HCDE 210 — Usability Testing

Week Three Usability Testing — video presentation

Procedure of Usability Testing

This week, my partner Tanner and I conducted a usability test to find common usability issues that college students may run into while using a microwave. We planned out our outline and data types in studio because it allowed us to work with our peers on the planning process. The data we collected was based on a 3x3x3 plan: three participants, three tasks, and three data types. We decided on the function tasks of: timed cook, defrost, and opening the microwave door. We chose these tasks because we thought these functions best fit our users needs of the UW commuter commons microwave. Also, we decided on the commuter commons microwave because this is a product that many college students would need quick and easy access to.

Our usability test was centered around testing the product, not the users abilities.
Usability Testing with commuter commons microwave

After our initial planning stage, we implemented our test with the three participants in the commuter commons. The results of our test found very common usability issues; each participant struggled with an ambiguous defrost user interface. Participants complained about the location of the defrost timing sticker and were confused on the meaning of “DEF1” display (See picture below).

The common issue of a confusing defrost function was found with all three participants.
Confusing “def 1” display after pressing weight defrost button

Reflection on Usability Test

At first, I was a bit skeptical on the practicality of usability testing a microwave. I thought that with enough planning with like-minded design thinkers in the studio session, we would pinpoint most of the potential usability issues that users would run into. I predicted that users would not have any trouble with our usability tasks, because from my perspective, it was not difficult to use a microwave. The results of our usability test completely crushed my ignorant assumptions of users. Many usability issues like the defrost instruction sticker location had not occurred to me in initial planning stages.

This was a great lesson in learning the importance of usability testing. Many aspects of design can seem good in theory, but when actually tested with users, overlooked aspects often pop up.

Thus, I thoroughly enjoyed learning from the users perspective in usability testing. This experience taught me a valuable lesson in conducting usability tests before assuming that a product will work well.


Application to future projects

In my previous blog post, I talked about doing mini usability tests with my interaction design prototype. I gained many new perspectives and found many flaws in my initial user-flow interaction. For me, learning from my mistakes in my design process is exciting. I am still set on my goal of becoming a user-experience designer, persevering through my many failed designs.

I’ve learned that usability testing is a way to put your design to the test and rather than avoid failure, seek flaws in the design, as fixing your issues leads to a stronger published product.

In the future, I’m planning on creating many different websites, applications, and experiences. All of these projects will require some sort of feedback, in the form of critique from peers and usability tests. It’s also important to know when usability testing can present itself as inappropriate, like in situations that run into privacy and ethical issues. I’ve learned a lot about the value of communication and group work with others. Often times, I feel like it can be easy to assume a design looks perfect from your own perspective; however, when given to someone else, the design can be terribly flawed. Usability testing is a crucial step in the human centered design process. As a designer, it’s important to collaborate with others and especially with users of your product.