Process Blog — — Usability Test

The microwave in Lander lounge we are testing(General Electric Household Microwave Oven)

Making presentation with team member using Google doc

What we did:

For this sprint, we conducted a usability test on a microwave in Lander lounge. Because this microwave has a dial and no number keys which is special, we wanted to test the usability of this feature including three tasks: setting the clock to 3:05, defrosting something for 2 minutes and cooking for 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Our participants were all college students aged 18 to 20 with no prior knowledge of the functions or mechanism of this microwave.

Our tasks were relatively hard rather than simple ones like opening or closing the microwave door so it is worthy to measure the time it takes for them to complete each task. Other than time, we also asked them to rate their satisfactions and the difficulty levels of the tasks on the scale of 1 to 5. These three measurements align with the goals of usability: effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction.

The result we got is that this microwave has low usability. To set the microwave to cook for certain time would be the most commonly used function, but was rated as the most difficult task and therefore it indicates low usability. Overall, users had most difficulty using the dial for number input tasks and using the “time cook” button, which is used for general microwaving. These functions should be made easier in order to increase the usability of our microwave.


We had some concerns about stressing our participants before conducting the test as we originally wanted to record and film the whole test so that we could watch it later to see if there were things that we missed in the first time, but we decided to call off the recording idea on the concern of possibly stressing our participants. Even under careful considerations, after the tests we still discovered that timing and watching our participants actually have made them nervous and felt the need to speed up and perform better. They acted a little bit faster after we said: “time begins now”. Reflecting on our experience, we learned that we needed to be more sensitive about the issue of stressing our participants.


Usability test is crucial when there is a new product being created because it is highly possible that the users would have different point of view than the inventors of the product. Additionally, it is necessary to do the usability test on a variety of people with different backgrounds in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the product. It would be inappropriate to do the usability test on service since it would be a test of the people giving the service instead of the product.

Besides, in order to get precise data when doing usability test, I would make my presence less obvious and be more subtle to time the participants to create a scenario possibly closer to what the user would be in if they were by themselves. Meanwhile, I would stress more on the fact that we are not testing their abilities but just giving some feedback on the product. For example, if I could do the test again, I would let the recorder to time rather than myself (moderator) so it would be less obvious to them that we are timing them, and I would not say something like time begins since it could rush them. Also, I would use a gentler tone.

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