Our very positive revenue perspective (we have already exceeded our fundraising targets for the fiscal year, and received a very generous $2M grant from Google) allows us to do something we’ve hoped to be able to do: make our investment in user experience (see original press release) permanent.

It makes obvious sense for any major website to have a permanent team focused on user experience improvements in the broadest sense. This includes eliminating obvious barriers to entry, but beyond that, we want to improve the experience as a whole for both readers and editors.

We’re now referring to this work as “user experience” (UX) work, which includes usability.

Naoko Komura will be Head of UX Programs, while Trevor Parscal will be the lead front-end developer on the team. Congratulations to both of them. :-) Naoko is currently assessing the remaining contracts and will share further information as these decisions are finalized.

In the immediate future post-April, we’ll be concerned with tying up loose ends from the usability initiative, and finishing functionality that we had to put in the parking lot. We’ll work on a roadmap and staffing plan for 2010-11 and beyond as part of our business planning process.

Our long-term focus will be determined in significant part based on the recommendations from the strategic planning process; see especially the community health recommendations.

While we haven’t finalized priorities, the single biggest piece of work is likely going to be the transition to a rich-text editor as the default editing environment for all Wikimedia Foundation wikis, particularly Wikipedia. But, user experience to us also means assessing how people self-organize and communicate in Wikimedia projects, how they get stuff done, and how they read and navigate our projects. Even among the areas of work we’ve already identified, there’s enough to keep us busy for many years. :-)

Please note that the original usability initiative hasn’t concluded yet. The team is working on its final release, which will include some of the most-anticipated changes, including collapsing of templates to simplify the editing interface, and the production release of the new feature-set to all users. As always, we’ll continue to communicate progress through this blog and the tech blog, and feedback and participation is welcome at http://usability.wikimedia.org/.

Erik Moeller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation