Usability Testing

What did we do?

To start off our usability test, we picked a colleague that had around the same schedule we did and got to work creating our test plan in order to get an accurate results from our usability tests.

My colleague and I working on our test plan.

This process involved brainstorming different functions and potential problems of microwaves. With these ideas we were able to create three tasks that we would later use during the usability test since. These ideas also provided information about the challenges of using microwaves and the different functions they perform, which were both points we needed to create our tasks. After this, we needed to think of a demographic to test because we wanted to know how usable microwaves were for a specific group of people, we chose college aged students.

Completing our test plan.

The final part of our test plan involved making three data types to gather information about our tests in order to gauge the usability of the microwave. We chose to test the time it took to complete the tasks because this what most people care about when using a microwave, satisfaction rated from one to five because we wanted to find out if it was an enjoyable experience, and whether they completed the task or not because this is the ultimate test if it is usable or not. Finally, we created a script for our usability tests so each person would have the same instructions to reduce possible advantages in the tests. After this, we conducted our tests in the commuter commons using the Amana #AMC2166AS microwave and created a presentation about our findings, which can be see here: https://youtu.be/wmhrO-7jFx4 .

Reflection

Doing usability testing was an enjoyable experience, but it did raise some questions. Two of the bigger ones were, how much usability testing do companies do and at what point do they call some functions “good enough”? This came up when testing easy it was to change the time of the microwave because it was so difficult to do. In my opinion, I think this is because this function is only used a couple of times a year at the most so they figured it was okay for it to be difficult to use. If I continued this experiment in the future, I would want to test different microwaves in order to see if they were all made with this philosophy in mind.

So What?

I liked usability testing because it provided a scientific setting in which I could express how easy tasks were to do. Regularly when people would do something like set the clock on a microwave, they would say something like “that was hard”, but not provide feedback past that. Usability testing allows us to give numeric value to that task like a satisfaction rating or the time it took to complete, and use that information in order to make it better in the future. On a whole, usability testing improves the life of everyone because it allows tasks to be made easier through testing.

Now What?

In the future, I can see usability testing being very important in the testing of all devices. For example, it can be applied anywhere from a child’s toy to an MRI machine since both are used by people. A child will become frustrated if they cannot figure out how to use their toy just like an MRI technician would if their machine wasn’t responding. People do not want to use something that is hard to use, they want it simplified so they can focus on their task at hand and not on making the equipment work. I would say that usability testing is important for any project that produces something physical in which people use. This is because if a person can use it, then they can test it and possibly make it better by giving feedback. Projects that would not work as well with usability testing would be things that are not meant to or cannot be used physically by humans. This could things like an essay since an essay cannot be tested for usability because the only action you can use it for is to read. Something else that a usability test wouldn’t apply is the internals of a devices. An example of this are the internals of a microwave. A microwave can be tested for usability but the internal components that make the microwave cannot be since the user will never interact with them. In essence, most physical objects that people come into contact with can be usability tested, but if humans do not use them to complete a task, they cannot be tested.

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