Usability Test for Microwave

by Tabitha Anderson

Our Process for the Usability Test

This week our project was to work with two colleagues to create a usability test for a microwave. When we were constructing the test, we decided that we wanted to test novices to the particular microwave because we wanted to see if using this device for the first time would lead to greater difficulties.

For our usability test, we decided to use this GE Spacemaker microwave. “GE Spacemaker XL® Over-the-Range Microwave Oven | JVM1410WC | GE Appliances.” GE Spacemaker XL® Over-the-Range Microwave Oven | JVM1410WC | GE Appliances. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.

We then set up three people to perform specific tasks and record the results with three different forms of data. Our group decided that the three tasks we wanted to test for were opening the microwave, heating up popcorn, and setting the timer. We picked these tasks because there were several different options within the microwave on how to go about starting the process. This could lead to confusion and we wanted to see if that would affect the person’s overall experience.

Our teams brainstormed different function of a microwave, this led to coming up with specific tasks for these features.

The data that we recorded was how they went about solving the task (or the procedure), the time it took them to perform the task, and how difficult they thought the task was. With this data, it produced a way for us to decide if these tasks were efficient for first time users. Once we got our data, we reported our results in a presentation: https://youtu.be/P2lOWcJDoLg. This was the final step to reflect on the process.

Reflecting on Our Test
When working on this test, there were many things that went well and many things that didn’t work as well. I think that overall, we constructed a functioning test but certain aspects, if corrected, would have led to more reliable data. One of the main issues we had was being over descriptive. As we eluded to in our video, there were cases of the moderator explaining too much of the microwave test to the user, leading them to figure out how to proceed before we even started and decreasing the amount of time to perform the tasks. I think that a better method would be to explain the test to the user before they were in contact with the product so they wouldn’t have time to study the device before they used it. This observation resulted in a greater understanding of how key the moderator is in this process. Without the appropriate moderating, the whole test can be greatly affected.

What Comes Next?
When conducting a usability study, there are situations where this would be more appropriate than others. For example, an unfinished device would not be the best candidate for a usability test. These tests need a lot of resources, so it would be unneeded because there would probably be another test that would be needed at the end of the process. This testing is most useful when there is a specific goal the designers need to address.

Something that I will take away and try to implement into later design sprints is the collaborative aspect. My favorite part of this project was getting to team up with new people to improve the overall test design. Working on a project like this on your own is impossible in the first place, but I found that getting to talk through ideas ended up improving our final presentation greatly. I also appreciated getting to play different roles of the experiment. This allowed us to understand each role’s importance to the test. I think that being able to know the deeper meaning of each position is an important skill to have in a workplace to help the test flourish. This is why I will try to work on these skills for future projects.

Working with my team allowed us combine all our ideas to perfect our test.
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