Wikimedia Research/Design Research


Design Research at the Wikimedia Foundation, also known as Design Strategy, seeks to understand the needs, motivations, goals and challenges of people who consume and/or contribute to free knowledge. We employ a variety of research methods to understand how individuals in diverse contexts use our products and other technologies to interact with Wikimedia projects. Our research informs the design of products, programs, and strategies that serve our users and enhance their experience on our platforms. We collaborate with product teams, designers, engineers, data analysts, global research partners, users, and Wikimedia communities around the world to ensure rigor and reliability in our work. Our goal is to support the creation of meaningful positive experiences for the millions of readers and contributors who use Wikipedia and its sister projects every day.


Design research is used to learn about the needs, motivations, and contexts of people we design and build for. It is used to iterate design and technological solutions to be intuitive, useful, usable, and fit within (and not break) users' workflows. In order to do this work, we perform both evaluative and generative design research using qualitative and quantitative methodologies. There is not a clear distinction between evaluative and generative research, so we often do both in projects.

Generative research (for example: Contextual inquiry, unstructured interviews) provides a better understanding of needs, goals, challenges, constraints, contexts, and motivations of people who want to or do access and potentially contribute to free knowledge. 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. Generative research is many times done at the beginning of a product development cycle, to inform the project's direction.

Evaluative research (for example: usability testing, concept testing) is an important set of methods the team employs to evaluate concepts, prototypes and current functionality with users. Testing functionality and ideas with the users we are building them for, ensures that functionality is usable and useful for the people they are being designed and built for. Evaluative research is done within product development cycles in close collaboration with product development teams. Evaluative research generally is faster, and requires less participants than generative research.

Our Projects[edit]

Visit our Design Strategy website to learn more about our priorities, our projects and how to participate in our research.


Participate in Product Design Research[edit]

We are always in need of research participants. Learn more about our research participation program and sign up for our research participant pool.

Support for WMF teams[edit]

The Design Research team can help individuals and teams at the Foundation with user research, community interviews, surveys, or other research and feedback related activities. We can help with a variety of projects, big and small, in many languages, moderated (interviews, usability testing with a moderator) and unmoderated (surveys, prototype hosted online, getting asynchronous feedback on a design). Come to our research clinic to discuss your project. The extent to which we can help depends on our availability and the size of the request, and our priority is research related activities for product design. Our support areas include:

  • Protocol and discussion guide development
  • Strategy and methodologies to answer research questions or obtain feedback from users
  • User and community participant recruitment
    • We keep a list of users who have registered to participate in research. Filter by the following attributes:
      • user type (reader, editor, moderators & admins)
      • Primary and secondary languages
      • Most visited Wikis (i.e. English, Spanish, etc)
      • Device type (Mac computer, Windows computer, Android mobile, iOS mobile, feature phone)
      • Contributor to Commons, WikiData, MediaWiki, or MetaWiki
      • Region of residence
    • We can also help recruit with specific groups (e.g. campaign organizers, event participants, user group members)
    • Sometimes “any average Wikipedia reader” or “any internet user” will do. We have strategies for collecting large and small samples of these user types.
      • Quicksurveys
  • Participant outreach, scheduling, management, and rewards*
  • Multilingual research
  • Outreach message translations*
  • Interview logistics and workflow
  • Language interpreters* for interviews
    • Setting up simultaneous translation
  • Privacy statements (surveys, including screener surveys) and release forms (requires signatures for interviews)
  • Survey development, deployment, and response tracking
  • Access to a user testing platform* to host your prototype or survey

*We can accommodate small requests. Large requests will require that you bring your own budget.

Design Research Clinic[edit]

Design Researchers, along with other Research Team members, host regular office hours. This is an opportunity for Wikimedia Foundation staff and contractors, and others involved in Wikimedia projects in various capacities, to discuss and receive guidance on how to use design research.

What to expect in sessions:

  • Each session is 30 minutes long, private, and bookable via the appointment schedules found here.
  • Each session will be staffed by one researcher who is available to help WMF teams and others think through their research questions, scope upcoming research, review research plans, or otherwise provide advice.
  • Examples of types of conversation topics:
    • User needs and behaviors
    • Existing research plan/protocol review
    • New product or research idea/design strategy
    • Usability
  • While all the researchers can answer questions about research methodologies and scoping, the following depths are available with individual researchers
    • Claudia: community moderation and Anti-Harassment Tools
    • Daisy: usability, surveys, Product teams
    • Eli: language, usability, contextual inquiry, prototype testing, international research
    • Mike: language (quantitative/qualitative), survey design, testing, evaluation
    • Gabriel: user research, usability testing, design research, international research
    • Bethany: research participant recruiting for interviews and surveys, participant management, multilingual research and usability testing, research and testing support for moderated and unmoderated such as translation, interpretation, rewards/incentives, local vendor search and contracting, planning phases, and wrap up. Book a meeting on my calendar directly.

When you book, please include a brief description of what you’d like to discuss as well as links to any relevant documents for the discussion. Please be mindful that availability is limited to the scheduled office hours unless otherwise noted.

Appointments are available via the researcher appointment schedules.


Conducting design research: tools and resources[edit]

Related pages[edit]

[Outdated] Project List
Pages in Category:Design_Research
Subpages of Wikimedia Research/Design Research