Give newcomers a landing place that contains what they need to accomplish their goals
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. The first desktop version of the homepage was deployed to newcomers in a controlled experiment on 2019-05-06. The following months showed that homepage is a good platform to which many newcomers return. During the summer of 2019, we increased how many newcomers visit by adding features that encourage them to discover the page, and in November 2019, we added the "Newcomer tasks" feature.
- 2018-12-06: community discussion on ideas for personalizing a newcomer's first day
- 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
- 2019-04-02: ready for testing in Beta Wiki
- 2019-04-18: measurement plan approved
- 2019-05-02: deployed to Czech and Korean with experiment off
- 2019-05-06: experiment begins in Czech and Korean
- 2019-05-07: mobile user tests of mockups are complete
- 2019-06-26: mobile version of homepage deployed in Czech and Korean
- 2019-07-01: mobile and desktop experiments begin in Vietnamese
- 2019-07-03: published initial report on leading indicators
- 2019-07-24: mobile and desktop experiments begin in Arabic
- 2019-07-26: features to aid discovery deployed
- 2019-11-20: deployed Newcomer tasks
- Next: finalizing homepage experiment results to post on this page.
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 that will be personal to each user, i.e. a user will only be able to see their own 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.
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"
- Currently exists at
Special:Homepage. This is the thing we built 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.
Why this idea is prioritized
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.
The initial designs for this project can always be found in these clickable mockups. Specific images are shown below for convenience. We deployed early versions of the homepage as soon as we had sufficient modules built for it to be valuable for newcomers. Additional modules may be added over time.
In general, the homepage is designed to have a series of modules arranged on the page. The initial intention was a flexibility to present different layouts with different combinations of modules depending on the newcomer's responses in the welcome survey and their edit history. Below were two potential designs proposed for Desktop. There are equivalent designs for mobile.
Mockup of potential design A for newcomer homepage
Mockup of a potential design B for newcomer homepage
The team settled on a design for the initial deployment in May 2019, with an image showing that design below.
Mockup of design for initial deployment of newcomer homepage in May 2019
A major consideration around a newcomer homepage is where it will be located and how newcomers will find it. The team 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. Only the newcomer themselves sees the tab.
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.
The homepage contains 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 decided on the first four detailed below.
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.
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.
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.
The mentorship module also has an accompanying special page that mentors can use to claim specific mentees. This feature exists because mentors are assigned randomly, but a trainer at an in-person event may want to alter their trainees' default mentors so that they all have the trainer as their mentor. See the full documentation here.
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.
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. **Update:** This module was developed in the Newcomer Tasks project.
- 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.
- Event/program specific: in the welcome survey, we ask users why they created their account. It is likely that many users create their account because they are at an editing event, or because they are trying to participate in a program, like Wiki Loves Monuments. Perhaps if we know which event or program they're with, we can allow communities to customize homepage content related to that event so that users can see exactly where to go and how to participate once they get to their homepage.
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
The newcomer homepage is complex enough that its interface doesn't port simply to mobile. It needs to be designed deliberately and implemented separately from the desktop version. The team decided to deploy the initial version such that it displays only on desktop, which is where the majority of newcomers in our target wikis are working. About 70% of accounts created in Czech and Korean Wikipedias are created from desktop. But because of the additional 30% of accounts, a mobile version of the homepage was a top priority after releasing the desktop version.
Our team explored several designs for how to show the large amount of homepage information on a mobile device. The accompanying mockup shows two potential designs:
- Version 1: One that shows snippets of information for each module. Clicking on the snippets opens the module as a full screen.
- Version 2: One that actually has miniature versions of each module, from which the user can take action. These would also open to their full versions.
In April 2019, the team planned user testing and started working on Version 1, accepting community thoughts on mobile designs during that time.
The mobile version was deployed on June 26, 2019 for Czech and Korean newcomers and on July 1, 2019 for Vietnamese newcomers.
See this page for full notes and drawings on ideas for future elements of the homepage.
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:
- 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.
During the week of March 14, 2019, we used usertesting.com to conduct five tests of the desktop homepage prototype with internet users unaffiliated with the Wikimedia movement. In these tests, respondents are compensated for trying out the mockups, speaking aloud on what they observe, and answering questions about the experience. As our team's designer described on the Phabricator task, the goals of this testing were:
- Gauge the discoverability of the homepage
- Do users understand that it is a homepage that they see and other users don’t?
- Gauge user reactions and understandability to the homepage as a whole
- Do people understand what the modules are?
- Which modules are most attractive?
- Is there anything else users would expect to be there or would like to do in the Homepage?
Summary of findings
- Most participants could not find a good way to get started with editing from Main Page. Only one participant proposed to click on the username in the personal tools area after quickly scanning the upper part of the page.
- 3 out of 5 participants examined the personal tools area, and comment they have no idea what terms like "Watchlist", "Contributions", and "Talk" mean.
- Only one participant expected to find step-by-step help on how to get started in the homepage.
- Most of the participants said they expected to find a profile page with information about them and their activity.
- When talking about what they expect to find after clicking on their username, participants used different terms to refer to the page they would land on to:
- Account page
- Profile page
- All participants find the content in the homepage useful.
- 2 out of 5 users explicitly say they find the layout and the page clean and well set-up.
- The part of the page that participants find most useful is the help module, specifically pointing at the “Step-by-step guide” link.
- In general, it feels like participants didn’t expect to find something like the homepage after clicking on their username, but when presented with the content they find it useful and interesting.
- Some users expected to find personal data shown somewhere at the top of the page content.
- Many users are attracted by the impact module and feel it would be “encouraging”.
- Users seem to look for a list of their past and in-the-work contributions to Wikipedia.
- The majority of the users are confused about the "Create user page" call-to-action.
- After seeing the "Create user page" call-to-action, most users start wondering what is the difference between the homepage and the user page.
- The majority of the participants think that on the user page they would find:
- Personal information
- A list of articles they have written or they are working on.
- Information or a trigger to start creating new articles.
- Almost all the participants expected to find a user page already created for them, or a template, or wizard to guide them in the making of the page.
- A menu with dedicated creating and editing calls-to-action and tutorials, maybe a new "How to get started" tab in the personal tools (hovering with the cursor the top center of the page).
- A participant proposed to place a call-to-action at the top of the page to guide the user in need of help to the homepage.
- A participant proposed to feature notifications of reverts on the homepage (potentially in the impact module).
- A participant proposed to customize the recommendations in the recommendations module.
- Suggested naming for getting started CTA: get started, start, tutorial, first thing, new, post
During the week of May 6, 2019, we used usertesting.com to conduct five tests of the mobile homepage prototype with internet users unaffiliated with the Wikimedia movement. In these tests, respondents are compensated for trying out the mockups, speaking aloud on what they observe, and answering questions about the experience. As our team's designer described on the Phabricator task, the goals of this testing were:
- Gauge the discoverability of the mobile homepage.
- Gauge user reactions and understandability to the mobile homepage as a whole, in both unactivated (first-use) and activated (after some use) state of the modules
- Do users understand the purpose of the module overview and do they engage with it?
- Are users able to get to the full-screen version of the modules?
- Do users understand what the modules are for?
- Which modules are most attractive?
- Is there anything else users would expect to be there or would like to do in the homepage?
- Can users figure out how to return to their homepage after going elsewhere?
Summary of findings
- Users easily went to the hamburger menu to look for a way to get started with editing. But they usually assumed that they could begin editing by clicking "Contributions" instead of clicking their username.
- All users understood what the homepage is, and what it's for. They considered it useful, and well-designed. Navigating the page with module previews was no problem.
- The most difficult parts of the homepage to understand are:
- Impact module: unclear what "impact" means, especially when you have no edits yet. Contains no call to action to encourage someone to start editing.
- Mentorship module: unclear why the user has a mentor, how they were assigned, and who the mentor is.
- Several users consider "editing an article" to be different from "creating an article".
- Several users thought the help module would be more search-based, or contain Frequently Asked Questions.
- Users easily understood and navigated the tabbed layout between Homepage, User page, and Discussion.
- Some users used gestures (swiping) to navigate between pages.
- Add more information to the mentor module overview to make it clear whether the mentor is self-assigned, and what the mentor is there for.
- Improve the language in the impact module to make clear what impact is.
- Include a call-to-action in the unactivated state of the impact module before a user makes their first edit.
- Clarify the language in the hamburger menu. Perhaps "Home" could become "Main" and "Contributions" could become "Past contributions". Alternatively, we could include a link to the homepage or some other call-to-action in the empty "Contributions" page for newcomers.
Measurement and results
Measurement and experiment plan
Click here to view the full measurement and experiment plan.
These are the main things we want to find out from the help panel.
- Does receiving the homepage treatment increase editor activation?
- Does receiving the homepage treatment increase editor retention?
- Does having access to the homepage treatment increase the average number of edits in the first two weeks after registration?
- Does having access to the homepage increase the proportion of constructive edits?
- Do users who have access to the homepage go to, and return to, the homepage? What patterns do we see in homepage visits?
- 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?
- Are we able to effectively personalize the homepage?
- When the homepage is customizable, to what extent to do users avail themselves of that capability?
- If/when the effort exists to survey newcomers about the homepage, what can we learn qualitatively? Such a qualitative study could be done through Quick Surveys, or through a homepage module that simply asks about the rest of the homepage.
Half of newcomers in our target wikis will receive the "homepage treatment" and half will not. By “homepage treatment” we mean that a user both has the homepage on by default and is receiving the various ancillary features that drive them to the homepage, which may include banners, talk page messages, or links on Main Page. In the initial version, the only ancillary feature will be the fact that the username link in personal tools will go to the homepage.
This experiment will run for at least six months, giving us enough time to statistically detect meaningful changes in activation and retention as caused by the homepage treatment.
The newcomer homepage experiment plan defines a set of leading indicators that the team evaluates in order to determine whether the feature is behaving as expected, and whether there are any urgent problems that need to be solved.
Using a month of data, we published an initial evaluation of leading indicators here. In summary, we are happy with the homepage's performance so far. We see about half of visitors clicking on something, and the majority of them returning to the homepage multiple times. There are a few specific takeaways and action items that come from our analysis so far:
- Since we see a lot of positive interaction, we are going to prioritize "features to aid discovery". As of June 2019, newcomers only find their homepage if they happen to click their username at the top of the page (which about 25-30% do). This additional work is meant to make sure that all newcomers are notified about their homepage and have the opportunity to visit it. We think we can increase the share of newcomers who visit their homepage at least once to 50-60%.
- Newcomers are asking questions via the mentorship module, but not at all via the help module. This may show us that asking a question to a specific, sympathetic person is more attractive for newcomers, than to an amorphous help desk.
As of August 30, we are pleased with the performance of the homepage. The majority of users who arrive on the homepage click on something, and all the modules on the page are receiving some user interaction. Many users return to the homepage multiple times, which hopefully means that they find it useful. Some of the specifics:
- 61% of homepage visitors click on something.
- 15% of visitors return to the homepage across multiple days.
- 245 users have asked questions in the mentorship module, and only 14 have asked questions in the help module.
- The most popular module is the "Create your userpage" module, with 31% of user interacting with it.
Below is a graphic showing what percent of newcomers interact with each of the modules. These numbers and those above vary somewhat by wiki, but the trends are generally consistent. This includes interactions from the mobile homepage, all shown on the desktop version for ease of understanding.