Process Blog #3 — Usability Testing

The Challenge

This week, our challenge was to design and execute a usability test on a microwave. We decided on a user base of college students in residence halls, as many of them use a microwave to obtain many of their meals. In our group, we brainstormed various tasks and ways to measure data.

Us brainstorming data types and tasks.

We concluded on having our users set the cook timer, add 30 seconds to the cook time, and adjust the power level, because we felt as though those would be adequately challenging and useful tasks. To measure the usability as our users performed the tasks, we decided to measure time, number of buttons pressed, and a 1–10 scale the users rated their ease doing the task on.

The three tasks we chose to use.
The three data types we chose to use.

The Design Solution/Results

We convened in Haggett Hall to test our users this past Saturday, borrowing the microwave from the kitchenette on my floor of the dorm. We chose this microwave because it was easily accessible and none of our selected users had prior experience using that specific microwave.

Our group setting up to film the tests.

The results were intriguing, as all three users rated the difficulty of each task no higher than 3/10, despite widely varying time and efficiency data that suggest the user-reported difficulties should have been more varied. (Video link:


This usability test raised a number of questions for me, especially considering my familiarity with our user base. Knowing that all of our selected users were engineering students, where problem-solving in an efficient manner is a much larger area of focus, it intrigues me to wonder whether or not we would get the same results testing a group of non-engineering students. In the future, I think establishing a more diverse sample of test users in addition to asking the users to perform more difficult tasks would be ideal if I were to design this test again.

Now What?

In the future, I could see myself utilizing usability testing when comparing two similar products and deciding which to buy, like a new phone. Now that I am aware of common usability practices, I can make my purchase based more off of which phone is more intuitive to use, rather than blindly following what the salesperson suggests would be good. Usability testing may also apply to my future in coding, as the usability of a program is incredibly important, something that has been reinforced in my experiences taking computer science classes here.