User:Hannibal/guide for the next person

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During the months I have been working on the Account Creation Improvement Project, I have had to discover and research many different things to be able to do my job. I have had good help from a bunch of experts, both staff and volunteers, for which I am eternally grateful.

This document is a way both to make sure that their time has not been wasted, and to make it easier for the next person that want to do a similar thing in the future. (Hello, future person.) To that end, this is as much a list of tips as it is a list of things we did.

General comments


Changing anything as big like this is a complex thing. That means that it takes time. But it also means that it may not be a trivial thing to find people that want to devote time to it. Which means that it takes time to find those people.

To change the account creation process the way we've done it, do it like this


1. Identify the pages you are going to work on. In this case, we worked on:

2. Find a good plan for how to change the pages, i.e. what the pages should look like. We did wireframes and mockups to get an idea of the end result.
3. Tell the community about what your plans and your intentions are. On English Wikipedia, you should at least post to:

If you should need help from the community (and you should get their help), I would recommend that you use wikimail and email, plus IRC. Start with people you already know and ask them for help with specific tasks, rather than ask for general input or ideas. If they cannot help you, ask if they know any people that may be able to help. IRC is unpredictable, but may be a quicker way, since it reaches more people simultaneously.

4. Create the content that you are going to use.

  • If there are Javascripts in the content pages (such as the text area form we use in User:Hannibal/draft/2), you need to add these scripts to Mediawiki:Common.js (note the ending). Any changes you make her affect every user on the wiki.
  • If there are CSS in the content pages (such as the progress bars we use in the same page as above), you need to add those CSS changes in Mediawiki:Common.css (note the ending). Any changes you make her affect every user on the wiki.
  • Test repeatedly on another wiki, for instance Don't forget to resize the active window to see if what you have created behaves normally in different sizes.
  • Ask someone who is not tech savvy and does not know your purpose and goal very well, to try it out and ask for any suggested changes.
  • Cry Polish.

5. The extension that we used to track the new users is Extension:CustomUserSignup. This extension is on for English Wikipedia, and can be used to lead users along different paths. In our instance, we made several parallel versions and let the extension randomly add the new user into one of four "buckets". For more background on this, read this preparation sketch.
6. Ask the community for opinions and comments, both on the content and on the tracking. Be prepared to answer questions. It's nice to forwarn the community, especially if there can be a result in increased vandalism or, as we discovered, more people who make their user pages.
7. To start creating the process, use this form to find the MediaWiki pages that you want to edit:{campaign}-{message}. You need to get tech support to create the new campaign. In our case, the names were ACP1, ACP2 and ACP3. So editing will change the signupend message for people in category ACP1 only.[2].
8. Once you have edited all the relevant pages, the next step is the tracking. The results can be accessed in several ways. Probably, you will have to get support from the tech department. The results is a detailed list, like the Recent changes, where every click is registered and labeled after which campaign the user has been through. (More information here.) The tech department can use a script to sort out any veteran Wikipedians, and tally up percentages. For the Account Creation Improvement Project, we used a data analyst from the Wikimedia Foundation to understand the results.
9. Post the results to the community.

Final comments


Definitely feel free to improve upon the work that we did. Also, please document what you did. Link to your documentation below. Good luck!


  1. These five pages contain some elements that are supplied through "MediaWiki messages". The form, for instance, on the Create an account page, cannot be edited any which way, since it's not present on the same page as the top part - or indeed on a single page. These parts are transcluded from several messages onto one page.
  2. Finding all of the messages that are transcluded in any page is difficult, see note above. One way to find the messages is to look at the mediawiki code, such as here: