Usability Testing Process Blog

What I did:

As a team, I formed a usability testing plan for a microwave oven and executed it over the weekend. Additionally, we produced a video presentation with a slide deck to present our findings as listed here. The product that my team developed a usability test for was a microwave oven from GE.

GE Microwave Oven

As noted in the video linked above, three tasks were given to each user with data collected after each task. Prior to data collection, a user profile consisting of the key characteristics relevant to our usability study was put together by asking the user a few questions about their age, gender, occupation, and skill level on operating microwaves. Additionally, the process of developing the usability test involved brainstorming on actions that the user would perform with the microwave and its many features.

Brainstorming Microwave Features

In short, the three tasks consisted of setting a cooking time for two minutes, adjusting the power level to five, and setting a kitchen timer with time changes during the countdown. My team came up with these tasks because they represented the basic foundation of how it would be used in a natural setting, especially with college students as traditional methods of cooking food are rarely seen among that demographic.

What I enjoyed about the usability test:

While constantly asking questions about what parts of the microwave or any product that can be tested in relation to the user which got tedious in my opinion, I think that in the end it strengthened the basis of my team’s usability test. With that, I enjoyed that we were able to come up with a usability test that surprisingly received a diverse range of results from the users. From my team’s results, the skill level of a user and the results were essentially linearly correlated as better results from the user (less time taken to complete each task, less buttons pressed, and lower easiness levels) was attributed to the skill level. For example, user 2 was a beginner and scored the lowest, while the other two users, user 1 and user 3, had skill levels of intermediate and advanced, respectively scored higher. I liked that this project included human interaction from random users which gave me another perspective on the way products in real life are developed as there can be a long loop of trial, error, and refinement. Lastly, the most enjoyable part of this project was the challenge with usability testing during all stages of development. For example,

Prepping for Future Product Design Projects

I can see myself applying this technique in the future for an app since these types of products are subject to possible usability issues as with a physical object. Since apps cannot target every group of people, a usability test for an app that I have in mind would be to collect data from people within a specific demographic that my app appeals to. For instance, if I were to make a MMORPG (Massive multiplayer online role playing game) app, I would have to consider the key characteristics that a user of my app would have, such as age, gender, and interests. Additionally, with effective development of the app with those key characteristics in mind along with feedback from users, could potentially make for a commercially competitive app. Although a usability test is an important technique for refining products, it is not so much beneficial when the testing involves parts of the product that do not have to be tested by the user; for instance, testing a smartphone’s durability and water resistance. However, with the recent incident with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 which was lab tested prior to mass production for consumers as all major flagship smartphones are these days, I wonder about the importance of usability testing on the final product or whether lab tests were flawed.

This concludes my blog on usability testing.

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