Usability Testing — Microwave

In this sprint, our group followed and experienced the proper process of usability test. Because this assignment is based on group work, we discuss all the details together from planning to final presentation.

Brainstorming in studio for the three core elements.

Before testing

In the test, three participants need to complete three tasks, and we should record three different types of data per task. For this purpose, we began to brainstorm the three elements — participant, task and data by reflecting on the charactertistics of microwave. Because the usability test focuses on product, we thought it is important to plan around the specific product. We shared our own past experiences with microwave and found that we were familiar with the basic time and heating setting but rarely used the extra functions. In order to test how users would use the microwave to finish some tasks that can be operated by some special bottoms, we chose the three tasks to be Making popcorn, Defrosting and Setting cook time. Since our tasks aimed to see how the users would react differently with the instructions, we designed our data to include a descriptive one — Method to show users’ preference. Aside from the method, we had two numeric data — Number of errors and Overall Satisfaction which scaled 1(worst) to 5 (best) to justify the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction of the product. The three participants are aged 17–19 years college students who have used microwaves to cook food in the dorms. We made this choice because they represented people who required microwave in daily life and if they could not accomplish the instruction, the company should make some changes for customers’ convenience.

The outcome of brainstorming
Initial script

After contacting with the participants, we wrote down the script for the instruction. What’s more, we set up three scenarios for participants to understand the instruction in ease. As a team, we scheduled the process of testing and we decided to take turns to execute as moderator, notetaker or cameraman. We prepared the food required for the testing and brought them to the public kitchen in Lander Hall where we conducted our testing. For example, I brought three deep-frozen drumsticks for the defrosting test. The division of work could make our usability testing more efficient.

In the testing

We told the participants different time to come. To be specific, we wanted to seperate them in case of leaking the testing content which may affect the result of the test. In the test, first, the moderator read the participant the instruction and told him or her do not ask us any question and do not be afraid of making mistakes. That is, we should ensure that the users would behave all the actions on their own. Second, the moderator described the scenario for each task and asked the participant the reasons to the actions because we needed to know what they were thinking in every move. In the end of each task, the moderator asked about the rating of satisfaction in using the microwave to conduct certain task. While the moderator was directing the process, the notetaker and cameraman kept recording the datas.

After testing

After the testing, we made an appointment to meet at library and summurized our test for presentation. There were some interesting common observations. For instance, None of them used the function of “Defrosting” of the microwave. Instead, they all pressed “Cook” button. However, when they graded the microwave, they gave the comment that it was not bad because the cook bottom actually could defrost the chicken and they thought it was easy and convenient. Therefore, we could conclude that most of the college users never used these additional bottoms. What they want is the device that simple enough for them to heat the food.


Within the procedure of usability testing, some problems appeared unpredictably. Our test was based on the observation of the participants’ actions. We supposed that the participants may use the functional bottoms after receiving the instruction. However, in fact they all had no idea how to use them and directly chose the normal “cook” bottom. In addtion, even if they chose the bottom which we wanted to test, they did not know how to use it. For example, when the third participant tried to set the cook time, she happened to use the “timer”. Nevertheless, she cancelled it at once because she was unfamiliar with the interface that the screen showed. Therefore, we did not achieve our initial goal of testing the funtional bottoms. We could only conclude that the design of these bottoms had some disadvantages like people may neglect them and overall speaking, the microwave was convenient in the basic design. I learned from this problem. If I will test a certain complex function of a device next time, I may write the instruction with the guideline of how to use this function. Afterall, the high-tech devices should provide the manual. With the guideline, the users could actully test the product and give me the usable feedback about its function.

In the future

The usability test of microwave can provide information for the microwave company. Before publishing the product, the company should do the usability testing to guarantee that the user can operate the product easily and harmlessly, as well as the product is effective and efficient. For example, when we asked the participants to set the timing of the microwave to be precisely one minute and twenty seconds, they found it impossible because the time was set by adding thirty seconds per turns. With this observation, the company can change the bad design to accord with the customers’ need and achieve larger amount of sales. I can not think of any project that does not need the usability testing, because it is necessary to test the product by someone that do not involve in the design of it. That is, the objective participants are intelligent enough to give valuable feedback. The company should conduct the usability testing for the good of the project.

Like what you read? Give Yichun Yuan a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.