Usability of a Microwave

Although the concept of a microwave seems self-explanatory, we often times don’t think about how a user interacts with them and why we do what we do. Because of that, we found three different users to help us test the usability of a microwave.

What we did: We tested the usability of a microwave with three different users within the same demographic. Our users were 19–22 year old sorority girls.

How we did it: We assigned each user three tasks, which was to…

1.Cook food for 30 seconds
2.Change clock time
3.Cook popcorn
 After each task, we had follow up questions to further understand their thought process. We the recorded data was based off effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. We asked how easy it was to use (effectiveness), we recorded how long it took them to complete each task(efficiency) and asked the user their overall satisfaction of their experience (satisfaction)

Why we did it: The reason why we picked the first task to cook food for 30 seconds was to see different ways our user could complete this specific task because there is more than one way to heat up food on a microwave, for example clicking the “add 30 seconds” button twice to heat it up for a minute.

The second task to change the clock time was to test the difficulty of figuring out how to change time on a microwave. Although it can seem self explanatory, some may have trouble with it. For example, our first user Victoria struggled with finding out out to set the clock to say AM or PM which was not an option on the microwave.

The last task to cook popcorn was done to see the various ways popcorn could be cooked. For example, using the popcorn button on the microwave as opposed to following the directions on the popcorn package and manually entering the time yourself.

The reason why we tested 19–22 year old sorority girls was to see if microwaves are easily usable for college students because college students tend to have less time to cook, therefore resorting to the use of microwaves.

Preparing additional follow up questions


Problems that occurred during my experience was that the times for each user to do the task got faster and faster as each user went. The reason why this happened was because the users who were not doing the usability test were in the same room and were able to hear the questions that they were going to be tested one. Because of this, they had a slight advantage than the person going before them. Another thing that I would address differently in the future is to establish a better way to time each task. It was not specified when to start the timer. For example, right after they are read the task? After they have had time to look at the microwave? After they put the food inside the microwave and close the door? The data would have been more accurate if these questions we established.

Brainstorming different tasks to give our users

What did I Like?

I liked the fact that with this test, I was able to see different results with the data. At first, before doing any of the tests I was afraid that I would get the same results each time. However, after doing the usability test, I saw that I got to see different perspectives with each user because each user had their own way of doing each task. Another thing that I liked was being able to measure the user’s satisfaction physically. In our task of cooking popcorn, we measured their satisfaction by having them taste the popcorn to see if it was too burnt or undercooked. Doing this had the user actually think about their rating for satisfaction instead of just quickly assuming they were satisfied. The users were able to physically test their own satisfaction and said that it helped them be more engaged in the test.