Usability Test Process

By Wesley A. Muthemba

1. What did we do?

In studio this week, my team came up with tasks for users to do with our assigned device, the microwave. We used the 3*3*3 method: 3 tasks, 3 users, and 3 data types. We found three users and asked them to input 45 seconds, remove rotating disk and then placing disk back inside properly, and resetting the microwave’s clock time. The three data types we collected were both qualitative and quantitative: we timed each task, recorded a difficulty rating out of ten, and listened for verbal feedback while they were performing the task. We conducted our user research using a microwave found in Mercer Court.

During our practice session in studio, we found it difficult to come up with questions that would help us target the answers we wanted without being too direct. This made me think about what questions were worth asking and made me want to learn more about developing those questions.

Planning for the usability test.
Usability test video.

When my team went out to perform our research, we found that strangers were unwilling to participate, so our participants were my roommates in Mercer Court who were all familiar with the type of microwave we were using.

2. Reflecting on the experience.

This project was interesting to me because I like working with people to find out what works and what doesn’t. Although I felt a little weird conducting user “research”, it was a good experience to interact with users. I thought about how the microwave we conducted the usability test on probably went through its own professional usability testing, but some of our participants still failed to use the microwave properly. I wondered whether our participants were not like the majority of the population or if designers assumed that users would learn how to use their products. We learned that good design doesn’t require a lot of thinking or confusion and should be natural: this made me want to learn more about how to ensure quality usability testing to make the best product.

Questions that this experience raised:

> Should designers always go with traditional ways when designing products for it to be natural when users use it?

3. What I liked.

Effective usability testing can reduce design mistakes that cause users frustration and confusion. When we were conducting usability testing on the microwave, we noticed that some key features went unnoticed. Good designs should be able to seamlessly fit into user’s life patterns. As designers, we should be able to identify the user’s needs and wants by observing their actions when they’re interacting with the product. If a user has too much difficulty figuring out what to do or which buttons to press, we have not succeeded as designers.

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