Week 3 Usability Test Process Blog
The technique of usability testing was explored this week, which allows researchers and testers in the Human-Centered Design field analyze how users interact with their products or systems.
The focus of this week’s project in usability testing was a seemingly simple, kitchen microwave. My team consisted of Shawn Xu, Uyen Ha, and myself, and together we designed and proctored three tasks, with three data collection points, to three different users. We wanted to create a test that incorporates everyday tasks, but include a range of difficulties for observational purposes.
To start, my team and I decided on a location and devise to use for our tests, a picture of which can be found above. We conducted our trials at Lander Hall, a dormitory at the University of Washington, for easy accessibility to all. The microwave we used was an LG Profile microwave, secured in a Lander study lounge. The users we chose for our study includes 3 University of Washington students, ages 19–22, who all happened to reside in Lander Hall. We wanted to test this student population sample, as college students are often quite busy and may not have time to cook full on meals. Our goal was to see how efficient and effective microwaves were for this small population sample.
The three tasks we chose were setting the cooking time to 1 minute 45 seconds, opening and closing the door, and removing the installed plate and securing it back in. The reasoning behind these tasks was that we wanted users to perform common microwave procedures, and measure the speed and efficiency. Since all microwave models are different, and this particular model did not include number buttons, we felt as though the first task may be a bit of a challenge compared to the others.
Three pieces of data were collected on each task, including the time of completion, error rate, and scale of difficulty 1–5, 1 being very easy and 5 being very difficult. Time measured speed in seconds, error rate measured number of mistakes (wrong selections), and the scale allowed users to rate their overall experience. We felt like these three measurements gave a comprehensive analysis of the users’ individual experiences. A script was written and read to each user, asking for their age, experience with a microwave, and familiarity with this particular microwave model. Next, data was collected for all tasks, and later categorized and graphed appropriately. In the image above, Uyen is reading off the script while P1 is performing a task. In the image below, I am shown, asking P2 to rate his experience on the scale of difficulty.
Overall, I found the concept and field of usability testing to be very interesting. I enjoy any kind of hands-on work, and usability testing encompasses just that. Researchers get to interact with users, observe and record results, as well as interpret those results and apply necessary changes to the products tested. I enjoyed working in a group and the fact that each group member got to experience each research position (proctoring, taking notes, and taking photos). This gave us all a feel for roles in the usability testing field.
Usability testing is a thriving field, used to test products ranging from water bottles to FitBit watches. It is clear that this process can and should be applied to most products. One example of this technique could be testing user interaction with Virtual Reality glasses. VR is a growing field, with makers competing to create the most sophisticated and realistic technologies. Usability tests should be conducted on target users, (perhaps children or young adults) regarding different procedures, such as placing the VR glasses on one’s head or ensuring that users do not bump into furniture while immersed in the technology. I assume that there are some objects or devises growing less and less popular (due to newer and better models). Objects like this have most likely left the usability testing stages, but newer, more advanced models may now come into play. All in all, I think most products go through (or should go through) stages of usability testing to ensure successful user interactions and continuously evolving products.