HCDE Sprint 3: Usability Testing
What did you do? How and why did you do it?
For this week, me and my partner were given the task of evaluating the usability of microwaves. The microwave model we tested was a white GE countertop microwave. We had a total of three participants that were all college students and between the ages of 18 and 22.
We had each participant perform three tasks. In task one, we tested the usability of the clock. We did this by giving the participant this scenario:
Recently there was a power outage and you noticed the time on the microwave is wrong.
In this scenario, we asked the participants to set the clock on the microwave to 12:34.
In task two, we tested the usability of readjusting heating time. We did this by giving the scenario:
You felt like drinking some hot water so you filled a cup with water and put it in the microwave for five minutes. You realized five minutes was too much time, so you changed the time to 2:15.
In this scenario, we asked the participants to change the heating time to 2:15 after the microwave already started heating.
In task three, we tested the usability of the microwave’s preprogrammed popcorn mode. We gave the scenario:
You’re hosting a party and preparing snacks. You decided to cook the popcorn in the microwave.
We only only asked the participants to cook the popcorn but did not specify what method they should use, therefore they had the choice of using or not using the preprogrammed popcorn setting.
For all three tasks, we collected data on the time it took to complete each task, descriptions about how each participant performed each task, and a rating for the level of ease.
What did you like about this project, and why?
I enjoyed the unexpectedness of each participant’s actions during the usability tests. “There are multiple ways to approach a problem” is something I hear often, but it’s usually a thought in the back of my mind. While conducting the usability tests, it was interesting to see all the different approaches for the same task, especially since we we’re evaluating something as common as the microwave. In task two for example, I personally tried this task before the actual testing. The problems I faced during my test was the problem of what buttons could be pressed, and in what sequence. In contrast, while the sample size was small, during the usability test, the participants didn’t run into the same problem as me. When I initially noticed the difference, I was worried if the tasks were too simple. But after receiving feedback, felt the saying of multiple approaches for one task seem more solidified.
How and where could you see applying this technique in the future?
As technologies and innovations are constantly being developed and integrated into our daily lives, usability tests will become more important and will continue to evolve. In fact, I think there are many unexplored areas where usability testing can be applied, such as the building layouts. I am aware lot of simulations and considerations about humans has been put in when designing buildings, like when designing the layout of a supermarket for example. While extensive work has been put into the architecture and engineering aspects of buildings, I’m curious about the human involvement with the buildings as well as aspects that can be improved on. For example, the lecture halls at Kane Hall were designed with the purpose of holding a large audience, but it faces congestion problems in the hallways during passing time. In the case of accessibility, there has been the effort to make buildings more accessible and wheelchair friendly, but such features are placed in more roundabout, or hidden places. In some cases, some of these accessibility features only include an elevator, which leads to the issue of what to do in a power outage. While before, it would be impossible, and costly to test the usability of building layouts due to the scale of such projects. But today, there are more technology available such as 3d simulations and virtual reality. As these technology become more refined and affordable, I want to explore how usability test can be applied on building layouts using such technology.