HCDE 210: 03 Sprint — Usability Testing

Our third studio was on January 18th and it was about usability testing. Each group designed a plan to test the usability of a microwave. The key of this planning and testing process is to corporate well with other group members and to make adjustments as soon as possible if needed.
Working in groups to plan the usability test

1. What did you do?

Planning and Running An Usability Test

Our group planning the usability test
  • We started planning the usability test by setting a time to meet and discussing accessible microwave and users. Then we brainstormed tasks and data types regarding to microwave for our usability tests. Our group ideated three tasks — set the timer for one minute, change the clock to one hour ahead, and pop the popcorns — because those were common and useful in daily life. We chose three data types — time to complete the tasks, difficulty to complete the tasks, and error rate — because we thought they reflected well on the usability of the microwave.
Tasks, data, notes, and popcorns!
  • After we had basic plans for the usability test, we discussed with another group about our plans. Then we drafted a moderator script in which we emphasized that we are testing the usability of the microwave instead of on the participants themselves and that we will keep their information confidential.
  • Then, we recruited and scheduled three college students as our participants, prepared for the test, and ran the test. We took notes and shot videos during the test in order to keep it in record.
  • After running the test, we recorded our data in a spreadsheet, created a PowerPoint using the notes that we took during the test, and made a presentation video.
Presentation Video of our usability test

2. Reflect on your experience.

It was interesting to see different reactions from the participants.

Our group chose a microwave that we were not familiar with and we thought it was a good testing appliance. Then we began to familiarize ourselves with the microwave in preparation for the usability test. Our participants had different levels of exposure to the microwave. The second participant had some experience of using similar microwave while the first and third participants had not. It was interesting that Participant Two was confident all the time while Participants One and Three sometimes had trouble continuing the tasks and were not sure if they had done the tasks right. The difference in participants’ exposures to the microwave reflected how well they could complete the tasks.

What problems did you encounter?

Moving popping the popcorns to the final task helps us save time
  • It took more time if we put the most complicated task at first. — When doing the test with the first user, the first task that we asked her to do was to pop the popcorns. She did not know how to start the task since she was not familiar with the microwave. Then we moved this task to the final place and adjusted the order of the tasks according to the difficulty to complete them. We figured out that we could save a lot of time running the task in this way. In the future, we should practice running the test before the actual test in order to make adjustments to our plan.
  • The rule for when to start and stop timing the participant was unclear. — At first we decided to start timing after the moderator said “you may begin now”, but then we saw that some participants started the tasks before the moderator finished the sentence. So we figured out that we should start timing when the participant pressed the first button and stop after he or she pressed the last button. In the future, we should make rules like that clear and we should adjust our test plan to attain consistency when testing different participants.

3. How and where could you see applying this technique in the future? What kinds of projects do you think would lend themselves to this approach? What might not be appropriate for it?

Team work is certainly one of the most important skills of this project. We need to express our thoughts, reach an agreement, complete our jobs, and help each other when doing this project.

Working together to reflect on our takeaways from the usability test and eating popcorns!

Making adjustments to our plan when encountering unexpected circumstances is another important skill. As we saw in our usability test that making popping the popcorns as the first task really confused our participants and took a lot of time, we needed to make changes to adjust to this unexpected circumstance.

I think usability test is useful when people make prototypes of products and want to make adjustments to their prototypes according to people’s feedback. It is also useful when new products come out and the producers want to know how useful the products are. Usability test might not be appropriate to products that are top-rated and are highly accepted by users for a long time.

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