The cost of laboratory fume hoods left open or used at an improper height amounts to 30% of Rice University's annual heating and cooling budget. Rice engineering students designed a low-cost, easy to set up device to alert users they were using the system improperly.
My role was to perform initial usability testing on the device, provide recommendations for improvements to the device's design, and answer these three main questions:
• Can users operate the device safely and effectively?
• Is the information provided sufficient to guide a user?
• What are the main deficiencies of the system, if any?
Through performing a cognitive walkthrough, heuristic analysis, and multiple rounds of user testing, I found a multitude of critical usability issues with the warning system prototype.
In its current state, the device failed to adequately assist or notify users due to a lack of noticeable, multi-sensory feedback. When users managed to notice feedback from the device, it is was often confusing, ambiguous, and had the potential to make performing simple tasks more difficult and time-consuming.
In addition to presenting the final results in a slideshow to our Usability Testing class, we prepared a 22-page report with detailed design recommendations for the engineers who prototyped the device.