Sustainable open source projects rely on attracting and keeping new contributors. However, many newcomers fail to participate beyond their initial post and core members can leave at any moment. So what drives potential contributors to join or stick with a new project? And what can communities do to attract and retain members? As an ongoing content and participation contributor to webcompat.com, I explore these questions.
To gain a better understanding of the site's users, I researched the motives for and barriers to open source participation. Third party research, stakeholder input, and information from public forums allowed me to further develop my initial assumptions about the site’s users. My findings included feelings and behaviors which were then grouped into broad personas in order to synthesize the research.
Once I had a better understanding of potential project participants, I wanted to become familiar with the typical process of joining an open source project. To accomplish this, I created a user journey map outlining the stages, actions, thoughts and opportunities of potential contributors.
Possible concerns of the three individual personas were sketched out at each stage. This helped form suggestions for content and features to satisfy a range of user needs.
Having this visual representation helped me understand the concerns and information needs of potential contributors. Thus, allowing me to assess how well webcompat.com is meeting the needs of its users.
After gaining an understanding of open source contributors and their experience with joining new projects, I reviewed the websites of 5 additional open source communities. The goal was to assess each site’s content as it relates to attracting new contributors.
After walking through each website and adding notes to a spreadsheet, I created a high-level overview in Illustrator. Mapping out a visual snapshot of the spreadsheet highlights any content gaps.
Design variations of the site were mocked-up to test assumptions and research findings. The designs were tested with users then tweaked to incorporate any new findings.
Four representative users similar to the personas were recruited to review the mockups. A script outlining the process and scenario was read to each participant. They were then observed while completing 6 tasks and answering follow-up questions related to each activity. Activities and questions were structured around important goals for the target audience.
Four representative users similar to the personas were recruited to review the mockups. A script outlining the process and scenario was read to each participant. They were then observed while completing 6 tasks and answering follow-up questions related to each activity. Tasks and questions were structured around important goals for newcomers.