This week, we gathered in groups to design and carry out a usability test on a microwave. I met in a kitchen in McMahon with my group members, Ashley and Jingyao. We gathered participants who live in the building, all females in college. Each of the group members took turns moderating, timing, and taking notes. Our three tasks were for the user to set the timer to 2 minutes and 45 seconds, to change the clock to 9:32 am, and to change the volume of the microwave beeps. Our time in studio was spent coming up with task and data point ideas. We spent so much time on this because we had to learn the fine line between figuring out what an object can do, and figuring out what a person can do. Much time was spent crafting the tasks so that they reflected the ease of use of the microwave, and not just if it worked. We carried out the usability test to get a firsthand experience with creating tasks and moderating, as well as to understand the significance of how an object can be used efficiently. At the end, we created a PowerPoint and presented it in a video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQnNDLCzJIU&feature=youtu.be).
I found this task to be a lot more difficult than I originally anticipated. I found that many of the tasks I wrote pertained to the microwave itself, and not how people use the microwave. It took some editing and thinking differently, but we did successfully generate tasks relating to usability. We had a few problems when we actually carried out the test, as well. Our participant range was rather limited- they were all females who live in McMahon, and some of them were familiar with the microwave beforehand. This meant that some of the participants had an advantage, which affected the data points we collected. Additionally, we didn’t have as much of a familiarity with the microwave before testing as we should have, meaning we couldn’t answer all of the questions the participants have.
I’m not sure how much I would use usability tests in the future. I’d prefer more of the ideating and prototyping aspect of it; however, I’m aware that whatever I create would be tested and refined. Therefore, I would keep usability test questions in mind when putting something together. I would like to do more usability tests in the future, maybe in other classes, because I think the practice of writing and asking questions is important to design and functionality.