Usability 101: Usability in Software Design and Interface Design
When we design a product, we want to ensure at least two things. First, the product should be useful (of course). Second, the product should be usable. Usefulness doesn’t matter if people can’t figure out how to use it.
“As a designer or a developer, you either care about usability, or you’re a jerk” -Erika Hall, Author of Just Enough Research and co-founder of Mule DesignThis article from the Nielsen Norman Group gives a nice definition of usability: Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use.
The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process. Usability is defined by 5 quality components:
- Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
- Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
Some product teams must ensure usability simply because customers will choose not to use their product if they don’t find it easy to use. Our situation at Prometheus is sometimes different; many of our users don’t have a choice about whether they use RexDB® (imagine a research assistant entering data in a lab… the data has to be entered in RexDB). Here’s why usability matters to us:
- More usable software leads to happier customers, which lead to more business.
- More time spent on usability means less time is needed for training and support.
- Better usability makes our clients more efficient, making their research more efficient, and changing the world for the better.
Apart from that, we care about usability simply because we’re nice people (not jerks), and we want to make our clients’ lives easier. If you enjoyed reading about design usability, check out more articles from our blog on interface design and information design.