World Usability Day (November 9) is a single day of events occurring around the world to celebrate the strides we’ve made in product usability and to educate the masses about the impact of usability on our society. As technology becomes more and more integrated with our daily lives — from connecting with friends on Facebook to communicating with health care providers through IoTM devices — well-designed systems will be crucial to getting the information and services we all need.
It is about making our world work better.
What is Usability?
Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how efficiently and effectively a person can use a product and how satisfied he or she is with the process.
It 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?
We measure usability using a number of observable and quantifiable metrics:
- Effectiveness: The accuracy and completeness with which users achieve specified goals
- Efficiency: The resources expended in relation to the accuracy and completeness with which users achieve goals
- Satisfaction: The comfort and acceptability of use
Usability enables developers to create better products based on users’ objective and subjective experiences.
Why is Usability Important?
When usability standards are met, the product’s interface is transparent, and the cognitive load caused by the interface is low. This allows the user to focus on the task itself, be less error prone, make decisions quickly, and feel more satisfied at the end of the task.
A happy user will continue using the product and will be more inclined to recommend it to their peers. This will increase the user base and user loyalty, positively affecting revenue. So from a business point of view, usability is not a cost — it’s an investment.
How Can Usability Be Improved?
Usability is a process and plays its part in each stage of the development lifecycle. We recommend that you start assessing and measuring usability as early as possible; this approach enables you to discover errors sooner, making more room to iterate and test the solutions and improvements.
While there are several ways to improve usability (depending on the stage of the process), the most basic and useful approach is user testing. It is not necessarily a costly or long process. It can be quick and cheap, suitable for any company/product/stage, and only has 4 steps:
- Acquire some representative users.
- Ask the users to perform representative tasks with the design.
- Observe what the users do, where they succeed, and where they have difficulties.
- Analyze the data and then iterate until predefined usability KPIs are met.
To create the experiences that your users will value, you must observe them, interact with them, and focus on their needs, expectations, and skills.
Case in Point
At GlobalLogic, we strive to create highly usable products. With a UX team of more than 140 experts across 6 countries, we are capable of improving the usability of existing products and incorporating usability assessments and testing as part of our user-centered design approach to product development.
For example, when a major Latin American cable TV provider engaged us to assess the usability of its upcoming on-demand video service, the first thing we did was organize a series of user research and user testing activities. We asked current customers to test the client’s potential product to determine three main usability metrics: task success rate, user error rate, and satisfaction (using two common questionnaires, System Usability Scale and Net Promoter Score). The results were not good: high errors rate, low satisfaction, and low NPS. Our recommendation was that the client not release the product to market before working on and testing new solutions.
The client accepted our recommendation, so we invited its customers to talk about how they consume media. We also visited their homes and performed onsite interviews and observations. Based on what we learned through these exercises, we developed a first round of wireframes and prototypes that were then tested by the same users. Through these sessions, were were able to significantly improve the product’s usability KPIs.
When the client finally launched the new service, it was praised for its flexibility and ease-of-use. Not only did the service function great, but it was intuitive and well-designed — proving that usability plays a huge role in successful products. Moreover, the client saved millions of dollars by developing the right product for a market that changes fast, with strong competitors and newcomers.