HCDE 210 Process Blog: Usability Testing

How hard is it to use an oven?

October 14, 2016

Planning out our tests

Making a recipe

I love cooking, but unfortunately this week’s sprint didn’t involve any. It did however involve an oven, and a set of instructions. For this week’s spring, we were tasked with creating a usability test for a common household appliance: the oven. The test involved three users, three tasks, and three types of data to be collected. My team used the planning time during studio to create three relatively common oven tasks: preheat the oven, check on something in the oven, and move a rack/place a tray in the oven. We chose these three tasks because they reflected common cooking tasks, and each one interacted with a different part of the oven. The preheating task, for example, involved the digital oven interface, while the tray task involved the oven door and racks.

Reine demonstrating proper rack movement technique

In planning our usability test, my group also sought to create a script so that users’ testing experiences could be as uniform and similar as possible. We felt that a script allowed us to accurately describe the tasks while maintaining an equal level of preparedness for all three users. When testing, we chose to time the users for a numerical data value, ask them for their opinions on ease from 1–10, with 10 being the easiest, and also ask for suggestions. These gave a us a variety of data to create conclusions from.

Wait, could you read those instructions again?

One of the biggest issues my team encountered during our test was a lack of clarity in some instructions. We had pre-written instructions in order to be as fair as possible across all tests, and therefore had found ourselves struggling to decide how much to say whenever a user had a question. Our chosen users were also all very similar, with all being college students. If we chose to run another usability test, we’d probably opt to choose users from a larger variety of backgrounds and demographics. Doing this would help us to create trends and analyze similarities/differences.

“We should make them cook for us next time”

My favorite part of the project was definitely the testing. In addition to being the most active aspect of the project, the in-person testing also gave me a visual representation of user testing which felt more personal and insightful than simply analyzing recorded data. I feel that actual personal user interaction is extremely important in the field of user-centered design, and enjoy projects where that interaction is present.

Coming from this sprint, I feel that I have a better grasp on what to look for when analyzing a product. Most items in our world are human-centered but we often do not realize how much thought is put into them. I hope to be able to apply what I’ve learned from running usability tests on an oven to my own personal life, and eventually, my projects as well.

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