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Redesigning the Microwave Interface

In a few screens or less, redesign the interface of a microwave. We are interested in your creativity and problem solving, not your process. Include callouts of how it works, explanation of any tough tradeoffs you made, and a list of things you’d explore more with additional time.
How do microwaves look like?
Online Retails
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Best selling microwaves on Amazon, Target
My Own
At school’s common room kitchen
Best Microwaves of 2021
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From the article
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Microwave categories
Traditional microwaves (by 2021)
Widely used (familiarity, less learning curve)
Express buttons
So many buttons
Never bothered to read the long instructions
Innovative microwaves (by 2021)
Touch screen
Prettier appearance
Unique interface interactions
Retro/portable microwaves
Simple interactions
Few buttons, little cognitive load
Less functions
Futuristic microwaves
Super unique characteristics
Fun interactions
High cost
Huge learning curve
Big tradeoffs
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Who am I designing for?

Kids — Still learning about using microwaves.
“What does this button do?”
“How long should I microwave this?”
“Can I put this in? (hope it doesn’t explode ^^)”
General adults — Use microwaves regularly, but only for heating up lunchboxes.
“Never bothered to read the instructions”
“Only knows express cook button 1, 2, 3”
House chefs — Use microwaves on a daily basis, more functions mean easier work.
“Takes forever to use — I need to press on that button for 4 times to set it up”
“Have to enter everything manually”
Elders — Use microwaves, but might be having some troubles with them.
“What does this button do?”
“Technology is hard”
“The words are too small, can’t see”

Main Takeaways & Missions

Easy to use interface and simple interactions
Accessible design — readable, clickable, understandable
Instructions & help if needed
Basic Interface Layout
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Vertical Layout
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Horizontal View
The microwave interface usually looks like a “bar” on the side or bottom of the microwave. From my understanding, this is due to technology restrictions that the interface should be protected from microwavable content.
As for my redesign, I would prefer to go with the vertical layout since it’s more common for all (less learning curve for people) and allows more space for interaction. Here’re some tradeoffs:
✔️ Common for all, less learning curve for people
✔️ Allows more space for interaction
✔️ Less cost, few technology restrictions
❌ Less space for heating food
❌ (Potentially) bigger in size

A closer look at the Interfaces

This is a typical microwave from LG — it has 31 buttons on that small interface area!
✔️ Number pad allows more functionality & flexibility
❌ Tiny words, flat buttons, 0 tactile feedback ... Please make it better.
Wow! So neat! This Samsung microwave only has 2 knobs to adjust time and heat level. The designer sacrificed many functional buttons to allow the simplest interaction — heating food.
✔️ Knobs — easy interaction
❌ Less functionality, 0 instruction
❌ Wired order — the knob on top should be the first interaction, which should be setting up temperature instead of time

My Design

Missions & Goals
Easy to use interface and simple interactions
Accessible design — readable, clickable, understandable
Instructions & help if needed
Bar Code Scanner
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✔️ Scan the bar code from food packaging to enter food data (shortcut)
✔️ Quick & automated input (less cognitive load)
✔️ Easy to use, no need for instructions.
✔️ Designed for children, workers, and elders. Simple user flow.
❌. Additional cost for hardware & database
Idea oriented from , and
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✔️ Knobs with information displayed on the front — based on users’ adjustments. ✔️ Quick & easy input (less cognitive load) ✔️ Fun interaction ✔️ Accessible for all ✔️ Aligned the knobs separately to avoid mis-clicks ❌. Additional cost for hardware & interface
Top-to-bottom order
Slice 1.png
✔️ People generally take in information in the order or top → bottom, left → right ✔️ Information input order matches with people’s preference, easy interaction ❌. Slightly different from people’s general interaction with microwaves
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More about the Knobs

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Inspiration from the smart knob-like thermostat

Moving Forward

Test & refine interface design
This was a fun exercise and I took a while to look into many microwave products. However, I didn’t spend enough time tweaking the visual details or testing the interface. If given more time, I’ll make more screens & prototypes to test the idea out with people & gather more feedback
Costs & stakeholders
For my design, I focused more on the user experience so did not pay a lot of attention at the cost. However, as a technology product that every common household owns, the cost is fairly important and need to be taken into consideration.
Crazier ideas?
As for this redesign, I stayed in the scope of a traditional microwave to design for all. However, I’m curious to learn & see if I can implement more innovative thoughts on designing the microwave interface.
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