Research plan (detailed)

Project overview

Phase two of the Gutenberg project (not that one) will see the post editor expand to act as a site-building tool. This brief exploratory research study will help designers to better understand the users for whom they are building concepts, and will inform work on phase two. At the end of the research, we’ll have a better understanding of the problem that we’re trying to solve and the users that we’re solving it for.


Alexis, Riad, Matías, Matt, plugin authors, theme authors, news corporations, site-builders, the community at large (!)

Completion date

9th of January

Aims of the research

The goal for this exploratory research is to understand how people think about building a site. This research will explore behaviors and mental models beyond the Gutenberg experience by understanding how people think about building individual pages and entire websites. Results will be used to inform product decisions and the overall boundaries of the initial work.

High level goals

  • Understand how people currently build websites using either WordPress or other tools. This can include individual pages or templates. 
  • Learn more about the mental models of site builders vs. page builders. Understand how each are perceived and how people expect to use them.
  • Assess pain points and areas of friction when it comes to building and creating a website / single page. 

Participant criteria

User research will require recruiting a pool of qualified, unbiased, candidates. In order to accelerate the process, reduce bias, and curtail drop-off, we recommend offering a paid incentive to participants.

Our recommendation is to use a recruitment service such as to guarantee participants. For ten users, we’d need a budget of $675.

Future research will come from a qualified list of testing candidates that we have collected and will not require a recruitment service. We can initiate this testing group for this study, but best to consider any leads as “bonus” sessions we can run if time and resources permit. We’ll aim for as broad a range of representation as possible of participants in terms of demographics and ability.
Participants will be organized into two subgroups based on the following criteria.

  1. Power users
  • Has a CMS for their website (WordPress preferred) 
  • Publishes 10+ content pieces per month
  • Directly involved in publishing content OR engineering / development of the site (e.g. the entire site or templates / pages)
  • Can be a content author, site admin, or an engineer
  • Website has multiple custom pieces and metaboxes and moves beyond the out of box experience
  1. Website neophytes
  • May or may not already have a website, but wants one
  • May have some experience with WordPress or another platform
  • Not technically inclined
  • Willing to learn to create a website for themselves (small business owner)


Short stakeholder interviews will be conducted prior to commencing research to ensure that we’re on the right page, we’re aware of the technical and structural limitations and considerations, and our research is headed in the right direction. This will in turn guide the script we use and exercises that we conduct.

Each user session will last 60 minutes and will comprise of an interview and a guided exercise. Full scripts will be provided.

These sessions will require at least one moderator and one notetaker, and will be followed by a 30-minute private debriefing session immediately afterward in order to capture, record, and discuss themes, highlights, and observations. 

Sessions are open to all. Notes will be taken and all sessions will be recorded. Ideally all project members (both development and design) would be involved in at least one session, in order to get a wider range of perspectives and to ensure that everyone working on phase 2 has a direct connection with the users we’re building tools for.

We will encourage the community as a whole to participate, either as note-takers, observers, or moderators. The aim here is that we can spread an appreciation and understanding of the research process amongst those who will be working on phase two. Guides will be provided for both note-takers and moderators, and we’ll give support to anyone who’s new to research in order to get them on their feet.

Tentative session structure

  • 5 minutes: introduction, legalese
  • 15 minutes: warm up, demographic questions, site-building questions
  • 20 minutes: site-building exercise
  • 15 minutes: post-exercise discussion
  • 5 minutes: wrap up, thank you