What is Usability
04 Feb. 2011 Enterprise Tech News
The definition of usability in the ISO 9241 standard is:
“The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use”
A more exact definition can be used to understand user requirements, develop usability goals and settle on the best techniques for usability evaluations.
Usability means thinking about how and why people use a product. The first step in creating a usable product is understanding those goals in the context of the user’s environment, task or work flow, and letting these needs communicate the design. Usability relies on user-feedback through evaluation rather than simply trusting the experience of the designer. Unlike formal software application testing, usability evaluation involves watching real people using the product or prototype and learn to improve the product much better.
Users are satisfied when an interface is user-centered, which means when their goals, models, tasks and requirements are all met. The combination of analysis, design and evaluation all approached starting from the user’s point of view creates usable products.
From the definition of usability, we can derive five characteristics which must be met for the users of a product:
- Error Tolerant
- Easy to Learn
Effectiveness is the completeness and accuracy with which users achieve destined goals. It is determined by looking at whether the user’s goals were met successfully and whether all work is correct.
Efficiency can be depicted as the speed or the time taken by users to complete the tasks for which they use the product. Metrics include the number of clicks or keystrokes required or the total ‘time on task’.
Engaging means that an interface is engaging the user if it is pleasant and satisfying to use. The visual design is the most obvious element of this characteristic. The style, presentation, functions and the types of graphics or colors used are all part of a user’s immediate reaction. Same time more subtle aspects will also affect how user engaging.
Error Tolerant is presenting a system which has no errors. But, products are designed and developed by human, so errors may occur. An error tolerant program is designed to prevent errors caused by the user’s interaction, and to help in recovering from any errors that do occur.
Easy to Learn is related to evaluation which is nothing but Controlling how much instruction is given to test participants. An interface which is easy to learn allows users to build on their knowledge without calculated effort.
These five characteristics can be used to organize and analyze information which offer ability from information-gathering through requirements setting and finally in evaluation.
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