We’re very excited today because it’s World Usability Day (and we are Keep It Usable after all). It’s a special day that aims to raise awareness of the importance of usability and educate people about what usability is. It brings together professionals and non-professionals throughout the world with one aim:
To ensure that technology helps people live to their full potential, and that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use in order to create a better world for all citizens everywhere
Usability unfortunately now gets overshadowed by it’s sexier cousin ‘UX’, however, we mustn’t forget that once upon a time (and not so long ago) the term UX didn’t exist at all, and in it’s place was good old ‘Usability’. Usability is still vitally critical to any design, so before we get on to your free mobile usability checklist, let’s have a quick look at usability…
Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object such as a tool or device. In the digital context, usability is the degree to which a digital interface can be used by specified consumers to achieve objectives with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specific context of use.
Put simply, usability is how easy or difficult something is to use. Usability and UX are often used synonymously, but they are in fact different, so let’s have a quick look at how we can distinguish between the two… A simple way to think about it is to remember that user experience encompasses the whole experience a person (in this case referred to as a user) has with a brand’s digital components (it’s worth noting that the term Customer Experience is used to define offline touchpoints too). Usability is just one part that makes up this experience. Other aspects of UX could include things like the brand, marketing, customer service, live chat, content, pricing, visual design, etc. The User Experience honeycomb (Peter Morville) shown in the image below, illustrates usability as just one of seven parts of UX (read this post about what UX is and the benefits).
So, nowadays, UX is used to describe the overarching process and interaction with the product, whilst usability is more about whether a task can be achieved in a satisfactory and timely manner. In fact, if we look at the international usability standard ISO 9241, it defines usability solely as efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction. Norman and Nielsen take the definition a little further, saying that “usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use”, and that it is defined by 5 components:
For most companies, checking their usability is a basic hygiene factor for survival. Users have no patience to put up with bad user interfaces or hard to use products, they no longer try to work it out themselves, they head off to your competitor who does what you do but they do it simpler, easier and quicker. If you don’t provide good usability you’re effectively sending your customers to your competitors. If those customers came to you through PPC, congratulations, you’ve also paid money to send those lost customers to your competition! A small investment in usability testing pays off massively in both the short and long term.
Conducting usability testing will:
Typically, usability is measured relative to users’ performance on a given set of test tasks. The most basic measures of usability are based on the following metrics:
So, you’re basically measuring whether people can complete a task, how long it takes them, how many errors they make (and their classification), and how satisfied people feel after completing (or failing to complete) the task. It is crucial to recruit a representative sample of your target users in your usability test. The recruitment process should screen and select the people that could be your users/customers. There is no point testing the usability of, for instance, your ecommerce website with people that would never buy the products you sell. For this reason, it’s crucial to define personas that will lead the screening process to recruit the sample of users that fit your demographics (to read more about personas and how to create them, check out this post).
Usability plays a role in each stage of the design process. Testing the usability of your interface or your industrial design with your users should be an ongoing process, that starts from the early phases of concept ideation, through to final launch. It’s worth considering that people’s behaviour, attitudes, needs and expectations change over time and so should your product / service so it’s good practise to run regular usability tests to continuously implement and improve your designs.
Smartphones are now the core of our daily lives and are in the pockets of 66% of UK adults. 90% of 16-24 year olds own one, but don’t discount the older generation! 55-64 year olds are also joining the smartphone revolution, with ownership in this age group more than doubling since 2012, from 19% to 50% (keep an eye out in the new year for our latest Baby Boomers mobile shopping experience research or email us to request a free copy when it launches). Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report indicates that a third (33%) of internet users see their smartphone as the most important device for going online.
The rise of mobile is a predicted and inevitable trend so it is crucial for your website or app to be easy to use from the smaller screen of a smartphone.Not only will mobile growth continue, but we’ll also see mobile usage increase too. It’s something we’re noticing in our own consumer research: Users feel more comfortable browsing and purchasing on mobile devices as time progresses and they become more and more used to smartphones. We’re seeing this in the older generation too – do not discount them!
Our Usability Experts and UX researchers have unrivalled experienced with mobile usability testing – our experience goes right back to the first ever smartphone don’t you know 😉
Email us now for your complimentary initial consultation.