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.
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
✔️ 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
✔️ 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
There are no rows in this table
More about the Knobs
Inspiration from the smart knob-like thermostat
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.
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.