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Enhancing Wikipedia's editor experience through search page analysis


Figma, Google Suite


February 2023 - May 2023



Wikimedia Foundation


Rishi, Nouran, Sagar, Sanjana


The aim of the project is to evaluate how Wikipedia editors (defined as account-holding users who log in to edit Wikipedia entries) use the search page to view/edit articles to bridge any gaps and improve their overall experience.


By conducting moderated remote user tests, our team discovered four major usability issues and suggested solutions to overcome these issues.



The main focus is to identify the types of tasks that editors use the search feature for, as well as to determine any usability challenges or missing functionalities on the search page that could hinder their ability to complete those tasks. Some of the assumptions made in the research are:


Experienced editors are mostly searching and editing on desktop.


Editors are using the search page to perform search tasks rather than the search bar.


Editors are using search to find articles they want to edit but we do not know how exactly they might use search to assist their editing workflows.


Editors prefer to have more complex queries unlike readers.


Since our focus was on a niche group of users, our team circulated a survey with questions about users' purpose of using Wikipedia and their experience in editing to shortlist participants to conduct the usability test. Out of a total of 56 responses, we shortlisted 7 participants based on their past editing experience.

A moderated user study was then conducted on these seven users over Zoom, with each session being approximately one hour long. Participants were monitored as they attempted to complete seven different tasks which involved Wikipedia’s search features. The tasks were sorted into categories to examine different facets of the interface’s functionality. Based on the client's goals, we sorted our tasks into categories to examine different facets of the interface’s functionality.


Find a place on Wikipedia from where you can conduct fine-tuned searches for your editing needs.


You’re interested in getting a dog. Find an article about a breed you’re interested in to help you decide whether it’s a good match for you. 


- You’re editing an article about beagles and want to create a section called “In Pop Culture”. Use
the search page to find the name of a movie that features a beagleZ
- You want to write an article about canine lifespans. Show us how you would use the search
page to find out how much information is already available on this topic.


You’re having trouble figuring out how to add an image to your article. Use the resources
available on Wikipedia to get some pointers.


- You’re editing a page and have run into trouble trying to add a footnote citation to your article. Use the resources available on Wikipedia to get some help from your fellow editors who have experienced the same issue.
- You’re editing a page on emotional support animals and you’re finding it to be a lot of work!
Find an editor who has experience in this topic and try to reach out to them about collaborating
on the article.

Problems and Recommendations

From the moderated user test we uncovered that while the Wikipedia search experience could be a useful tool for editors, the interface as it is currently conceived faces two major challenges. These challenges can be further subdivided into four main areas of improvement.


Gap between users’ mental model & interface capability

Functionalities that exist in the interface but are not used by editors


Create discoverability

of the search page

Improve apparentness & learnability
of the existing advanced search capabilities

Actual failure of the interface to meet user needs

Functionalities that can be added to or improved on the interface


Improve efficiency of search
by enhancing natural language search processing

Create efficiency of results processing
by adding a faceted search capability



Experienced editors have difficulty finding and remembering the search page (advanced search) from the Wikipedia homepage since the only way is to make an empty search query.


Make "Advanced search" visible

Providing clear and easily discoverable navigation button leading users to the search page would reduce the mental load on users to remember the location of the page.




Experienced Wikipedia editors are not making complete and/or consistent use of the advanced search functionalities. Additionally, explanation of how to apply filters is very text-heavy; users who are confused do not gain much clarity from these overwhelming explanations.



Reorganize search page

Redesign Wikipedia advanced search page to improve apparentness by displaying advanced search features in a default expanded state, converting the layout of the advanced search features from vertical orientation to a horizontal orientation, renaming the “Search In” feature to “Page Type”, providing succinct explanations and examples of how to use each of the advanced search features.



Natural search queries

The search page often fails at understanding naturally worded queries for example, first result which is relevant to the search query is the third result in the list; only appears due to the word movie being in ‘(redirect from Underdog (movie sountrack))’.



Streamlined results

Allow to search to understand what users are looking for by presenting them with a snippet of information from the most relevant article, and a link to the article if they would like to learn more.



Efficiency of results

The current search results page lacks a faceted search panel, which makes it difficult for users to refine their search and find the information they need.


Reorganize search page

The faceted search panel appears alongside the results, allowing users to refine their search by selecting various filters such as date range, subject/category, media, language, etc.

The results update in real time as the user selects or deselects filters, providing an efficient and dynamic search experience.



The client was appreciative of our efforts in conducting the usability testing and agreed with the critical problems we identified in their interface. They expressed eagerness to go through the detailed report we provided and were open to working with us to improve the usability of their platform.

If given the opportunity, we would conduct user tests on more users since it was difficult to find experienced editors who are well-versed with the search page to verify our findings and potentially discover more problems.


Based on the experience of this case study, there are several key takeaways to consider for future research studies. Firstly, recruiting participants can be challenging, and it's important to give enough buffer time to account for cancellations and rescheduling. Secondly, analyzing insights from user testing to identify patterns is crucial in identifying critical usability issues. Lastly, effective communication and coordination with the team is necessary to ensure the research study runs smoothly and efficiently. These takeaways can help improve the success and outcomes of future research studies.

Interested in learning more about this project?

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