Ethics aren’t easy

A professional’s discussion on protecting users

When I conducted my first usability test, it was easy for me to make predictions of what the participants were going to have problems with, and what they would like about the website.  While some results were surprising, the general thoughts about the website were exactly as I imagined.

User Experience, the magazine of the User Experience Professionals Association wrote an article about a usability test where they knew what results to expect, and knew the pain that it would cause the participants.  The test was see if people with disabilities could use a government kiosk without pain, but the process was even causing the testers pain.

“Asking a person who tires easily or experiences pain when performing manual tasks to click a button a few thousand times would cause, at the very least, significant discomfort and likely lasting physical pain. When we were trying out the product to collect expert timing and button press data, our hands hurt! Projects like this raise important questions about research ethics.

We asked colleagues with disabilities to give us their feedback on using the product. Based on their responses, it was obvious that running a usability evaluation was not going to be reasonable.”

Although it seems like an ethical idea to test usability for a person with disabilities, this test would have only hurt them, and therefor have been unethical.

Instead of conducting an unethical test, the tester should tell the client that the product has issues that must be addressed first.  Although in the commercial world, this could mean losing a client it is a necessary responsibility to value ethics and safety first.

**Featured Image provided by Internet Archive Book Images under no know copyright licenses


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