For most of Wikipedia’s history, we encouraged editors to create new encyclopedia articles by publishing immediately. Just find a page that doesn’t exist, type in content, and after you hit save, it’s shared with the world. This helped Wikipedia grow to the millions of articles it has now, but the project has matured in many ways, and we need additional tools for creating great new encyclopedia articles.
Starting on the English-language Wikipedia, all users (registered or anonymous) now have the option to start drafts before publishing. A draft simply has “Draft:” before the title of the page you’re creating, like this example. Drafts are not visible to readers using Wikipedia’s default search nor in external search engines such as Google, though you may find them using the advanced search options.
Why we need drafts on Wikipedia
Wikipedia’s goal is to be the most comprehensive and reliable reference work in your language, so you might ask why we would encourage people to not publish their articles immediately so readers can enjoy them.
In small Wikipedias like Swahili or Estonian, you’d be right — we’ll probably encourage all authors to skip writing drafts. However, in larger Wikipedias where quality standards are very high, thousands of new articles are deleted (sometimes within just minutes) because they don’t meet essential requirements for what makes a good Wikipedia article.
Our most recent data indicates about 80% of the articles started by brand new users are deleted, when examining Wikipedias in English, Spanish, French, and Russian. By creating a draft, authors will have more time and space to gradually work on a new topic, and can get constructive feedback from other editors. In fact, even advanced Wikipedia editors sometimes use sub-pages of their user profile (sometimes called “sandboxes”) as an unofficial draft space.
We should note that we don’t want drafts to prevent editors from following their curent process for article creation. Wikipedia articles are all works in progress, even after publication, and this fact won’t change any time soon. We’re simply adding another option for people that want the time and space that drafts affords.
This is a very early version of drafts on Wikipedia, and frankly it’s missing a great deal of functionality. In the future, we’ll be adding features to drafts that will make them more useful. We’re exploring different design concepts to make it easy to request and provide help during the draft process, better support the publication of drafts as articles (and moving them back to draft state if they need more work), and encourage collaboration between editors.
If you’d like to help us in this effort, please sign up for a usability testing session. In these sessions, we’ll show you prototypes of new features and get your feedback. No prior experience with Wikipedia editing is required!
Pau Giner, User Experience Designer
Steven Walling, Product Manager