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Wikimedia Product/Perspectives/Experience

From mediawiki.org





Wikimedia projects have become important fixtures in the infrastructure of knowledge sharing on the internet. However, our share of media interaction and consumption is shrinking as new populations come online, new platforms arise and the internet becomes multi-modal, more interactive, and more social.[1][2] These changes challenge both our consumption and contribution models, and to date, we have struggled to adapt to the opportunities that have arisen and the changing expectations of our users.

A user’s expectations of quality are shaped by the totality of their digital experiences. To match these expectations, we have to match the quality of other experiences that users are exposed to. The simplest way to do that is to re-use and refine patterns, methods, and mental models of popular platforms.

These expectations extend to the media types they engage with. Our platform does support diverse media types including video, audio, images, and animated GIFs, and allows them to be mixed in in a single document. However, the experience of uploading and consuming this media does not match the use of media on other major informational platforms. Moreover, our content is saved and presented as a single blob of mostly text, and for some forms of knowledge, such as explanatory knowledge, we do not provide a space or tools to generate, curate or engage with that form of knowledge.[3]

On the contributors' side, Wikimedia projects compete with modern platforms that provide gentler on-boarding and guidance to new users. The competing platforms provide rich, multimedia editing tools and emotionally reward their users with explicit gratitude, meaning, and status.

Additionally, user expectations are rapidly growing with regard to tailored experiences. Software is becoming more aware of individual user needs. The likes, dislikes, and personal preferences of users are vital considerations for modern software design. We distinguish between personalization, in which a system uses what it knows about the user to determine a person's experience, and customization, which empowers users to control their experience. Through customization we can provide tailored experiences, without sacrificing our values or principles.

Data adaptability and content structure are required for the creation of modern user experiences across form factors. Users should be able to engage with Wikimedia, as consumers and creators, in the diverse variety of form factors that are the contemporary internet. And the platform must provide the flexibility to build new experiences for emerging form factors.

Finally, discovery models will be key, as will having captivating content people want to discover. But that discovery process must be proactive on our part. A large and growing body of research supports a key product theory about today's media - content finds the consumer.[4][5]

Our current products severely lack user awareness and interface customization for the vast majority of our potential audience. We can remedy this by following some basic modernizing principles in our user experience and development processes:

  • Go where the people already are and utilize platforms they already like.[6]
  • Provide suitable content format alternatives for subjects that are not well-served by long text or require advanced levels of prior knowledge.[3]
  • Purposely become a tool that empowers others to create, promote, and remix knowledge-based content in many formats.[7]
  • Separate the advanced editing experience from the reading and basic editing experiences.
  • Provide easier customization of information and interface to match individual needs.
  • Use user-centered design to meet consumer expectation.[8]

By understanding our users needs and expectations we can modernize our products, and provide a user experience that informs and delights.




  • Apps Explore feed
  • Page previews
  • Popcorn video editor
  • Content APIs

Areas of Impact


Key External Factors

  • Social Platform dynamics
  • Demographics
  • Technological waves[13]
  • Google[14]

White Paper





  1. https://www.slideshare.net/adobe/2018-adobe-consumer-content-survey 2018 Adobe Consumer Content survey contains multiple data points that describe what people expect from digital content experiences
  2. https://qz.com/333313/milliions-of-facebook-users-have-no-idea-theyre-using-the-internet/ Research indicates that millions of users say they use Facebook, but not the Internet. “In their minds, the Internet does not exist; only Facebook.”
  3. 3.0 3.1 “Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence” - Research shows that there’s little evidence supporting the popular idea of catering to “learning styles”, however; “differences in educational backgrounds can be a critical consideration in the optimization of instruction. [..] student’s prior knowledge is bound to determine what level and type of instructional activities are optimal for that student” and “the optimal instructional method is likely to vary across disciplines. For instance, the optimal curriculum for a writing course probably includes a heavy verbal emphasis, whereas the most efficient and effective method of teaching geometry obviously requires visual–spatial materials.” https://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/pspi/PSPI_9_3.pdf
  4. https://academic.oup.com/joc/article/68/3/636/4972617 “I Just Google it”: Folk Theories of Distributed Discovery, is fantastic and very recent (June 2018) research on how people find content on the Internet.
  5. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jcc4.12185 Effects of the News-Finds-Me Perception in Communication: Social Media Use Implications for News Seeking and Learning About Politics: “The news‐finds‐me effect stems from individuals' perceptions that a) they are well informed about current events despite not purposely following the news, because b) the important information ‘finds them’ anyway, through their general media use, peers, and social connections.”
  6. https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Research:Student_use_of_free_online_information_resources/Results Jonathan Morgan’s 2015 research on free online learning resources used by students
  7. http://www.opensym.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/OpenSym2018_paper_30-1.pdf “Sharing small pieces of the world”: Increasing and broadening participation in Wikimedia Commons - recent research and interviews with people who use other image sharing platforms but aren’t heavy Commons users
  8. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/aesthetic-usability-effect/ The Aesthetic-Usability Effect: “Users are more likely to want to try a visually appealing site, and they’re more patient with minor issues”
  9. Wikidata can potentially provide the common vocabulary for many organizations/sites to use for referencing their content so it is discoverable by both humans and algorithms
  10. Commons has to change (or be used differently) in significant ways, primarily because its user experience is far outdated and not at all what users of modern commercial multimedia tools want.
  11. The apps are already utilizing many modern experiences, but further integration of social media, discovery, and multimedia will be needed.
  12. Wikipedia’s article consumption experience is adequate, but there is room for improvement. Additionally, an improved editing/contributing user experience is an opportunity for attracting more people to enrich existing pages and become regular contributors.
  13. The future is hard to predict, but there are definite tech trends in place today that aren’t going anywhere in the next 5 years. According to the 2018 Adobe Consumer Content survey, the top devices consumers expect to use most in the next 5 years include: Home Entertainment Streaming Devices (82%), Smart speakers/home assistants (64%), connected home appliances (44%), and wearable devices (42%)
  14. Google controls many of the most powerful content discovery tools on the planet.