Usability Testing

The What.

This week we focused on Usability Testing. We started this processes by getting into groups based off of the time we were available to work outside of class. This is how I met Miguel and Xinbo. Together we performed a usability test on the microwave in the By George Cafè. Before we could do this though, we needed to come up with a plan.

A collection of possible Usability Issues.

We had to ideate the common features of microwaves and possible “pain points.” We also discovered that we needed to collect feasible data to examine our tests with. These data points could be yes or no questions, difficulty scales, time tasks, or if a user deviated from a preferred course of actions.

Miguel writing down the Testing Plan we created.

After we had this information, we created a plan for how we were going to test users. This consisted of three different tasks, and three data types that were going to be collected about each one. We also developed a set of characteristics that our users had in common. Next, we set the time and place to meet.

Once the test had been conducted we created a video report of our results:

So What.

This was a completely new experience for me, so having a group took a lot of pressure off when it came time to actually testing the users. Before then, it was also great to be able to get different ideas from people in studio because others thought of ways to test the microwave and record data that I would have never thought of. During the testing process, we came across the issue of getting access to the microwave. If we did it again I am sure we would pick a less popular place or busy time. We also found out quickly that using people who frequented the cafè was not necessarily the best way to test the usability of the microwave, since it was none of their first times using it.

Now What.

This technique is very useful for many areas of design. It is incredibly important that things you are creating can be used in their intended way (the world needs a lot less Norman Doors). It is great for when a new product is made or when a product is getting updated. The results of usability testing could greatly influence the design of the product. Xerox found this out when their own computer scientists could not use the very printer they invented. However, it does not in all cover the experience of the user using the product.

We did not ask the user how enjoyable the whole ordeal was. It is equivalent to a CAT scan machine, it works very well for the person operating and it does not hurt the user. It is however, a very unpleasurable experience. I guess this problem could be solved by simply asking the user how they like using the product. On the other hand, user testing is only capable of testing the tasks you give them and answering the questions you provide. It is very expansive and may not always return all of the flaws that exist in the product. It is though a incredibly useful tool that would be foolish to leave out of the design process.

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