Usability Sprint

In this week’s sprint, our goal was to test the usability of a microwave by creating three tasks for a user to complete and collecting three data types. I began in my studio session with my peers ideating different types of tasks and data that could be collected for the usability test. By ideating, my group was able to put together a plan for our test. My group decided to test our microwave, a Holiday 125996, by having the user set the microwave timer to 1’45”, take out the turntable and replace it, and auto defrost an item weighing 3.5 pounds. We chose these tasks because they were functions that a user needs often, but can often differ from microwave to microwave. The data we collected for these tasks were time on task, a difficulty rating from 1–5, 1 being easy and 5 being hard, and asking the user if there were any improvements they would make to do product. We chose to collect more quantitative data as it was easier to record on paper and it made result comparisons more noticeable and clear.

The studio’s ideation for microwave functions and data types

The Usability Test

For the actual test, we gathered three participants who were 18 year old college students at UW. We chose this demographic because it is a known stereotype that first-year college students depend on a microwave the most as their cooking utensil. In order to be efficient and professional, we created a script to speak when engaging with the participants. The usability testers consisted of a moderator, note taker and timer. The moderator spoke to the participants while the note taker recorded data and observations and the timer recorded the amount of time it took for the user to complete each task we gave them. By having allocated roles, my group was able to focus on the task we were responsible for.

The microwave used in our usability test.

What Have I Learned?

The experience of a usability test was more enjoyable for me as I was able to collaborate with my peers and engage with the participants. I had discussed this sprint with past class-takers and was looking forward to the project. The simulation of asking a participant to do a series of tasks and recording observation allowed me to delve into the concept that I was connecting human and machine, which is something I appreciated about Human-Centered Design. I gained insight in how to conduct a research usability test, from writing the script to conversing with the participants and recording results. A problem my group faced was creating three tasks that were not too straightforward, but not too obscure. They had to be functions a participant would use often enough. I had wondered if usability researchers also had to keep in mind what functions the participant would use most often and focus on testing those items; Or, would they focus on all the uses a product offers and testing all of them.

What Have I Gained?

Overall, I believe I gained the most skills and experience from this sprint. I was able to work on my collaboration abilities and learn how to build a simulated usability test based on our studio’s ideations. Once again, the process of ideating in a group proves to be the most effective way to start any project. The aspect of being able to collaborate and interact with other people is what intrigued me the most about HCDE. I enjoy being around people and bouncing ideas off other people. The field of Usability Testing was something I was interested in before taking HCDE 210 and now that I have dipped my toes into what a usability tester does, I am eager to learn more. By going in somewhat blind, I was able to adjust along the way and learn through the process of trial and error. This experience gave me the opportunity to conduct a test with real participants and I hope to take the expertise I have gained during this sprint and use them in future tests I participate in.

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