HCDE Sprint 2 Usability Test

Usability test is the test used in the evaluation process of a product to gather user’s feedback of a certain product in order to improve it.

Our Challenge

This week, our goal is to conduct a usability test to a microwave with a team. Our team conducted the test by inviting 3 users to evaluate 3 functions with 3 data type of a microwave to improve the product. As the product we are evaluating is a microwave, we decided to invite 3 users with different levels of familiarity with microwave(Novice, Medium, Expert) so that the test can cover a wider user group. The 3 tests we chose to conduct are 1) functions navigation, 2) alarm evaluation, and 3) food observation. We chose these 3 tasks because they can tell the user’s difficulty of navigating between different functions, telling the food is prepared, and judging food’s status in cooking separately. And we chose 3 data type, completion, difficulty, and satisfaction to measure the tasks.

Brainstorm about possible data type for the usability test.

To maximize the power of team collaboration, we had one moderator to give users specific instruction and 2 note takers to record related data and information for the test. After the test, we summarized the data we gathered and organized into a PPT so that we can illustrate our test result.

The patterns we summarized from the tests.

Here is the link to the video demo with narration for our PPT of the test: https://youtu.be/jVO8RueB_v4

My Thoughts

I personally find usability test is extremely useful in improving a product. In last week’s design challenge, I invited one user to evaluate my app design and gained some useful feedback. The usability test we conducted this week equipped me with more experience. Although the test went well overall, there are certain things I can improve on next time.

First, in terms of user selection, we mainly chose our users on the microwave experience level and did not pay much attention on other potentially related areas, like age and careers. Although the most directly linked factor, experience, is well-represented, those ignored factors are also likely to have an influence on the test. Seniors might find the settings more confusing than youth, per se. Thus, I will try to diversify the user group in not only the direct factor but also other possibly influential factors in future tests.

Second, the data type we chose are mostly numeric data. Our original thought is that numbers will quantify the test and increase the credibility of the test. However, we found that users gave some helpful advices regarding the product. These suggestions are inspiring and can represent user’s thoughts and needs. Participant 2, for example, mainly uses microwave in the night and sometimes the alarm is annoying for P2’s roommate. Based on that experience, she gave the advice of integrating a “night mode” for the “food prepared” alarm so that other people will not be interrupted during night. Therefore, I think it would be helpful to add “suggestion” as a textual data type into the usability test to better gather and organize users’ feedback.

Future Applications

Usability test is about gather users’ feedback and improve the product based on the feedback. This can be used in essentially every product’s design and development process. Start-up companies, for example, can benefit much from usability test. Often try to bring a new idea to live in the world, most of the start-up companies failed eventually. According to their founders, of these failed start-up, “no market need” is the top reason for 42% of them.

As the chart indicates, No Market Need is the top reason start-up fails.

The product these companies built cannot meet an actual market need. This failed reason, in a large degree, can be solved by usability test. For example, a start-up company deicides to make a water bottle that keeps the water hot in the bottle. Their original targeting region is Florida because that’s the location of the company. If they conduct usability test and interview enough users, they might find out that since the temperature is always relatively high in Florida, people tend to not drink hot water. This information is very likely to be sent by tested users. The company will thus know they have targeted the wrong region and might re locate the company’s targeted area into some cold places, like Alaska. If the company didn’t conduct the usability test, however, they might never know user’s actual needs and could potentially face bankruptcy. Therefore, usability test is a procedure that is crucial to the development of a product and should always be included in the design process.

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