User experience design is about creating the ideal encounter for the customer or visitor while using a product or service. The term is mainly used in relation to digital experiences, including websites, software, and mobile apps, but can also apply to the remote control to your TV, the control pad on your microwave, and the process you go through to return an item to a store.
User experience design can be described by seven factors, according to Peter Morville:
- Useful: Do the content and function fulfill a need for the user?
- Usable: Is the product or service easy to use?
- Findable: Are the content and function navigable and locatable within the product?
- Credible: Do users trust the content and function of the product or service?
- Desirable: Do users appreciate the content and function of the product or service?
- Accessible: Can users of all abilities access and use all content and function?
- Valuable: Is the content and function of considerable use, service, or importance to the user and the business?
In my next seven blog posts, I'll be doing a deeper dive into each of these factors that shape the user experience. Today's post is the sixth in the series and is about usability.
Usability is usually the first thing that comes to mind when someone hears that I am a user experience designer. And to be honest, I find it an easy and basic way to give an overview of what I do for my work. I usually say something like, I make information easier to use whether it's a website, mobile, app, print brochure, or even a physical remote control. While it's obvious that UX is much more than usability (especially after reading this series!), it is a very important aspect and one that the average person is familiar with.
The first definition of usability was created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and defined usability as "The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use."
Usability is a measure of how well a specific user in a specific context can use a product/design to achieve a defined goal effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily.
- Effectiveness: Users can complete their actions accurately.
- Efficiency: Users can perform their tasks quickly and easily.
- Satisfaction: Users can accomplish all of their goals.
The word "usability" also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process. There are A LOT of methods for improving the usability of a product or service.
- Card Sorting: Card sorting is a way to involve users in grouping information for a website in a way that makes sense to them. Card sorting helps to inform the design of the structure of a website, ensure that information is organized on the site in a way that is logical to users.
- Contextual Inquiry: A semi-structured interview method to obtain information about the context of use, where users are first asked a set of standard questions and then observed and questioned while they work in their own environments.
- Heuristic Evaluation: A method in which one or more reviewers, preferably experts, compare a software, documentation, or hardware product to a list of design principles and identify where the product does not follow those principles. Jakob Nielsen's list of ten heuristics is the most commonly used in the industry.
- Task Analysis: A means to learning about users' goals and users' ways of working identifying the actions and processes required for a user to complete a task or achieve a particular goal.
- Usability Testing: Usually involves observing users while they perform tasks with hardware or software. Often recorded on video, they provide task completion time and allow for observation of emotions.
- Personas: A representation of a fictitious user that includes a detailed summary of characteristics of the user, their experience, goals and tasks, pain points, and environmental conditions. Personas describe the target users of a tool, site, product, or application, giving a clear picture of how they're likely to use the system, and what they’ll expect from it.
Benefits of Investing in Usability
The key benefits of usability are:
- Increased sales
- Increased user satisfaction
- Reduced development costs
- Reduced support costs
- Increased productivity
Are you planning on designing a new website or mobile app? I can help! Please contact me to get the conversation started on how we can serve your customers.