The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit that powers Wikipedia, the fifth largest website in world. My role was to reshape content for the foundation’s newly redesigned website. The site’s primary goal was to help external audiences to better understand their mission, work and initiatives. This project provided me the opportunity to dive deep into the complexities of the organization, then write clear, simple content that would serve a wide range of internet users.
Championing user-centered content
The audience for the Wikimedia Foundation website is vast and diverse. Website visitors include donors, volunteers, job seekers, journalists and researchers. Some are already deeply committed to the organization’s mission. Others don’t fully understand the difference between Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation and other wiki-based sites.
We could never assume anyone fully understood the complexities of the organization. We strived to create content that would meet people where they were.
Throughout multiple drafts and stakeholder reviews, I collaborated with internal team members who helped me advocate for these intended audiences. Though interests and opinions were sometimes competing, we encouraged stakeholders to think through a user-focused lens. This ultimately led to content that was more considerate to our users.
Keeping content short and simple
The Wikimedia Foundation has countless wikis, blog posts and sometimes even separate websites that dive deep into all facets of the organization. It was easy to get lost in this deep, dense web of complex material. Identifying which portions were relevant for a public-facing website involved significant editing, cutting and refining.
Brevity is empathy. Visitors might be short on time, non-native English speakers or viewing the website on pocket-sized mobile screens. Always keeping accessibility and inclusivity in mind, I kept content simple, direct and short.
What’s more, the website would be translated into multiple languages. This increases the character count by 30 percent in some languages. I iterated headline after headline, trying to stay concise without sacrificing message. I avoided jargon and Americanisms. With simple, easy-to-understand copy, I hoped to make the site easier to translate.
Crafting a clear, consistent message across the site
The prior Wikimedia Foundation website had multiple editors who added their contributions over time. New sections and pages were sometimes drafted quickly, leading to ballooning content and many inconsistencies.
The new site was an opportunity to think thoughtfully and strategically about how the Wikimedia Foundation wanted to communicate. We had multiple discussions about tone of voice right down specific word choices in headlines. Would a global audience understand this? Would it be easy to translate? Was there a stronger, more active verb we should use instead?
Streamlining the message wasn’t always easy. Take, for example, the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia. One is a nonprofit with a global mission. The other is a free encyclopedia that’s powered by the nonprofit. The similarities in their names makes it confusing. In some cases, I opted for wordier sentences to explain the relationship between the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia.