are already navigating to their User page expecting to find a homepage. It is also faster for us to develop a whole new page than to try to incorporate this homepage content onto an existing page.

These are the other options we considered:

  • Replace the normal Main Page: when a user has just recently created their account, it is unlikely that "Featured article", "Did you know", and "On this day" are what they want to see. We have reason to believing that they are looking for a place to get started with editing, and the Main Page is easy to find. We also know that 45% of newcomers visit the Main Page during their first day of having an account.
  • Add it as a section on the User page: we know that between 30% and 40% of newcomers visit their own User page on their first day, and that the page is completely empty when they get there. This would move the editable area down underneath the homepage content.
  • Make it a new personal tool: we could create the newcomer homepage as a new Special page, and then add a link to it up along the top of the wiki's navigation, along with Watchlist, Contributions, Preferences, etc.
  • Make it part of an existing Special page, like Watchlist: many experienced users already use the Watchlist as their homepage on the wiki, and so maybe improvements could be made there that benefit all editors.
  • Make it a panel that a user can open from anywhere in the wiki: instead of being a page that the user has to navigate to, perhaps the homepage could be a panel that the user can access whether they are editing or reading, without losing their place. This might be a good idea for a later iteration.

Modules[edit]

The homepage will contain a set of modules, each of which presents a specific tool or resource relevant to help a newcomer achieve their goals and be oriented on the wiki. From many module ideas, we have decided on the first three we will be building.

Help module[edit]

Mockup of a potential "help module" in the "newcomer homepage" of Mediawiki

Provides useful links, the ability to search for help, and the ability to ask questions to the Community Help Desk. A very similar set of resources as the help panel, but embedded directly onto the page. See T215986 for the full requirement and details.

Impact module[edit]

Mockup of a potential "impact module" in the "newcomer homepage" of Mediawiki

Shows newcomers that people are viewing the pages they've worked on. We have learned that when newcomers realize that their edits have impact, their motivation increases. In its initial iteration, we will focus more on conveying that the newcomer has had impact, rather than being precise about measuring that impact. This module would have a state for when the newcomer has not yet made any edits. See T216217 for the full requirements and details.

Mentorship module[edit]

Mockup of a potential "mentorship module" in the "newcomer homepage" of Mediawiki

The welcome survey showed us that a large portion of newcomers are interested in being in contact with an experienced editor to get help. With this module, we will assign each newcomer a "mentor" from a list of experienced editors in each wiki who have signed up. The newcomer will see their assigned mentor's username on their homepage, and they will have a link to contact them. See T216631 for the full requirements and details.

Start module[edit]

Mockup of a potential "start module" in the "newcomer homepage" of Mediawiki

User tests of initial newcomer homepage designs made it clear that newcomers are looking for a clear place to get started -- specifically something that tells them exactly what their first steps should be. This module makes it clear that some good first things to do on the wiki are to add or confirm an email address, go through a tutorial, or start a user page. As users complete these tasks, they will get green checkmark icons showing their progress. In the future, we could imagine giving users more task recommendations as they complete the initial ones. See T217105 for the full requirements and details.

Other modules[edit]

Below is a list of additional modules that are in the design and planning process.

  • Activity feed: while many active editors use their Watchlists as a homepage, newcomers don't have anything on their Watchlists. We can seed a list of interesting activity to them based on the topics they said they are interested in from the welcome survey. This can help them observe activity in the wiki and learn that a vibrant community exists.
  • Task recommendations: this is one of the highest-potential modules, but also one of the most challenging to build. Many tools and approaches exist in the wikis to recommend tasks. Our challenge will be to recommend tasks that are the right difficulty level to the newcomer, and that are relevant to the topics they care about.
  • Featured experienced editors: a module that shows the usernames of some of the most active editors around topics that the newcomer cares about.
  • Interactive tutorial: a module that allows the user to click through a series of learning content.
  • Recognition: a module that counts and displays thanks and Wikilove received by the user.
  • Homepage feedback: a module that allows the user to indicate whether they find the homepage useful or not.

Initial version[edit]

In the initial version of the newcomer homepage, we want to answer these questions:

  • Will having access to the homepage increase new editor activation, retention, and constructive edits?
  • Do users who have access to the homepage go to, and return to, the homepage?  Does it seem like the homepage is serving as a central location for people to get oriented?
  • Which modules engage newcomers and to what extent are they engaged?  Do modules that ask users to take action lead to users taking those actions?

Therefore, we have decided to include these elements in the initial version:

  • Shown in the User space
  • Desktop only (mobile comes next)
  • Four modules
    • Help module
    • Mentorship module
    • Impact module
    • Account completion module: gives some very simple recommendations of how to get started (add an email, start your user page)
  • Layout not yet personalized for each user
  • Deployed as A/B test, with half of user not having a homepage

Future versions[edit]

In determining the initial version of the newcomer homepage, many ideas for features were set aside to be evaluated later on. Many of them are visible in the initial mockups here. The following is a list of capabilities that are either being built for the newcomer homepage, or may be built in the future:

  • Mobile interface: the newcomer homepage is complex enough that its interface doesn't port simply to mobile. This needs to be designed deliberately. This is a top priority after the initial version is deployed. Ticketed in T215983.
  • Features that drive newcomers to their homepage: in the initial version, newcomers will only discover their homepage if they click on their username in their personal tools. If we see early positive results from the homepage, we may build features that drive more newcomers toward it, such as Echo notifications, banners, or links.
  • Personalization: the original objective of the broader "Personalized first day" project is to ask newcomers what they are trying to achieve on their first day and then personalize their experience to help them achieve it. Though the initial version will show the same homepage modules to all users, we can use welcome survey responses and edit history to show the most important things to the right users.
  • Structured user page: in addition to having a homepage, many users also expect to have a "profile" page, in which they broadcast things about themselves that they tell the rest of the community. . Many Wikipedians use their User pages for this, but newcomers struggle to build a user page from scratch. Perhaps we can structure the experience of building a user page so that more newcomers succeed.
  • Customization: users may want to customize their homepage to surface just the modules they find most useful and to adjust the settings on what those modules show.
  • Other modules: see the "Other modules" section above.