World Usability Day: What is Usability and Why Does it Matter?

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.

Insight categories: Experience DesignHealthcare

The importance of usability cannot be overstated. Users expect websites and apps to be usable and intuitive. If they encounter difficulties using them, they’ll likely abandon their attempts to complete a task.

To help solve this, World Usability Day takes place annually to raise awareness about usability issues in software design. The goal of this event is to encourage developers and designers to think about how users interact with websites and applications. This can include making sure buttons are big enough for easy clicking, using color contrast to help users read text, and avoiding distracting animations.

In this post, we’ll dig into usability a bit deeper and explore why it matters to consumers and the companies who design, develop, and maintain products for them.

What is Usability?

Usability is the degree to which a system or product can be quickly learned and operated by specified user groups under stated conditions. The goal is to create intuitive, efficient, effective, and valuable systems.

There are five quality components to usability, according to this definition from the Nielsen Norman Group: 

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
  • Efficiency: Once users learn the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: When users return to the design after not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make? How severe are these errors? How easily can they recover from them?
  • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

We measure usability using 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.

Recommended reading: Top 10 UX Design Principles for Creating Successful Products and Experiences – Method

Why is Usability Important?

When we meet usability standards, 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, be less error-prone, make decisions quickly, and feel more satisfied.

Usability is important to end users and the companies who develop products for them as it impacts revenue, loyalty, brand reputation, and more.

 

A happy user will continue using the product and 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 We Improve Usability?

Usability is a process. It’s involved 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 process stage), user testing is the most basic and valuable approach. It’s not necessarily a costly or lengthy process. It can be quick and inexpensive, suitable for any company, product, or stage. There are four simple steps to improve usability:

  1. Acquire representative users.
  2. Ask the users to perform representative tasks with the design.
  3. Observe what the users do, where they succeed, and where they have difficulties.
  4. Analyze the data and then iterate until they meet the predefined usability KPIs.

To create a valuable user experience, you must observe, interact, and focus on their needs, expectations, and skills.

Recommended reading: Is Kanzi Really Transforming UI Design?

Creating an Excellent User Experience 

At GlobalLogic, we strive to create highly usable products. With a user experience team of more than 140 experts across six countries, we can improve the usability of existing products and incorporate 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 contacted us so we could 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 ideal: high error rates, low satisfaction, and a low Net Promoter Score. We recommended that the client not release the product to market before working on and testing new solutions.

The Result

Once the client accepted our recommendation, we invited their customers to discuss 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 the same users then tested. Through these sessions, were able to significantly improve the product’s usability KPIs.

When the client finally launched the new service, its users said they enjoyed its flexibility and ease of use. Not only did the service function efficiently, 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 fast-paced market with strong competitors and newcomers.

We live in a world where technology has become ubiquitous, but many products still fail to meet users’ expectations. This is why it’s more important than ever to spend time researching how to perfect your user experience to keep up with technological advances and save time and money in the long run.

Learn more about World Usability Day here.

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