User experience and usability are both important to the overall success of a website, portal or business application. If you understand the difference and the interaction, you will avert many ‘lessons learned’ down the road.
Usability is a quality attribute and assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. A highly usable product or service enables the user to achieve their goals quickly and with minimal effort. Usability can be defined by five 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?
User Experience (UX) includes usability, but also encompasses a more emotional dimension: for example, the desire, joy, meaning, reflection, value or frustration that a user experiences.
Understanding the motivations of your users, who they are, what they want to accomplish – has enormous influence on every aspect of your product or service.
The process of discovery appeals to the user’s emotions and can answer a question, create surprise or fill a need. This provides a sense of accomplishment that the user ties to their user experience, creating a bound.
Another way to look at this relationship is by subdividing user experience into utility, usability, desirability and brand experience.
- Consider Utility or being useful as the core of the User Experience (UX). The user can say: “This is useful to me and it meets my needs.”
- Next Functionality must ensure that the user can say: “I am able to use this product or service easily.”
- Desirability is built on the user saying “I like the way this product looks and feels and I like how the service is presented.
- The overall Brand Experience is created when the user says: “My overall feeling about this brand/product/service is good.
It’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of the difference between usability and user experience, and how a clear, thorough approach to both will optimize the process. And as technology continues to evolve, a more human approach to the web will also evolve by a keener understanding of what the real human needs are.