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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.
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 did not have enough content in these languages, it was found that the platform’s usage was lagging in smartphone penetration.
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.
- Using research-driven insights to uncover multiple ideas and pick the most promising solution
- Refining promising solutions to create a new yet familiar experience for readers through rapid prototyping
- Validating hypotheses by gathering further evidence at scale through an experimental product
Helping organisations investigate complex problems through rigorous prototyping to arrive at simple solutions
Before the team could begin investigating ways to attract readers new to the internet, 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 wasn’t enough content in regional languages on the platform.
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.
To break out of this conundrum, the team needed to get just the right amount of content in vernacular languages that would make the platform relevant for new readers and set the wheels of both content consumption and content production in motion.
Since translating long-form articles from mainstream to vernacular languages was a herculean task, the team needed to uncover what readers found most valuable, and deliver that first. This would also buy time to slowly but steadily deliver long-form content.
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.
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 upcoming 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.
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 mobile micro-site around the much-awaited 2019 Cricket World Cup. The overarching goal was to test if the experience of readers who would land on this site (through an ad which showed match live scores) would equate to the positive experience seen in qualitative studies.
The micro-site stitched together over 100 articles about the Cricket World Cup in two regional languages—Hindi and Tamil—and showcased them through rich, snackable fact snippets.
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 which continue to drive Wikimedia Foundation’s strategy in similar geographies.