I recently joined the Wikimedia Foundation as a Senior User Experience Designer. I joined the design team to help create an even better experience of Visual Editor on the mobile web. The goal of the Visual Editor tool is to help people who aren’t super comfortable with wikitext (a markup language) easily edit articles on Wikipedia. The particular focus on mobile is annual goal of the entire organization this year, which you can read about in my team’s annual plan.
Upon starting my job, I attended new employee on-boarding meetings about the mission and values of Wikimedia, while simultaneously trying to get up to speed with the current state of mobile web contribution so that I could begin making editing simpler on the mobile web.
This cognitive multi-tasking helped me to realize that there was an opportunity here to directly link our design methods to the Wikimedia mission.
The mission informs all of the work that we do at the Foundation. Not just how we conceive of our work (through principles and values), but also how we implement it (through methods).
Mission is the purpose or calling of the organization. The mission (listed below), is basically what motivated me to apply to work at Wikimedia.
The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.
We have three basic tools in our arsenal to support how we talk about and implement the mission:
- Values are ideals that help frame conversations around mission ( or in my case as a product designer, product) success. When you come for orientation as a Wikimedia employee, you participate in remote workshop with other people who are on-boarding to learn about the values of the Foundation (listed here). What you learn along the way is that everyone who is joining at the same time of you, in some form, embodies these values. In my opinion, these values translate to the feelings that you walk away with when you connect with the movement (and this is something that I want to infuse into the products that I am helping to build).
We strive for excellence
We welcome and cherish our differences
We are in this together
We engage in civil discourse
We are inspired
2. Principles are a group of guidelines for best practices. There can be several sets of principles for a product, for example design or product principles. Principles and Values are at the heart of our mission. They explain why we do what we do.
Here are our design principles:
This is for everyone.
Open to collaboration
Trustworthy yet joyful
Design for consistency
3. Methods are practical exercises and activities that help us achieve goals. Methods are central to our practice. They are how we will accomplish our mission. We probably have hundreds of different methods that we could apply to any specific problem. For example, if we are thinking about how to refine a lot of different approaches to a product, we might consider doing the affinity diagramming method, to help us to sort and synthesize information.
This was a lot of information for me to process, so I started to do some experiments to make sense of how to practically use all of these tools in my everyday practice.
Experiment #1: Combining values and principles
I started to wonder how might we go about combining our values and principles. I wasn’t sure if they were even going to relate — but I was happily surprised to see that they did. Our values act as a high level umbrella for all of the principles that guide our product development. In order to do this, I had to pull out one value, “we strive for excellence” as an overarching goal for every product team member, volunteer and staff at Wikimedia.
This is how it broke down:
Value: We welcome and cherish our differences.
- This is for everyone
- Design for consistency
- Usable for all
Value: We are in this together
- Open to collaboration
- Extensible and sustainable
Value: We engage in civil discourse
- Intentionally transparent
Value: We are inspired
- Content first
Experiment #2: Figure out how to apply values and principles directly to a method
All of this was great in theory, but I couldn’t help wonder how this was going to impact my day to day work. Could this impact our methodology? Challenge accepted.
This quarter, the Editing team is evaluating the current experience for contributors who use the Visual Editor on the mobile web. As a product team, we want to know the answer to two high level questions:
1. Are the editing tools provided in Visual Editor usable on the mobile web?
2. Do we like the experience?
To answer both of these questions, I suggested that we write a script for a contributor to make and publish an edit to Wikipedia, and then perform a usability test and a heuristic review with the script.
To be clear, these are the methods here :
The usability study is a method where we do an analysis of how contributors use the tools.
The heuristic review is a method where we can have experts review the user interface. I thought that I could have the most impact by applying my experiment to the heuristic review work because compared the usability study, the heuristic review will have an extensive rubric.
Heuristic reviews were popularized by Jakob Neilsen in the 1990s. These set of ten rubrics to evaluate user interface design are a fantastic foundation for the kinds of questions that we want answered about the usability of Visual Editor, however, what they don’t accomplish is answering the question, ‘is this interface something that the Wikimedia Foundation is proud to put out there in the world?’
In order to address it, I integrated Neilsen’s heuristics with the values and principles. This is how that looked for the value “we welcome and cherish our differences”*:
Value: We welcome and cherish our differences
Principle: This is for everyone
- User control and freedom
- Recognition rather than recall
- I only wrote out one value here for the purpose of scan-ability (these lists started to get very long)!
Run the experiment
With the values, principles and heuristics combined, we have a nice lens to view and run the experiment. To do this, I converted the values, principles and heuristics into a worksheet for each of the experts to review.
Next up: expert review
Once this is reviewed by the team of experts, we will know if this interface is something that the Wikimedia Foundation is proud to put out there in the world. I will follow up this post with how the tests went and provide the results. I’d love to hear more from you. Have you been intentional about incorporating your organizational values into your methods?