Usability Testing Sprint

Test Microwave — 1000-Watt Emerson

In this sprint, our team devised a test to gauge the usability of a common microwave to college-age participants. We began our test with three participants, whom we gathered in a small kitchen, provided by one of our teammates. Each participant was given three tasks to complete. As they performed these tasks, myself and two other moderators collected three different types of data: the time taken to complete the task, the participant’s level of frustration/ease with the task, and the number of steps taken to complete the task. We chose these data points to best evaluate the efficiency and usefulness of the microwave, as they would likely be of most importance to a potential customer, should we be the design team for the company.

An example of the data gathered from one participant

The part I liked most about this project was the real-world applicability. Unlike user interface, or user-centered design, where a designer’s ideas may not even leave the drawing board, usability testing will certainly apply to any real-world product. The results gathered from a project like this will be implemented in a way that will affect any further changes to the product, and not just be aimless ideas that may never leave the ground. This also speaks to marketing and anthropology, and utilizes the ideas that a particular demographic may yield different results than another on the same test.

In the future, I could see applying this technique to everything from safety to aesthetic. It’s through these tests that real results and foreshadowing of the success of a product are glimpsed, and there is almost no limit to the types of products this type of test could be used on either. One of these such products might the seat belt to a new vehicle, and both how safe and easy the seat belt is to use. Another might be a piece of electronics equipment, like a speaker, how efficient the speaker is to use and how well it performs its task to the needs of the user. However, one that may not be appropriate would be something like an airbag — the user has no real way of interacting with or manipulating it, and its primary purpose is safety.

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