What did I do?
For this project, I worked with a classmate named Anni, and together we created a usability test for a microwave. To begin with, we brainstormed different tasks we could have the participant do during the test, and we did this by thinking about what actions are commonly and what actions aren’t usually clear on microwaves. We chose those actions because we thought that they would be good indicators for whether the microwave was designed well. Next, we thought of different ways we could measure the efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction of the microwave. To do that, we thought about how we could learn from the test and participant what we wanted to know. For example, since we wanted to learn about the satisfaction of the microwave, we decided to ask the participant how they felt while completing each task. We thought about common users of microwaves, and decided to choose college students as our users because they are very frequent users of the appliance.
With this project, I had some questions about who to start with. Since we had a limited time, we couldn’t extend our pool of possible participants very far and therefore didn’t get the chance to include a wide variety of users. So it made me wonder if companies use groups like children or people who don’t read English in their usability tests, and if they do, how do they conduct them? Do they have them go through the test without any help reading the buttons? Do they give translations? Choosing what data to collect also raised some questions. Since different people think in different ways, doesn’t that mean that their different processes would be measured differently? How do companies choose how to measure the outputs of the test since not everyone will go through the process the same way? I would be interested in learning more about the decisions companies make in their usability testing.
I could see this approach applied to any product because to improve any product, it should be tested by a potential user to identify any possible issues with it. To be more specific, it should be tested with a wide range of potential users because not every user thinks the same way, so it would not be very beneficial to have all participants be similar to each other. For example, instead of all college-graduate white males as participants, the test should also include elderly Asian women, high school African-American boys, and many more demographics. I don’t think that this approach would be appropriate for services, especially those completely carried out by people because instead of testing the service, it could easily turn into a test of the person carrying out the service, and people are easily biased in their opinions. For example, most reviews are those written by someone who hates the product or loves it, and those that are in between are very hard to thoroughly understand. After this project, I would very much like to learn more about how companies make their decisions in what to include in the test, and I would also like to include more types of users in any future usability tests that I help conduct.