Sprint 2: Usability Testing

Video presentation on usability testing for a microwave. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTvS6a1QNgM

What did we do?

The theme for this week’s sprint was usability testing, and after watching an example of how usability testing would be carried out in a professional setting, me and my group set out to carry out a usability test ourselves, using a household microwave, and gain firsthand experience in this way.

Thinking of ideas on how to carry out the usability test and giving feedback to another group on their ideas

First, we had to decide on what data would be most suitable to collect. After incorporating feedback from others, we decided it would be best to test the design of the microwave by asking test participants to carry out three tasks to get an idea of how easy it is to complete these tasks on the specific microwave:
1. To find the popcorn preset
2. To set the microwave’s clock to 5 pm
3. To set the microwave to cook at 45 seconds at power level 3.

These are common functions of modern day microwaves, so we felt that by testing if users could complete these tasks efficiently we would be able to gauge the quality of the design. We decided to collect 3 types of data for each of these tasks, which we felt would give of a comprehensive idea of how easy it is to complete each task:
a) The number of errors a participant makes
b) The time to complete the task (if the task was completed)
c) The participant’s personal rating on how easy it is to complete the task.

Creating video presentation based on test results

We then carried out the usability test on 3 people, and created a video presentation to share our results. To watch it and view the results of our group’s usability testing on a microwave, please follow the link below.


What questions did this project raise?

During the usability test, I started to wonder how people would conduct these tests fairly in a professional setting. For example, if I was part of a company that manufactured microwaves, I would want to know if it was easy for the general population to use my microwave in an everyday setting. Does usability testing accurately reflect this?

For me, I feel that if I was a participant in a usability test, I would act noticeably differently there compared to if I was just using a microwave at home in my everyday life, with nobody there to monitor me. There might also be some sort of selection bias with the participants, as it may be the case that people willing to do these usability tests are more likely to be confident in their ability to use technology capably.

I eventually arrived at the conclusion that while this discrepancy between usability testing and everyday use for a general population exists, usability testing would still be a very important way for companies to collect data on how intuitive their product designs are. The people carrying out the test can try to minimize this discrepancy, by making it clear that users aren’t being tested on their personal ability/intelligence, and to collect from a larger sample size rather than just people who do usability tests regularly.

What have I learned from this project that can be used in the future?

With this project, I now have experience carrying out a usability test, which allows me to gain valuable feedback on how intuitive a design I create is. It is extremely important to create a design that is intuitive for the end user, and usability testing is a good way to help ensure this.

I now have a better understanding of how a usability test is done in a professional setting, as well as what constitutes a good usability test. While designing a usability test, I should make the test clear and easy to carry out, whilst still being informative; while being in the position of a moderator for a usability test, I should explain things clearly to the participants and make it clear that it is not their personal ability being tested.

If I were to carry out another usability test in the future, I would definitely try to incorporate a larger sample size. For this project, we only collected data on 3 partcipants — while I still feel this gave us some level of understanding on how well the microwave was designed, reflecting back on this project I feel that there is definitely a good chance that the data is biased and does not accurately reflect what the general population would feel like, especially considering all 3 participants were college students aged 18–20 and I would normally want a wider range of different demographics (unless my design was aimed at a specific demographic).

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