Reader Behavior Exploratory Research


Goals for Unmoderated Sessions[edit]

To better understand from readers what their goals and experiences are in reading WIkipedia:

  1. What kind of devices to these users have and how do they use their devices?
  2. What are these participants' goals in reading Wikipedia?
  3. What is the experience of finding Wikipedia articles like for these readers?
  4. What is the experience of finding specific content / information within a WIkipedia article?

Discovery Process / Testing Methodology[edit]

This is a first round of quick reader behavior testing, focusing on mobile phones and ipads. We did the study through because it afforded us to do this more quickly than if we needed to recruit everyone, and enabled us to do other research (which was higher priority) at the same time. Please note that this is just a beginning to better understanding reader behavior.

  • Define the users to invite to participate:
    • "Readers" = People who use wikipedia and have never edited.
    • 12 people participated / 6 men 6 women / 6 moble phone users, one "Phablet" user (a large screened phone) and 5 tablet users
  • Design the protocol for the study (you can see the protocol here, (on the left hand side of the spreadsheet).
  • Create the study and start the study.
  • Review all videos and take notes in the analysis / synthesis spreadsheet (Google spreadsheet) (here)
  • Analysis and synthesis start in the spreadsheet and move into a presentation doc.
  • Complete analysis and synthesis and share out with people / teams who are interested.


You can see the full findings document here, including video clips from

We created two page user profiles for each participant in the document also, which describes the participants' ecosystem of devices, what they use Wikipedia for, and their search experience (both for a wiki article and for content inside wikipedia).

High Level Findings[edit]

Readers have various entry points into mobile Wikipedia

  • Google search deep linking to article (9 of 12 participants)
  • In Google, keywords and “wiki” or “wikipedia” (5 of 12)
  • Search for “wikipedia” in google then use internal wiki search (5 of 12)

Once people are in Wikipedia, participants are more likely to use wikipedia search, but not always.

  • Do readers ever see the front page (if they mostly get into Wikipedia via Google)?

Sometimes Google beats Wikipedia in providing fast facts.

Finding specific content inside Wikipedia articles (specifically on mobile), can be a hunt and peck adventure.

  • Strong search mental models (keywords) don’t provide very successful search results when searching in EN:wiki, so people dive in and out using different keywords or phrases until finding what they are looking for. (9 of 12 participants)
  • [CTRL/ Command f] is highly used on desktop… no such thing on mobile, so it takes longer to find stuff. (observed CTRL/Command F frequently on desktop in other studies)

Several reading modes were observed:

  • Finding a fact or information
  • Deeper learning
  • Enjoying the “rabbit hole”
  • Research