WMDE Engineering/Participate in UX Activities

From mediawiki.org

At Wikimedia Deutschland, the User Experience & Design team improves the usability and usefulness of Wikipedia, Wikidata, and MediaWiki. You can help us do this in two ways, either by telling us about your motivations, workflows and problems or by testing new features.

If you would like to participate in user research and would like to be notified when we need feedback on a new function, or if you would be open to talk about your typical workflows, please sign up for our mailing list.

Below we give an overview of activities and answers to common questions. If you have other questions or recommendations, please add to the discussion page or send an email to ux@wikimedia.de.

Overview of UX activities at Wikimedia Germany[edit]

There are different types of research sessions. Most involve direct communication with a researcher. Usually, this happens online in a video call. The research session is scheduled for a fixed amount of time, and the researcher leads the participant through the process, including sharing all relevant details beforehand.

Common forms of research:

  • A conversation with show-and-tell, where you demonstrate how you do some tasks, so the researcher can better understand how they are done and why
  • Using a new feature or an updated user interface and ‘thinking aloud’ so the researcher can better understand what you do and why. Here is a video that shows ‘thinking aloud’ when trying out a website

During a research activity, we’re not trying to test the skills of the participants, nor to see if they use the website “correctly”. We assume, no matter how you use it, that you have your own valid reasons for how you do it. Usually, workarounds and “wrong” uses reveal obstacles as perceived by the user and the user’s social attitudes; the way individuals use a website is very useful for us to understand and explore.

Participants list[edit]

The participant list is made up of people who would like to take part in tests, interviews or surveys. Most people also indicate their skill levels and their interests. By collecting this information up front, we are able to contact the people for whom the interview or testing is most likely relevant. This method of contact also keeps to a minimum communications that aren’t interesting to most people. For example, if we simply posted our messages on wiki or Telegram, all the experts would receive our call for beginners (and vice versa). If being on the participant list sounds interesting to you, please sign up for our mailing list.

For the participant list to be useful, we store contact information (like your email address) and other data (e.g. whether an individual is interested in Wikipedia, Wikidata or both). Because this is sensitive data, we must store and manage it safely and in compliance with the GDPR (a law that regulates handling data). Among other things, the law requires that:

  • participants must be informed about how we use the data
  • participants must give their explicit consent for their data to be stored
  • we must store this data safely

To comply with these requirements, we need to use a specialized tool such as Mailchimp.

After you sign up to the participants list, we will send you an email if we think your perspective would be helpful for our upcoming research. We select the pool of users we will send emails to based on the questions you fill out at signup and on the project focus.

Announcement emails for possible user research sessions are infrequent, one email per month or fewer. The frequency varies a bit from participant to participant, since we only send emails to people whose profile (as defined in the sign-up survey) matches our research needs.

Requirements for participation[edit]

You don’t need to be an expert in editing Wikipedia or Wikidata to participate. We want to hear from users with a wide range of experience, and beginners are as welcome as experts. We have actually had a shortage of users with less experience to reach out to!

Hardware and software: the interviews typically require the participant to enable their microphone and camera as well as share their screen, so the researcher can see what actions they perform. Turning on the camera is not mandatory but screen sharing may be. We typically employ commonly used services and software (Jitsi, Google Meet, etc.) A desktop computer is preferable, but some interviews will work on a smartphone. Most of the time, the most important things are good audio and a stable internet connection. If you register for an interview, we will discuss the tools with you beforehand to find the best possible solution.

Feel free to inform us of your preferred language when you reach out to us. As much as possible, the UX researchers try to use the participant’s native language for the interview. Wikimedia Germany’s UX team can usually conduct interviews in English and German; other languages are also possible, depending on the availability of the researchers. If the situation requires, we may also be able to bring in someone to interpret or support the participant if they encounter language difficulties.


As of February 2021, Wikimedia Germany compensates participants in researcher-directed work, which usually require an online or offline meeting and sometimes specific preparation by the users, distinguishing these sessions from typical volunteer activities. (See the Conditions section below for a breakdown of which types of community participation fall into this category of researcher-directed methods.)

Good user research covers a wide range of users across cultures and their activities in order to understand the potential impact of any changes on the community as a whole -- not just the most dedicated volunteers or those with the most free time. Compensation helps us reach the widest possible range of participants, including those who could not otherwise afford to give an hour of their uninterrupted time. Additionally, we follow the

Recommendations of the Wikimedia Movement Strategy which state:

“While curating, editing and contributing content are the most important activities of our Movement, we know that there are other significant contributions to move us towards knowledge equity and knowledge as a service. These include public policy and advocacy, capacity building, outreach, research, organizing, and fundraising. For the growth and sustainability of our Movement, these activities need to be better recognized and sometimes compensated in certain contexts.”

Practical details[edit]

Each research method has a base rate of compensation, roughly proportional to how time-consuming the activity is. The base rate is adjusted to a participant’s local average costs of living, though the law caps the amount we can offer at Wikimedia Germany. (For example, we would compensate a one-hour interview with a Germany-based participant with a value of EUR 35).

We will inform you about the options for compensation available to you based on your location after you have been chosen as a participant in a research project. When research conducted is by an external agency, compensation methods may differ.

Some people, such as employees of government organizations, may not accept compensation due to compliance regulations. You may always decline compensation or request that we donate the money to an organization of your choice.


Wikimedia Germany will provide compensation in specific cases:

  • the feedback or discussion is initiated by the UX research team and, if a research session takes place, it is primarily led by the UX researcher
  • the method requires an in-person or remote meeting at a particular time, and participants’ activities are chiefly defined by the researchers: for example, moderated usability testing, an interview, a user observation session
  • UX researchers estimate the time for the task’s completion to be 20 minutes or more

Here are a few examples of activities that cannot be compensated by Wikimedia Germany:

  • on-wiki feedback rounds and spontaneous discussions about features conducted online or offline
  • giving feedback on mockups, screenshots or test systems, or feedback after the announcement of a new feature, regardless of channel
  • chatting about projects or software during an event, or any discussion triggered by the participant and not by the UX team
  • tasks conducted in an open group with several participants, e.g., during a meetup, a talk at Wikimania or a “Tech on Tour” event
  • answering short surveys (where the researchers estimate no more than 10 minutes)

There may be edge cases, for example with a longer survey, where we will decide on compensation on a case-by-case basis. In any case, the UX researchers will mention the possibility for compensation during the announcement or preparation of the research.

Depending on the topic, we will need people from various demographics (experience level, languages spoken, country of residence, device usage, etc.). Thus the slots allocated for your demographic may already be full. Once we’ve sent out notifications about participation, we take people on a first-come, first-served basis for the respective criteria.

Due to legal limitations, and because we would like to get input from a variety of people to address different points of views, volunteers cannot participate more than three times per year in compensated activities.

Participation in UX research is not considered voluntary content and administration work on Wikipedia or Wikidata nor as editing.

If you have any questions or feedback regarding the UX research process at Wikimedia Germany, feel free to contact us at ux@wikimedia.de.