BBC News is reporting the OKCupid Website has revealed that it experimented on its users. It decided to reveal the tests after the discovery that Facebook had been manipulating the feeds of its users.
It’s possible for anyone to run experiments on web pages, including technical communicators. You can display one page for 50% of your audience and a different page for the other 50%. Organisations carry out these tests to see if there is any change in user behaviour as a result of making a change to the site.
According to Christian Rudder of OKCupid:
“It’s not like people have been building these things for very long, or you can go look up a blueprint or something. Most ideas are bad. Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out.”
So is it ok for Technical Authors to experiment on users? If it results in the creation of better, more effective, Web pages would you, as a user, object? Clearly, most of us would object to a website manipulating us or causing potential harm – could that ever apply to the type of experimentation a Technical Author might carry out?