This page includes information and context used during the creation of the Developer Portal between 2020 and 2022.

Timeline edit

Note that this timeline is not final.

See the Wikimedia-Developer-Portal Phab project and its workboard for more details and future plans (more info about Phab).

Key themes from conversations edit

This is a summary from the explorative conversations with a sample of stakeholders (WMF/WMDE) in Oct 2020‒Feb 2021.

  • Wikimedia has a large variety of programming languages and technology areas. Documentation in many of these could benefit from more visibility.
  • Audiences: A clear understanding of the audiences for technology areas helps write more focused docs and consumers get more relevant information.
  • Stewardship: Tech writers serve as the main contact for technical documentation. In the absence of technical writers, stewardship of documentation is ad-hoc.
  • Stewardship: Defining stewards for specific technical areas and processes for task assignees or code reviewers to review related documentation improves correctness and completeness of documentation.
  • Coherence: Guidelines and recommendations on naming and structuring documentation would help documentation writers and maintainers.
  • Coherence: Guidelines on which content should be hosted on which sites would help reach the target audiences and avoid duplication of content.
  • Common knowledge: Clarifying (and potentially expanding) the set of shared public documentation to be considered relevant for a wide range of technical contributors could help improve accuracy and completeness of documentation.
  • Code proximity: The closer technical documentation is to the code that it covers, the more likely the related documentation can be located and updated.

Feedback from broader community and outcomes edit

After the exploratory conversations (see #Key themes from conversations) which informed the initial content proposal, the public feedback phase to receive broader feedback on the content draft took place from May 6 to May 25, 2021.

The call for feedback was published in various places: Several mailing lists (wikitech-l (reminder), pywikibot, cloud, wikidata, wikitech-ambassadors, analytics), IRC channels, social media channels, Zulip, the Hackathon Telegram group, etc. There was also a dedicated Hackathon 2021 session in which people commented on this project.

  • We received feedback from several longtime contributors on the Feedback page, via private messages, and several people attending the Hackathon 2021 session.
  • Several comments expressed appreciation for the idea and initiative.
  • Several comments proposed technologies to add, descriptions and categories to improve, potential links to add, and items to move to other categories. This feedback was mostly included.
  • It was pointed out that some headers partially duplicate descriptions. We made some improvements and think this cannot be completely avoided.
  • It was pointed out that some relevant information is on Developer Hub and that people wouldn't immediately think of looking into that page. We may want to evaluate scope, visibility, and stewardship of the Developer Hub page. The page seems to be a valuable link hub for MediaWiki development itself.
  • It was proposed to evaluate search logs to better understand common needs. This has been filed as phab:T285183 to be considered at a later stage.
  • We added TemplateStyles and Wikidata Query Service. We removed VisualEditor.
  • We moved Wikibase to the "Enhance the MediaWiki software platform" section.
  • We moved Machine Learning to the "Build tools, gadgets and bots for your Wikimedia community" section.
  • We improved descriptions and titles to be clearer and more consistent.

User research and testing edit

After the public feedback phase, the team completed multiple rounds of user research and UX testing as we iterated towards the launch version of the dev portal.

User scenarios edit

To define core audience for the Dev Portal, we conducted a set of user scenario excercises (restricted access) for key personas based on the 18F method.

User research during development edit

From 2021 Sept - Nov, we conducted 4 user tests to assess prototypes of the dev portal and to guide its ongoing design and implementation. The goal of this round of testing was to assess user reactions to the dev portal design and determine if they could complete basic information-seeking tasks using it. We were especially interested in how users would feel about navigating a multi-layer site structure vs. a more flat stucture.

Key takeaways:

  • A single point of entry is essential for newcomers, ideally to provide sequential onboarding and a gentle "on-ramp". Beyond that, topic- or audience-focused portals are a better way to handle the large amount of information without overloading people.
  • Trustworthiness and signals around the freshness and accuracy of the info is extra-important due to the wiki context.
  • Terminology is confusing (so many wikis, so many different types of technical contributions).
  • A wall of text is off-putting; people like the prototype that has more space and icons, but they prefer the action-oriented and more clear textual content of the second prototype.
  • Audience: people want links that are relevant to their user type; there's a difference between what community developers would look for in a portal vs. "general" or MediaWiki developers.
  • Users were able to navigate and felt good about the multi-layer site structure.

Some specific tasks and content we tested were:

  • Contribute to Wikimedia open source: performed positively; people understood what this meant and when to click it.
  • Build tools: performance mixed; people aren't sure if extensions are tools, sometimes they may confidently click on this when looking for MediaWiki developer info, or for data dumps (they are confidently wrong about what they'll find here).
  • Research data and machine learning: people didn't click on this even when their task clearly involved "getting and using data". This resulted in us changing the way this content is represented in the portal.
  • Wikipedia APIs: people usually ended up here in a roundabout way when their task ultimately could be solved by using an API (i.e. "reading API" to solve the task of accessing content for a tool they're building).

User research on final prototype edit

For this final round of user testing, we worked with UX researchers from the WMF Design Strategy team to coordinate testing and recruit participants from a larger and more diverse set of contexts, including people who aren't familiar with Wikimedia or its open source technology projects.

Participant overview edit

We did a total of 9 tests with participants from 4 user groups:

Dev portal testing user groups
User group Number of tests
Content and data reusers (not familiar with Wikimedia) 2
Open source contributors (not familiar with Wikimedia) 3
Experienced tool devs (familiar with Wikimedia) 2
New tool devs (familar with Wikimedia) 2
Total participants 9
Dev portal testing participant demographics
Region Gender identity Age group
Middle East & Africa Male/man 18-34
Middle East & Africa Female/woman 18-34
Middle East & Africa Female/woman 35-54
Middle East & Africa Non-binary or other 35-54
Northern & Western Europe Non-binary or other 18-34
South Asia Male/man 18-34
US & Canada Male/man Undisclosed
US & Canada Male/man 18-34
US & Canada Male/man 18-34

Findings and outcomes edit

Overall, the site was effective in helping users find the information they were looking for. Participants responded positively to the design, navigation, and organization of the site. Some specific findings in thematic areas:


  • While different people gravitate towards different navigation menus, the engagement with left nav, horizontal nav, and in-page nav indicated that they're all useful.
  • Nearly everyone opened the site wide enough to view the horizontal nav and sidebar.
  • Participants mostly used the Search box only when prompted, though a few used it without prompting. Overall, it worked effectively.

General usability:

  • Translation icon was easily understood. Users had positive responses to availability of multilingual content, though even multilingual testers said they'd probably still use the site in English.
  • The site is quick, responsive, and easy to use.
  • Tooltips and link text helped users understand what links did / where they went.
  • People were okay with jumping from the portal to a wiki.
  • The Get Started button was useful and almost all users clicked it.


  • Users gravitated towards tutorials, and found them quickly.
  • Users expected more content on the Get Started main page, and especially wanted to browse content by programming language.
  • Open source contributors wished for a comprehensive and sortable/filterable list of projects with basic metadata to help them decide which projects to explore further.
  • Users were surprised by the absence of MediaWiki in the list of open source projects.
  • Tech Blog was a popular link in the Updates section.
  • Some users expected a login feature as is common on most wikis.


  • The dark mode toggle icon was incomprehensible to almost all participants.
  • Some of the site spacing and padding was visually unpleasing or inconsistent in a way that bothered people.
  • The site title behavior is inconsistent with common practices.
  • Overall layout and presentation was viewed positively as being clean, simple, and avoiding the info overload common on wiki sites.
  • Most testers did not recognize the Wikimedia logo.

Our research findings resulted in the following changes for the Developer Portal:

Content revisions:

  • Reworded tutorial headers to improve clarity; made all headings task-oriented
  • Changed section index pages to use H2 links instead of "Learn more" links
  • Moved developer app guidelines and licensing info out from under “discover available wikis” to make the content easier to find
  • Moved Java-specific open source projects higher on the page due to popularity of the language among testers.
  • Moved up the Tech Blog on the updates page because it performed well in testing

Content additions:

  • Added more text to describe link content and improve search recall of documents
  • Added programming language browse options to Get Started section
  • Added Get Help link to home page (instead of just nav bar)
  • Added link to MediaWiki YouTube channel as a way to learn about Wikimedia tech in Get Started section; removed tech talks link
  • Added the names of outreach programs to the description for that link
  • Added MediaWiki as a topic for open source contributions. Even though it's not newcomer-friendly, its absence was surprising and notable.
  • Added the Wikidata infrastructure overview doc to section on Technical Operations

Design adjustments:

  • Improved color contrast
  • Changed alignment of site icon and site title
  • Removed paragraph symbols from homepage
  • Changed dark mode toggle icon

Previous plans, thoughts and research edit

This list includes historical attempts to establish either some high-level developer documentation hub or holistic approaches to improve cross-project documentation. This list is not about specific content itself.

Existing high-level entry points edit

This list is not about specific technology areas but common landing points, either by domain or by links often pointed out to interested newcomer developers.

Key landing pages edit

The team has identified these pages as key documentation landing pages representing sets of key docs.

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