Wikimedia Research/Design Research

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Design Research is a part of the Wikimedia Research Team. We collaborate with the WIkimedia Community, Research, Design, Product and Technology, and Community Engagement. Through our research we seek to understand how individuals use technology to interact with Wikimedia projects. Our work helps inform decisions about the design of Wikimedia projects with the goal of helping users interact with Wikipedia and each other in more practical and meaningful ways.

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.

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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.

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

Who we are[edit]

Core team members[edit]

Supporting team members[edit]

What we do[edit]

The Design Research Team 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.

Who benefits[edit]

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

How we do it[edit]

Design research is an essential part of Human Centered Design and research based design. The Design Research team at Wikimedia foundation actively collaborates with product teams (Editing, Reading and Discovery), other teams in the Wikimedia Foundation (for example: Learning and Evaluation, Performance, Security, New Readers) and Wikimedia communities 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[edit]

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. Generative research is most successfully done outside the product development cycles, as it is on a different time line. Generative research, like the experimentation and iteration our partner team, Research and Data does, is most effective when given the required time and space to be done well. Once complete, 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[edit]

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.

You can see a beginning of a methods menu here. Also, see the recording of our Design Research workshop. There are explanations of: design research, participant recruiting, our work processes, how design and design research collaborate together, and more.

Cross - team projects and generative research[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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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


  • Personas for product development (first round)

Design Research projects by team[edit]


Design Research/Editing Vertical KIT meeting minutes

Editing, general
Editing on desktop/laptop
Mobile editing
Account creation:
Edit Review Improvements

Wikimedia Language engineering
Media Viewer


Current projects[edit]

Please see the Reading Team UX Research wiki page for all current work/links to projects from FY2014-15 Q3 forward.

Past projects[edit]

Acquisition of new users:
Mobile Web Gather / Collections
Link previews

Search and Discovery[edit]

User experience / beta features[edit]



Resources for conducting design research[edit]

Resources for learning about design research:[edit]

Related pages[edit]

See Also[edit]