Usability Testing Sprint

ISO 9241–11 defines usability as:

“The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”

1. What is Usability Testing?

Brainstorming tasks for the users to complete

To learn more about the usability testing process, Ashley Boone , David Truong, and I conducted a study on the usability of a microwave oven. During the planning stage, we came up with many tasks for users to perform. The three final tasks were chosen because we believed they represented tasks that were not essential functions/tasks for a microwave, but were not uncommon in the normal usage of one. These were setting the clock to the correct time, microwaving two plates of food each for twelve seconds, and removing and replacing the glass turntable. The data types were selected to measure the extent of effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction, as per the definition. We recorded the time taken, the difficulty and satisfaction ratings, and the easiest and most difficult parts of the tasks.

During the test, the users we chose approached some of these tasks with unforeseen difficulty and odd ways of solving the problem that we did not anticipate. The video below sums up our findings.

The video report of the usability study we conducted

2. Reflection — The Importance of Usability Testing

Usability testing is ultimately about the product and making sure its design lends itself to be used properly without need the guidance of an external resource. If the user cannot figure out the task, the design (and by extension the designer) is at fault. The researcher has the responsibility of determining what works well and what needs to be changed with the product. Through this feedback, redesigns take place and the design process restarts.

Discussion during studio time about the study design

3. Reflection — What’s Next?

During the study, the choice of participants was somewhat due to the convenience of availability. In future studies, the participants should be pulled from a less biased population and be more varied in experience with the product. Another consideration for future studies would be to articulate the prompts in the study script as clearly as possible to avoid any bias introduced in impromptu clarification of the prompt. We can greatly improve on the process in upcoming projects.

Through this experience of getting to formulate use cases and testing users against our expectations, I now know the importance of finding out how users interact with products. In the future, I will use this knowledge and have friends critique my work, possibly letting them participate in an informal usability test of my personal website or web apps I create. Through this process of letting go of my work, I can improve on others’ first impressions of it.