Wikimedia Foundation Design Research Methods

Make sure that our product continues to work for our users, and measure impact.

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.


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.  


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.


Track usability improvements and regressions over time across multiple products/ versions / releases. Any method that provides quantitative data can be used for benchmarking, as long as the same metrics/questions persist across all tests and all participants have the relevant characteristics in common.

Unmoderated Usability Test

Provide users with a set of instructions for using your product, and ask them to try performing these tasks on their own, as well as answer questions about their experience and about themselves. You can ask them to perform multiple unrelated tasks, or to perform a series of sequential steps in a single workflow.

Moderated Usability Test

Design a set of tasks that reflect the way people use your product, or how you expect/want them to use it. Lead participants through tasks, observe whether they accomplish these tasks without assistance. Ask participants to think aloud so that you can learn their ‘mental model’ of product and tasks. Take notes; ask questions.

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.