Usability

A product’s usability may seem insignificant, but well-oiled designs are certainly an unrecognized but crucial facet of customer satisfaction. Although we may take the ease of our daily interactions with technology for granted, every painfully slow or needlessly complex piece of technology sticks out like a sore thumb and is quickly discarded and replaced with a smoother design.

In this week’s sprint, we faced the concept of usability and usability testing by designing and executing a usability test for a common household coffee maker. The design process began with selecting applicable tests for our product. Each test also includes three pieces of collected data — time taken, inaccuracies made, and a difficulty rating. The usability test was relatively straightforward — each participant was given a simple set of instructions for the Bella coffee maker and then went through each task using a given mug of water and a k-cup.

A brief video depicting our findings can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDZP86ru4Is

Organization of ideas is crucial to creating a thorough usability test.

The usability design process was more difficult than expected because the coffee machine was already designed to be very easy to use. The machine that we worked with in particular only has two buttons and two liftable tabs, so we had to design very specific tests that could give us useful and relevant data. Based on our experience designing for this Bella machine, I believe we could have approached the usability test for our product better by reducing the number of tasks, but compensating for that by asking more questions and gathering more data from those tasks. Doing so would allow us to focus on the specific weaknesses of the product and determine specifically how to improve.

No individual can create a perfect design on the first try — critique and discussion can reveal additional points of view on the design.

This project was very enjoyable because of the new perspective it brought on design. It was a good follow-up to last week’s Interaction Design project — I was actively thinking about the app I had designed and the connections that could be made between the app’s design and the coffee maker’s design. In addition, it was nice to work with a partner on the project. Although the other projects also included collaboration in the design process, working directly with one partner amplified collaboration even more as we were able to build off of each other’s ideas at every step in the design process.

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