Wikimedia Foundation Design Research Methods

Wear your researcher hat. Discover personas, needs, challenges, and opportunities.

Semi-structured interview

Write out a list of questions, and ask them to one or more stakeholders. If something a participant says during the interview makes you think of a new question, ask it. If a question on your list turns out to be less relevant than you thought, skip it.

Diary Study

Ask people to keep a ‘diary’ of their use of your product for a period of time (often 1-2 weeks). The diary can consist of written notes, recorded video/audio excerpts, or even photographs taken by the user. Combine multiple diaries to learn when, where, and why people use your product. Study individual entries to discover unmet needs and generate user stories.

Trace Ethnography

Select one or more users whose behavior you want to understand better, and gather the behavioral traces that leave when they use your product. Analyze these traces together to create a model of the user’s activities, interactions, apparent motivations, and potential challenges.

Content Analysis

Collect a set of artefacts created by many users and look for common themes. Create categories for each theme you found, and have two or more researchers sort the artifacts into those categories. Analyze the distribution of artefacts across categories.


Create archetypes of users to inform product development. For each functionality or feature in your product, choose a primary persona to design and build for and secondary persona to represent important users who may be affected (positively or negatively) by the feature.  

Standard Survey

Ask a sample of current or potential users of your product to answer a series of questions to understanding their characteristics, behaviors, experiences, and opinions. Use a mix of fixed response and free response questions to gather both quantitative and qualitative data.


Deploy in-context question prompts that can be triggered to reveal to a certain number of users performing specific behaviors with your product. Focus on users’ immediate activities or (anticipated) needs: what they are trying to accomplish right now, whether a particular feature meets their needs.

Participatory Design

Engage all stakeholders, especially end-users, as co-designers in every stage of the product design process, from problem definition to impact assessment, to identify needs, explore solutions, and evaluate outcomes.

Contextual Inquiry

Observe and talk to people in the context in which they use your product. Listen to their stories and collect observations in a structured way so you can efficiently do analysis and synthesis on the rich data. Observe people’s activities in a general, broad way, and also collect more detailed observations about specific activities relevant to your project.