Research:Wikipedia Mobile Readers Survey 2011
The FAQ and questionnaire are available here Research:Wikipedia Mobile Readers Survey 2011 FAQ
Key Findings 
Demographics & Background
1. Wikimedia mobile readers are tech savvy, own a wide range of mobile devices, and skew male (76%). Just under half have edited Wikipedia at least once (47%). The average age of a mobile reader is 24 years old.
Smartphone Owners and Intenders
2. Unlike most Wikipedia readers, 77% of mobile readers in this study own a smartphone. Of those without smartphones, 75% intend to purchase a smartphone as their next phone, with nearly half (47%; 35% of the total) intending to make the purchase within one year. This indicates that the rate of smartphone adoption throughout regions is increasing faster, as nearly all Wikipedia mobile readers (90%+) will primarily use a smartphone in 2 years’ time.
3. Overall, 80% of the mobile readers own a laptop computer or netbook, 75% own a desktop computer and 50% own a digital music player.
Wikipedia Mobile Reading Frequency
4. Regarding the frequency of Wikipedia mobile usage, a majority of mobile readers (58% Top 2 box) read Wikipedia on their phone often to extremely often, in the past six months. French speakers showed the highest mobile readership affinity with 69% accessing Wikipedia often to extremely often. Spanish and English mobile readers followed closely with 67% and 64% Top 2 box respectively.
5. Readers between the ages of 22-29 years read Wikipedia via mobile phones most often.
Mobile Access to Wikipedia
- Accessing specific articles on Wikipedia is primarily done through search engine referrals, when the Wikipedia article is listed as the first result found (28%), or when it is found elsewhere within the search results (26%). This reflects the strong brand loyalty and trust mobile readers have in Wikipedia articles, as they actively look for Wikipedia in the search results when making a decision about what to view.
Access Preferences and Applications
- While most access occurs via the mobile web browser and a search engine, mobile readers would prefer to access Wikipedia articles via an application (32%) instead of a search engine (19%), or through Wikipedia.org (14%). An optimized mobile app could help defray load times, especially if information can be stored offline for quick access.
- Currently, there are numerous Wikipedia apps available from third party developers. Yet, it is unclear which ones are official apps produced by the Wikimedia Foundation. If access becomes easier or faster for mobile readers, 73% say they will use Wikipedia more often with 39% saying they will use it significantly more often.
Attitudes & Preference for Wikipedia User Experience
- Mobile readers want improvements to their navigation experience when reading Wikipedia on their mobile phones. In particular, they want to more easily find and review information on a desired topic. Forty-two percent (Top 2 box) wanted to have an easy-to-find search box on each page. Thirty-five percent wanted the ability to more easily expand or collapse sections, while 31% wanted a glossary/list of sections listed at the top of each article.
- Expanding and collapsing information is not only one of the most desired improvements; it is also one of the most desired formats for reading the articles themselves (41%).
- Scrolling up and down for additional information was also a preferred reading method, with 45% identifying it as their top choice.
- From a UI perspective, mobile readers felt that the overall viewing experience needed better fonts and text formatting. Fonts that were not displaying correctly was very discouraging for mobile readers (25% Bottom 2 box), as were formatting size problems with phone screens (22%), and hard-to-read text due to font size (22%). Improvements should include easier mechanisms for font size adjustments for different phone screens.
UI Improvements and New Features
- In terms of new features most likely to be used, the majority (51% Top 2 box) are looking forward to a feature that allows them to save articles to read or edit offline. Accordingly, the most likely to be used new mechanisms include the ability to download (44%), print (33%) and share (24%) articles. Moreover, 41% (Top 2 box) want to be able to rate articles. Referencing articles by the strength of their rating also works well to improve search functionality.
- Mobile readers want to see a main page of the mobile Wikipedia website that highlights the search bar (62%), as well as news of the day (48%) and featured articles (37%). Improving search via a clear search bar solution will both improve navigation and curb discouraging attitudes about search.
Search Accuracy Gap
- There is a noticeable gap in the perceived accuracy of Wikipedia searches between PC and mobile phone readers. While more than half find it to be very accurate on the PC (57% Top 2 box), only 29% feel the same way about the mobile phone search results. Russian speakers showed the greatest difference in PC vs. Mobile search accuracy (57%). This gap is likely a result of the search navigation and mobile formatting difficulties mentioned earlier rather than the accuracy of the actual search algorithm.
Mobile Subscription and Data Usage
- Wikipedia Mobile Readers indicate that searching for information on the web is their main reason for having to purchase a data plan for their phone. In fact, access to Wikipedia was a motivating factor to sign up for a data plan for nearly two-thirds of data plan purchasers (64%). Furthermore, a majority (52%) say that if Wikipedia access did not negatively affect their data usage then they would use it more, and would even consider switching providers and phones if this were offered as an incentive. This gives Wikipedia considerable leverage when considering which mobile partnerships to entertain.
- Surprisingly, 28% stated they would be more likely to buy from that mobile provider.
- Upon examining phone purchasing drivers, Wikipedia’s influence on mobile decision making is highest for mobile readers in regions such as: Brazil, Turkey, Latin America, and Middle East North Africa (MENA), where 33%-50% would be more likely to buy from a mobile provider with access to Wikipedia for free, and 25%-45% would actually switch service providers to have this service. With more than 80% of non-smartphone owners in these regions looking to purchase a smartphone as their next phone, Wikipedia can leverage the influence they have on tech savvy early adopters in these regions and provide greater value for manufacturers and service providers.
- Moreover, one of the top frustrations for Wikipedia use on mobile phones is related to the phone provider or manufacturer, as 28% say they have difficulties with Wikipedia due to service or phone speed, and 21% reported that it requires too much data usage to access.
- Of those who reported data usage as a difficulty, 88% indicate that they would read and access Wikipedia more often if it did not require extra data usage.
Wikipedia Mobile and Device Usage
- The top languages used by mobile Wikipedia mobile readers are English, French, Spanish and German, as respondents speaking these languages frequented Wikipedia on their phones most often. Wikipedia mobile readers also frequently read Wikipedia on other devices such as desktops (90%) and laptop computers (88%). It is not the case that mobile readership is cannibalizing articles read on the computer. Instead, mobile readership is supplementing the experience of reading Wikipedia articles on other devices.
- While most users (90%) read Wikipedia on a Desktop computer, mobile readers plan to read Wikipedia on their mobile phone (90%) and laptop (80%) in the future compared to their Desktop (71%). Tablets are also on the rise, as only 18% of mobile readers own a tablet, but 33% plan to read Wikipedia on a Tablet in the future, suggesting an intent to purchase tablets as well.
- The top barrier to using Wikipedia on a mobile phone is the speed of the mobile internet connection (44%). The top reported negative experience was slow page loading. Japan specifically reported issues with pictures and other multimedia loading.
This research was conducted via an online survey from October 6th -24th 2011 via Lime Survey.
This survey was completed by a total of 16,558 respondents. To qualify, respondents must have read Wikipedia on their phone in the past 6 months. Several respondents were removed from the survey as part of our data cleaning process (the variables and number of respondents who qualified for these criteria are mentioned below). The final sample size reported in the analyses is n=9007.
This study had an almost equal representation of editors (47%) and non-editors (53%). Their gender breakdown was as follows:
The data were weighted to reflect gender percentage split of Non-Editors (i.e., Male 76%, Female 23%, Other 1%)
Here is a public presentation based on the mobile readers study.