How we helped the Wikimedia Foundation investigate ways to reach new readers on the internet

WIKI mobile 1

All information in one place.

Wikipedia is the world’s fifth-largest website and a free online encyclopaedia that has been the go-to for any and all information, for readers of all ages. It is operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit organisation, and edited and curated by a global network of volunteers. We collaborated with the Foundation’s Product Department to explore how Wikipedia could engage new readers.

With the increasing technology and smartphone adoption, more readers from previously less-connected and remote parts of the world were coming online. But in such geographies, mainstream languages weren’t common and people preferred getting their information in their respective regional languages. Because Wikipedia lacked usage in these parts of the world, we set out to understand how free knowledge could be displayed for these new readers.

To drive readership among a higher number of young readers particularly on mobile devices, the team needed to investigate what was most valuable to them and focus on that. By deriving insights from a market such as India, the Wikimedia Foundation sought to find the right value proposition for potential readers and expand to other growing geographies.

Intro asset mobile

Engagement Stage

Investigate

Investigating and refining multiple solutions to deliver value
Learn more about our engagement stages
  • Uncover 01

    Using research-driven insights to uncover multiple ideas and pick the most promising solution
  • Refine 02

    Refining promising solutions to create a new yet familiar experience for readers through rapid prototyping
  • Validate 03

    Validating hypotheses by gathering further evidence at scale through an experimental product

Uncover 01

Helping organisations investigate complex problems through rigorous prototyping to arrive at simple solutions

Before the team could begin investigating ways to attract new readers to Wikipedia, a critical problem needed to be addressed. In a linguistically diverse country like India, most new readers prefer reading in regional languages. But unlike mainstream languages such as English, there was a need for more content in regional languages on Wikipedia.


This led to a "Chicken and Egg problem" commonly faced by community-driven content platforms: without content, it’s difficult to attract readers, and without readers, it’s difficult to create a strong community presence responsible for content production.

Usefullness Testing mobile 1 1

To break out of this conundrum, the team needed to get just the right amount of content in regional languages that would make the platform relevant for new readers and set the wheels of both content consumption and content production in motion.

The first step was to uncover what regional language readers found most valuable. To do this, the team ran a series of usefulness studies during which a key insight stood out: new readers preferred scanning through the Wikipedia facts section over the long-form article. In fact (pun unintended), they lingered around the facts section for about 90% of the time and also enjoyed going down rabbit holes by using these facts to jump from one article to the next.

This was a breakthrough insight because facts could be translated into multiple languages quickly. This would create enough value for new readers to come to the platform, and leave enough room to deliver the long-form experience iteratively.

Facts Asset mobile 1 2

Refine 02

Refining the solution to match media experiences familiar to new readers

After uncovering the readers’ preferences and knowing that they liked scanning through the Wikipedia facts section, it was important for the team to delve deeper into the readers’ interactions with content.

As next steps, the team conducted extensive research in cities like Varanasi and Indore to observe the behaviour of new readers in the comfort of their natural environments — their homes. It was then discovered that the readers’ affinity towards facts stemmed from their comfort with short-form, snackable content from their favourite rich media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

The team leveraged these insights to refine and convert the facts section into snackable snippets. These were easier to consume and mimicked the short-form content patterns that readers were already used to. Rich media patterns such as stories, short videos and timelines were used to highlight the facts and make content more engaging.

The readers not only connected better to the new patterns but also related the prototype to a fun storytelling platform that was as engaging as informative.

Snackable Content mobile 2 1

Validate 03

Validating hypotheses by gathering further evidence at scale through an experimental product

Equipped with features backed by research insights, the team was ready to test their ideas at scale.

This was done by prototyping the whole experience and creating a temporary mobile micro-site around the much-awaited 2019 Cricket World Cup tournament. The overarching goal was to test if the experience of readers who would land on this site (through an ad on Facebook about the tournament) would equate to the positive experience seen in qualitative studies.

The micro-site stitched together over 100 articles about the Cricket World Cup in English and two regional languages—Hindi and Tamil—and showcased them through rich, snackable fact snippets on the micro-site.

Network Asset 3 1

Short quizzes were also added to gauge if readers stuck around because they found the content and interactions engaging, or because they found them difficult to comprehend and hence needed more time.

The experiment reached thousands of visitors from across the country. As a result, the team was able to gather critical insights that helped inform the Wikimedia Foundation’s larger strategy in similar geographies.

Outcomes we helped drive