Sprint 3: Microwave Usability Testing

What we did

This week our study focus on the usage and design of usability test. The usability test concentrates the user’s using experience and measures their satisfaction extent over the using the fuctions of product. Working in a group, me, Hawk and Alex selected our product to be a microwave and designed a usability test for the microwave in Haggett Hall.

link to our usability test video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d91STEliAHw&feature=youtu.be

the microwave we are testing
our team filming the testing process

Aiming at testing the basic function’s usability of this microwave, we selected three tasks for user to solve. They are:

1. setting the cook time

2. adjusting the power level

3. add extra 30 seconds in the middle of cooking

In general, these tasks are chosen due to they are frequently performed in daily life for a microwave user and represent the major function of the microwave — heating up food.

In deciding the user, we had two major considerations: firstly, as user’s former experience of using this microwave might influence the testing result, all invited users must have never used this microwave before; secondly, all users should be familiar with how microwave works in general in order to perform the task. As a result, we invited three freshman students living on campus to join our testing.

During the test, we told the user to relax and perform as they normally would, and gave them unlimited free time after giving instruction about the task. We also kept records of the time user took to solve the task, the number of buttons pressed, and their own feeling about the difficulty of the task.

Through analysis of the result form we can see that most of the user solved all tasks very quickly, with the maximum of time token being 10 seconds, which is still not long. This result is in accord with the user’s feeling towards the difficulty of the tasks — most of them think tests are relatively easy to solve. Ranking from level 1 to 10 with 1 being easy and 10 being most difficult, their choices were mostly level 1 and the highest was level 3.


During the process of designing the test, one of the question we encountered was what type of data should we collect. Due to the data should be meaningful for future analysis, they should be easy to collect and comparable to each other. The first idea we had was to count how many times did the user try until successfully finish the test. However, while trying on the microwave before the test, we realized it would be hard to count the time user tried due to sometimes even if the user pressed wrong buttons they still don’t need to restart again. What’s also worth notice is that there are multiple ways of solving the tasks. For example, to set the cook time to 1 minutes, one could either press “time cook” first and input 1 minute, or simply press button “1” to get a quick access. As a result, counting the number of times they fail is not meaningful anymore due to there is no exact “correct” method of doing it.

Based on this finding, we decided not only to look at if the user could solve the task, but also which way they adopt to solve. Thus we decided to count the number of time the user pressed buttons, which would perfectly represents how complicated their solution was. The feasibility of data collecting method reminded me that in the future, I should always try on testing before officially start to be fully prepared for it and make adjustment in time.

Application in the future

Even though relatively simple, the process of designing usability test gave me a great learning experience to adopt in the future. What interest me the most is how shortcuts are usually unrecognized by people. All of the tasks we designed have shortcut to perform, but none of the user adopted them all. This alarms me that when designing production, I often design shortcuts to make the product seems more easy to use. However, I never considered that for the first-time user, it might be very hard to find out these “convenient secret methods”. Findings like this could only be discovered by generating opinions from doing usability test, which would definitly be a dominant way I test my product in the future.

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