Microwave Usability Test Group Project

Project Summary

This week’s project summary is to design, conduct, and analyze a usability test about microwave in groups. The usability test should take the test on three participants, each of the participant has to complete three tasks, and for each task the designers have to record three types of data. In this so called “3×3×3” form of usability test, each group will collect 27 different types of data in total. I did the project in a group of three with Eason Liu and Xuewen Xie. In class, each group brainstormed about three tasks they can perform about microwave about microwave and discussed them together.

Each group generated three ideas about usability test tasks and put them together on the board

My group decided to pick opening and closing the door, setting the cook time to 75 seconds, and set the oven temperature to 350 °F as our three tasks since these are the most frequent operations for a microwave and how well these functions are designed determine a lot of the overall impression of the microwave. The data we collected for each task is time in seconds, difficulty scaled from 1 to 5 which 1 means the least, and satisfaction level from 1 to 5 which 1 means the least satisfied. These three types of data are easy to measure and includes both the objective measurements like time and subjective measurements like satisfaction to help us get a more general conclusion. We chose our three participants who have different gender, cultural backgrounds, and prior experience with microwave in order to get various data and cover more aspects about the microwave.

The first participant (P1) is an international male student who hardly uses microwave before
The second participant (P2) is an international female student who often uses microwave at home
The third participant (P3) is a local female student who hardly uses microwave.

We found that the data varies from participant to participant, but we received similar suggestions from all of them about what’s the main problem about the microwave and how the designers can improve it. We created a slideshow to display our data and recorded our analysis in a video. The video can be accessed by https://youtu.be/7cKaVpCXVq0.


During the usability test, I raised one question that what will I do differently if I run the test on a product designed by myself and encountered a problem that my English proficiency was not capable for professional moderator work for this project. For the question I raised, I guess I will know better about which parts of the product are my least satisfied parts and construct my tasks around these areas. However, it’s also possible that I will lose the awareness of some general or obvious aspects of the product since I am too familiar with the product. So in my opinion, usability tests conducted by designers or non-designers provide two different aspects of the product and are both valuable for improving the product. As a non-native English speaker, I strongly felt that I didn’t know the appropriate way to approach strangers for the tests and the instructions I gave as a moderator were not clear and professional enough that the participants seemed to be confused and nervous during the test. I will try my best to learn more professional and accurate vocabulary and practice speaking professionally in English in my free time.

Future applications

A usability test is an important process in a formal design process since the designs should be beneficial for the users and the usability test is a perfect chance for designers to know what do users think and care about. For example, if I , as a male designer, am designing an app for a women’s clothing brand, can take usability tests on female customers to find out what does they care about and want to have on the app, especially from a female perspective that I can hardly notice on my own. The group work skills I learned in this project like listening to each other’s opinions, effectively distribute the work, and encourage and support each other are also important for future work. It’s almost impossible to finish projects individually in an actual working scenario, so learning about working with other colleagues and working in a group is crucial and beneficial.

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