Microwave Usability Test


In this week’s assignment, my group tested the usability of a microwave. We chose the microwave at By George Cafe due to its frequent use by students. This allowed for easy recruitment of subjects. We tested the usability of the microwave when cooking a bag of popcorn, heating a cup of water, and setting the timer to 3 minutes. During these tests, we collected the following information: Did the user consult the manual, how difficult was performing the task, and how many button presses did it take to complete the task? The demographics of our study included college students ages 18–21 who frequently used the microwave in By George Café. The results showed that on average, usability of the microwave was good when cooking popcorn and heating up water. When setting the timer, the usability was bad because the timer button was broken.

Results from User 1
Results from User 2
Results from User 3

So what?

During the usability testing, we tested only people in George Café. These people were all in line to use the microwave when we asked them to participate in our study. Due to this, our experiment may be biased. For future experiments, we would widen our sample pool to people of various ages and locations, not just the cafe. This is because everyone uses microwaves, so a manufacturer would test all possible populations.

A problem that we encountered was that originally we were going to test setting the clock. However, the microwave did not have that option so we tested setting the timer instead. Unfortunately, the timer button was not working. We decided to observe what would happen when users tried to set the timer even though the button was broken.

Now what?

I could see myself applying this technique to all kinds of projects, such as phone applications. Whenever I make a mobile app, I will conduct usability tests to make sure that tasks can be executed with ease. After, I will ask for feedback on what can be improved. Finally, I will make the adjustments and then conduct another usability test.

This technique could also be used in a larger scale such as testing the classroom experience in the University of Washington. Being a student, I know that there are many ways to improve the classroom setting such as increasing the size of the desks. Using usability testing, we could have the student perform certain tasks that pertain to the classroom. For example, if we wanted to test the usability of the desks in Kane Hall, one might test for: taking notes on a journal, taking notes on a laptop, and sitting down. The data collected could be difficulty level, time to complete task, and thinking-out-loud.