HCDE 210 Sprint 2: Usability

By Melody Xu


Overview: The process of usability testing

This week, we designed a usability test on the microwave. We want to test the microwave because it is a common appliance in our daily lives, and we want to see if it is usable, productive, and satisfying for the users. Our tested users are college students because they are frequent users of the microwave. We went through three phases in usability testing, which are planning, executing, and reporting. During planning, for example, we brainstormed possible tasks for the users to complete and types of data for recording, which can be used to determine the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction of the product. One of the tasks was to heat food for 20 minutes and 51 seconds and cancel it. The reason we chose a rare task like this is to see how accessible the microwave functions are for the users. During executing, we recorded detailed observations on the users completing each task, which enabled us to conclude our findings in the reporting phase.

The video shows how we went through the steps of usability testing.

Figure 1: Brainstorming possible tasks for the user to complete.

Figure 2: Reading ideas that were posted on the wall.

Reflection: What I learned from this experience

Looking at the results of this experiment, I wonder how exactly usability testing would help improve future products. I am interested in the process in which engineers/designers use results from the usability tests to create better products for the intended users. There was one problem that occurred to me during this project, which was not having enough feedback from the users when they were completing each task. Some of the tasks we chose may be too simple for a verbal explanation (such as opening the microwave door). In the future, we would modify tasks to provide more feedback from the users. This will help us to better monitor the user’s experience using the product.

Conclusion: My understanding on usability testing

To make products more user-friendly, usability testing would be required for detecting the flaws in the designs of the product from the user’s perspective. Human centered design is about improving the user experience, therefore having a user’s perspective would be helpful to know the user’s needs and what specific features to change for the product according to their needs. For projects that develop products to be necessary parts of everyday life such as wheelchairs, usability testing would be necessary to ensure that the product can be widely used by all kinds of people that need it. Personally, I believe all products designed for humans must go through a series of usability testings before becoming available for everyone. I would always keep in mind that usability testing is an important step for evaluating the product. In the future, if I get to design a product for human use, I will try to think broadly about my users and have multiple usability tests to ensure the product is usable for everyone.

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