Wikimedia Research/Design Research

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Design Research is a part of the Wikimedia Research Team. We perform research to understand how individuals use technology to interact with Wikimedia projects. Our work helps inform decisions about the design of Wikimedia Foundation products with the goal of creating meaningful positive experiences for the millions of readers and contributors who use Wikipedia and its sister projects every day.

Who we are[edit]

Core team members

Supporting team members

What we do[edit]

Design Research works with a wide variety of individuals all around the globe. Some are already familiar with Wikimedia projects, and some are not. We observe how research participants use technology to interact with Wikimedia projects, and we talk with them about their experiences.

In partnership with our research participants, we are able to generate rich data in the form of interviews, surveys, usability studies, and field notes.

We feel it is important to keep our research public, so we publish it on wiki and in open research archives where anyone can learn from it. WMF teams also use this research to help decide what they should build next and how to build it.

Why we do it[edit]

We learn a lot when we observe how individuals interact with Wikimedia projects and when they share their stories with us. All of the information we collect helps us make better decisions about what improvements to make next and how to make using Wikimedia projects a better experience for everyone.

How we do it[edit]

The Design Research team at Wikimedia foundation actively collaborates with product teams (Editing, Reading and Discovery) and other teams in the Wikimedia Foundation (Learning and Evaluation, Performance, Security, New Readers) as well as the Research and Data team and Wikimedia communities across the globe in support of access to and contribution to free knowledge.

In order to do this work, we perform both evaluative and generative design research. There is not a clean cut line between these types of research, and we often do both for a project.

Generative research (for example: Contextual inquiry, ethnographic interviews, surveys) contributes to concept development by better understanding needs, constraints, contexts, motivations and goals of people so they can more easily access and potentially contribute to free knowledge. We talk with people, meet them where they work and live, and learn from people (the experts in what they need) so we can collaborate with others to improve how people access and contribute to free knowledge. The concepts and ideas that are generated from this work are more likely to succeed because they are informed and created from understanding the people (and their technology) who will use them, their needs, contexts, constraints, etc.

Evaluative research is an important set of methods the team employs to evaluate concepts and ideas with users, to test prototypes to ensure they are usable by the people they are being designed and built for. Evaluative research is done within product development cycles in close collaboration with product development teams. It is iterative and has successfully contributed to making functionality more usable, discoverable and designed and built around the needs of the specific people the functionality is created for.

Who benefits[edit]

WMF teams, Wikimedia movement partners, and others who want to understand what people want and need from the technologies they use.

Discover with us![edit]

User centered design starts with you!

Whether you're already an experienced user, you've never touched the edit tab, or you're somewhere in between, your contributions are valuable and welcome.

We invite you to participate in future design research. Help us discover the needs of individuals around the globe.

Take our survey

Complete this quick survey to let us know you would like to participate in our research. The survey is hosted by Qualtrics, a third party software, which has been reviewed by our Legal and Contracts team. Your answers help us match you to future research projects. You can opt out at anytime by sending an email to and asking us to remove your information.

Start a conversation

You can also let us know that you are interested in participating by pressing the "Discussions" tab above and leaving us a message.

Our projects[edit]

New Readers Contextual Inquiries[edit]

This research, called New Readers is informing several product teams, the Communications, Partnerships, and Community Resources Teams, as well as WMF as a whole. (see link below for description) and are collaborating with Reboot, a design research consultancy who does contextual inquiries regularly and provided the required operations, security and logistics and expertise for this work in Nigeria and India.

This project is in progress (March - July 2016), and presentation of the process, findings, opportunity areas and plans for products, communications and partnerships will be shared when it is ready.

Mexico Contextual Inquiry

The New Readers project, led by the WMF Design Research team, implemented the Mexico contextual inquiry with a small team of staff from Wikimedia Foundation.

Here is documentation of the data, process and findings.

Also see this 15 minute presentation of the high level findings presented at the March, 2016 of the Wikimedia Foundation Monthly Metrics presentation. You can access the recording here. (starts at about 20:00 in the overall Metrics Meeting)

Nigeria Contextual Inquiry

This work is in progress. 72 interviews were completed and documented off wiki (because of intermittent internet access), analyzed and Synthesized. 3 personas were developed, along with user journeys and patterns, opportunity areas and concepts are continuing to be evolved.

India Contextual Inquiry

This work is in the late stages of planning and implementation of the contextual inquiry begin on June 13, 2016. Implementation

Completed projects[edit]

Project Product/Team Team Date
Personas for product development
Editing Tasks Survey  Editing March 2015
Editing Tasks Card Sort Editing March 2015
Moderated Sessions for VE discovery and usability, brand new and casual editors Visual Editor Editing March 2015 for basic editing tasks on VE, brand new editors Visual Editor Editing April 2015
Usability testing citations dialogue on VE, brand new editors Visual Editor Editing May 2015
Collection of VE Research Visual Editor Editing
Heuristic Evaluation of image upload in the visual editor Visual Editor Editing October 2015
Link Inspector Usability Testing Visual Editor Editing November 2015
Heuristic evaluation of visual editing on iOS and Android phones Visual Editor Editing September 2015
Heuristic evaluation of visual editing on Android, Mobile October 2015 Visual Editor Editing October 2015
Mobile Contribution Discovery at Wikimania 2015 July 2015
Guerrilla Testing for iOS iPad Visual Editor Visual Editor Editing
Heuristic Evaluation for Visual Editor (iOS) Visual Editor Editing
Heuristic Evaluation for Mobile Web Visual Editor (Android) Visual Editor Editing
Guerrilla Testing for iOS iPad Visual Editor Visual Editor Editing
Guerrilla Testing Wikigrok Version A Wikigrok November 2014
Guerrilla Testing: Wikigrok Version B Wikigrok December 2014
Guerrilla Testing: Wikigrok Version B v.2 Wikigrok
Task suggestions
Cross-wiki notifications research Notifications Collaboration January 2016
Notification page prototype research Notifications Collaboration March 2016
Notification user survey Notifications Collaboration May 2016
New editor support strategies Edit Review Improvements Collaboration
Flow Moderated Testing: talk pages and Flow Flow Collaboration November 2014
Finding content inside Flow / Discussions Flow Collaboration March 2015
Community process workflow interviews Flow Collaboration June 2015
New editor curation tools experience interviews Flow Collaboration September 2015
Initial evaluation of article recommendations Content Translation Language Engineering
Content Translation campaign prototype testing Content Translation Language Engineering January 2016
Media Viewer and Image Page View Media Viewer July 2014
Media Viewer Iteration Usability Media Viewer August 2014
Media Viewer Enable / Disable Flow Usability testing Media Viewer September 2014
Media Viewer Validation, Moderated Testing Media Viewer November 2014
Reader Behavior Exploratory Research Reading March 2015
Guerrilla Testing for iOS App Apps
Onboarding new Wikipedians Growth
Guided tours Growth
Guerrilla Testing On-boarding Page and some discovery about readers and their thoughts on editing Apps Reading
Guerrilla Testing Table of Contents discovery Apps Reading
Guerrilla Testing iOS App Apps Reading
Guerrilla Testing Reading Behavior (App Layouts) Apps Reading October 2014
Guerrilla Testing: Description editing Apps March 2014
Guerrilla Testing iOS 5 Navigation Apps October 2015
Renaming Survey Gather March 2015
Heuristic Evaluation Gather May 2015
Usability/Understanding Moderated Sessions: Findings & Recommendations Gather June 2015
Guerrilla Testing: Search and Search results Search Discovery December 2014
Winter / Fixed Header Winter
Other Winter User Tests Winter


Conducting and learning about design research[edit]

Related pages[edit]

See also[edit]