What is usability?

Usability is a crucial component of the field of user experience design as a whole and is generally regarded as ensuring that interactive products are easy to learn, effective to use, and enjoyable from the user?s perspective.

Whether it be related to digital products such as websites and applications, electronic equipment appliances, or many other items that we may encounter during everyday life, usability involves optimizing the interactions people have with products to enable them to carry out their activities quickly and easily.

Usability issues can range from minor impact, where a user can usually find a way around a given problem, to major issues where for example a user might be forced to give up on a given task through frustration (e.g. failing to locate a product on an e-commerce app or getting stuck during a product puchase process).

The implications of usability issues for website and app owners can be severe and it would not be an overstatement to say that the consequence for repeated failures in a high impact area of an interactive process can lead to the end of the line for some organisations. To help mitigate these risks the practice of usability testing (and to a lesser extent UX expert review) can (and should) be employed.

Usability can be broken down into the following aspects:

  • Effective to use
  • Efficient to use
  • Safe to use (e.g. prevention of user errors)
  • Have good utility (e.g. system provision of the right kind of functionality)
  • Easy to learn
  • Easy to remember how to use

Next steps

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Updated: 26 Aug 2015
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