English Usability

Dear Diary: I’m Falling in Love with UX

Words are also some of the most disastrous mediums for exchanging information, perhaps a “signification breakdown” can occur in which individuals associate a symbol (signifier) with something other than what is being represented (signified). Unfortunately I am not making a Led Zeppelin pun, but I am referencing rhetorical criticism theorists’ I am learning about in courses this spring, 2016 semester at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Theorists, like Michel Foucault, provide interesting theories as to how people from different “discourse communities” can present ideological perspectives in very different ways that can possibly be best interpreted by those who can relate to the norms of the same “discourse community”. This is flimsy theory though and one day relevant statistics from linguistics and discourse studies may show how this phenomenon does or doesn’t occur, but unfortunately I’m not a quantum computer. It is interesting how writing in our own words about our own experiences is a thurow way to analyze them and UX diary studies utilizes their analysis´ of that through diary studies.

Michel Foucault (image below)

Michel Foucault448


According to Usabilty.gov, a diary study is a “research method that involves providing participants with the materials and structure to record daily events, tasks and perceptions around a given subject in order to gain insight into their behavior and needs over time”. As usability testing participants walk into your spic & spam testing environment to test the newest Pokemon Go software, they will most likely have expectations affected by prior human computer interactions with other games. These expectations are likely to be affected by the raw experiences participants would have with the interface of new software. The expectations may even be influenced by negative experiences or states of mood prior to testing and their shifting states.

sorry for the blur



UX diary studies are advantageous in how they are capable of capturing this user evolution, not into mega Lucario, but as the results from the Dagstuhl Seminar on Demarcating User Experience,2010. display. The image above, no not lucario, is a graphic from that study that displays how the process is continuous over time, beginning with the participants initial “anticipated UX” through imagining prior to testing .The next phase is when UX testing begins and the participant experiences pure “momentary UX” and the barriers of expectations are shaken. Next comes the “episodic UX” phase throughout system use in which the participant reflects on their UX experience as they continue. These combined reflections over time compile the final phase of “cumulative UX” as they reflect on many of the periods of use. Aidan Bryant, senior researcher at UserTesting.com and specialist at qualitative methods, has some good examples of questions to present to participants in diary UX studies; “how was your overall experience?”, “What prompted you to use the product?”, and “How did your experience relate to similar products?”.


Aidan Bryant (image to right)Aidan Bryant

You may be thinking “well dang, are there any downsides?” and the answer is of course! The testing requires a lot of participant commitment especially to attend training and briefing sessions to learn how and when to report findings. Of course it takes a painfully long amount of time to analyze journals after testing relative to how long online survey analysis takes on survey monkey. This could be straining on testing budgeting as well, but if you’re the workhorse doing the analysis more payoff to you then. Imagine having to analyze the feedback in diaries of participants in a study where they fulfill a multiple daylong process, like beta testing the newest Halo game throughout its development .The quality of the results is highly dependent upon the writing abilities of the participants so keep an eye out for john green on your recruitment list y’all.