The term, Usability, commonly refers to a product’s ease of use, usefulness, or effectiveness. From the users’ perspective, usability also concerns how well the product satisfies its users by achieving its intended purpose in a way that is intuitive, effective and efficient.
The term, User Experience (UX), commonly refers to a person’s entire relationship with a product from its marketing, acquisition, and visual appeal as well as its usability. UX is less precise and perhaps more about design and work-flow, but it can be measured by adapting techniques from Usability.
Usability includes the ability to perform a given task or step without error and in a reasonable amount of time. In practice, Usability includes qualitative and quantitative research and testing methods that identify user needs and expectations as well as measure the extent to which we meet them. Those who work in the field think of Usability as THE discipline for ensuring that the product in question meets the needs and expectations of its target audience and intended user community.
In practice, we merge UX and Usability, examining all of the qualities of how well people interact with a product, hardware or software: the “understand-ability” of information and a person’s performance with it. At any stage of development, we test by observing user interaction with the product. We identify errors, excessive time on task and confusions. We examine the users’ ability to learn what to do and navigate where to go. Can the user successfully complete the task? Do users recognize a target or message?
One of the most important lessons that I have learned in the thirty plus years that I have worked in this field is that the process for understanding the user community is continuous and never-ending. Behavior, perceptions, expectations, needs and wants are forever evolving with changes in technology, offerings in the marketplace and users’ experience. Society’s increasing ability to access, afford, and experience the latest technologies causes the population profiles to constantly and rapidly change. In other words, as users keep learning and adapting, software or product creators have to keep up with them in order to succeed.
How do you keep up with your users?
About the Author:
Michael Van der Gaag is principal consultant and strategist at Beyond The Interface. Michael helps clients save development time and cost while making their products more customer-relevant, appealing, and easy-to-use. Michael can be reached at 585-414-0526 or firstname.lastname@example.org.