Usability Test Process Blog


This week we carried out a usability test of a microwave in groups of three. We planned and executed a usability test in which three participants completed three tasks. We recorded three data types for each task. We then prepared a three minute presentation summarizing our plan and results of the usability test we carried out.

Brainstorming Phase

In our studio, once we got into our groups of three, we discussed participants, tasks, and types of data that one could collect for the usability test plan. Like our previous studios we did so by putting our various ideas up on post-its. This way we all had a wide array of topics to choose from and think about, which we previously wouldn’t have thought of ourself.

Brainstorming possible usability issues occurring in a microwave that could be tested in the usability tests.
Different features of a microwave that we could incorporate in our usability tests.

Finalizing Phase

Then we got together with our individual groups of three to select from the topics discussed, and finalize our usability test plan to encompass three tasks each for which we would collect three different data types. We decided to test the participants response to setting the time to two minutes, changing the power level to level 5 and lastly setting the timer for a minute. We chose the first task because it is a primary function of a microwave, the second because it might be useful if users need to change the level of heat for different dishes and the third was incase the users want to keep track of cooling period before they can retrieve their food. We decided to collect time taken, to provide a comparative standard to measure how long it takes to complete the task, the number of buttons pressed, to provide a standard for the minimum amount of button presses before successfully completing each task, and lastly how easy they found it from 1-10 to gauge users experience. We carried out our usability test on a Sunday with three participants with different user characteristics

Our group was 6. This was a finalized list of our tasks and the data we collected.

We then made a detailed presentation that consists of an overview of the usability test, profiles of our participants, our findings and the results of the usability test. The link below if a three minute video presentation on our usability test.

My thoughts on this project

I enjoyed this project because I got to collaborate with my peers to work together to create and carry out a usability test of a microwave. This gave us a first hand experience of different aspects and procedures one should follow to optimize results of a usability test. We got to switch roles from note-takers to moderators, which I enjoyed as it gave me a taste of different roles one could play in a usability test. For example, as a moderator I learned that we must be patient and speak clearly and slowly so the participant can understand and as a note-taker I learned we have to be very quiet and not interfere with the test and just observe and note the results or actions of the participant. I like how we got to choose our partners in this project as well because by writing our available times and getting grouped according to availability of time, we could meet and carry out our test easily without the hassle of coordination of time schedules. Additionally, I liked this project as it also helps us explain what usability is and understand its importance when creating a project. I learned that it matters because in the case of a microwave, there are different skill level users from novice, advanced and intermediate. So the product should not only be easy enough for a beginner user but also it should not be inconvenient or cumbersome for an advanced user. Additionally it matters because it gives the participant a chance to voice their opinions and thoughts which can be helpful for the designer to take into consideration.


Although I enjoyed this process a lot, I do not see myself using this usability testing too much in the future because unlike the last sprint with interaction design, here it is more scripted and following directions to conduct the test and reporting back the results. I personally like designing and programming the product better. But I do appreciate how important usability testing is and if I do create a product I will employ this technique to be carried out by a third party to get information back from the users to understand how the product can be improved to better cater to the needs of the users. For example, if a new device was created to check it’s functionality and how easy it is to use I would recommend running a usability test as this would give them first hand indication of qualitative data as well as quantitate data to evaluate their design. This way for the specified users performing specified tasks they can see the effectiveness, the satisfaction as well as the efficiency of their product.

There were however many techniques along the way that I picked up which might be helpful to me like using the resources available and coordinating with my teammates. This collaborative form of working will help me in future projects or assignments where I have to work with others to carry out a project.

For projects that require a lot of actions by the user to use the product, like for a microwave without pressing the correct buttons the functions cannot be carried out, usability tests will come handy as they help show the effectiveness, efficiency of the product and satisfaction of the user. But running a usability test will not be effective if one is looking for physical or metric data of the product itself like in the case of the water bottle, how much water it holds. This will be the volume of the bottle which can be evaluated by the designers or scientists creating it.

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