Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is designed to allow
access to the Internet on a mobile phone. Attempts to explain its limited
success have focused on attitudinal and cognitive reasons for non-use, finding
that although people recognize the benefits of WAP, issues like lack of
content, privacy concerns, and reference group behavior account for non-use.
Such explanations have also been incomplete in that they have not addressed
problems related to actual use and interaction with the technology. Our
article studies the use of WAP as situated action. We focus on how users
make sense of WAP pages and how they disambiguate in situ the responses
from the service, i.e., new pages and new menus. Our method of transcribing
videos of WAP use following the conventions of conversation analysis offers
a cost-effective tool for understanding user interaction with technology
and provides useful implications for design.
Practitioner’s Take Away
- We offer a video methodology that provides new insights into the usability
of a standard technology. We encourage practitioners to try out this methodology
in cases where human interaction with machines and automated services
is essential. The obtained situated information provides cues for further
- Transcription of videos of actual use reveals how users reason their
way when dealing with a complex small-screen device. It pinpoints their
potential sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and exposes the
underlying reasons. Extracts from videos and internationally standardized
transcriptions are illustrative, and can be shared with and understood
by different product development teams.
- The study indicates that testing a service on a small number of users
can reveal deep insights and complement large-scale surveys. Such cost-effective
testing can provide useful implications for redesign.
- The study offers an ethnomethodological perspective to complement the
acceptance perspective. In essence, we claim that people’s intentions
are not necessarily a good predictor of future use of a service, and that
it is better to try the service in practice, even on a limited scale in
a controlled environment. Interactional issues and moral attributions
are best revealed in actual use.