Week 3: Usability Testing


The goal of this project was to practice and gain experience testing the usability of a product, in this case a GE microwave oven. We began by brainstorming a list of testable features of a microwave and narrowing it down to just three: presets, clock, and heat. From there we devised three different tasks to test the usability of the each feature, and three data types to collect for each. After planning out our test sequence and writing a moderator script we went to do the actual testing, using students from one of the dorms.

We started the process by thinking of common features that should be tested.

During the testing we took notes and collected data, resulting in this video presentation which explains our findings.

We then began to lay out our usability testing strategy.


While most of the testing process was fairly straightforward, it did raise the question of which specific user groups should be prioritized when considering usability. For example, one of our participants recently moved to Seattle from Germany and had no experience with microwaves, making it very difficult for her to complete the tasks. However, the other two participants had almost no difficulty whatsoever and reported that the interface was intuitive already. It’s possible that designing the product to be easier for first time users would make it less intuitive for the majority of users, who are already familiar with the basic interface.

This testing technique is very effective for testing the ease of use of everyday consumer products, however real world testing would have to be much more extensive to include all types of potential users. I think this process would also work well for testing the usability of mobile apps and operating systems, especially for specific user groups such as elderly and non-native speakers. Of course, some products might need to be usability tested to be less user-friendly for certain groups, such as guns or medicine contains for kids. Usability testing also seems to have certain limitations, and requires the participants to have a basic understanding of the product being tested beforehand. They might feel pressured because of the testing environment or they may be subconsciously swayed toward a certain behavior because of the way the directions were phrased.