Article Information

ECOLOGIES OF USABILITY TESTING: (UN)TAMING THE CHAOS

Anna Paukova (anna.paukova@gmail.com)

Independent researcher, Moscow, Russia

Citation: Paukova A. (2019) Ecologies of Usability Testing: (Un)Taming the Chaos. Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsialnoy antropologii [The Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology], 22(6): 86–102. https://doi.org/10.31119/jssa.2019.22.6.6

Abstract. Basic standards of usability are articulated in ISO 9241–11 but the means to evaluate the usability metrics, such as effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction, are mostly up to researchers. In this paper, based on autoethnography notes and reflections of a UX-researcher, some practical realizations of usability testing are considered. The author employs the points of personal confusion about hybrid nature of usability testing method as means to reflect on how digital products’ features and contexts of their development and use become entangled within a usability testing research design. The aim is to discuss how user feedback is framed, captured and translated within the usability research setup, to document how certain norms and conventions of this research are practiced, what marks product’s success or failure and how signals produced by users are read and interpreted. The author proposes the terms ‘ecologies’ to describe the points of agreement between different stakeholders, which serve as means to tame the multifaceted nature of user experiences in the wild and as general guidelines on how to bring it into the lab. Three cases, stemming from practical experience, when such ecologies are manifested, are considered: material ecologies which have to do with technical equipment in the lab; intersubjective ecologies, describing the voices of different stakeholders; metrics ecologies which reflect the complicated nature of measurements in UX. The production of knowledge in usability testing might be seen as entanglement of multiple ecologies in temporary assemblages, allowing to achieve the goals and test the hypotheses in a given research. Because of their temporary nature, such ecologies must stay flexible and to be constantly reconsidered and redefined ad hoc, thus embracing the practical messiness of digital product use and development.

Keywords: usability testing, design research, autoethnography, mess in research, research ecologies

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