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Ease of Use

Your constantly-updated definition of Ease of Use and collection of topical content and literature

What is Ease of Use?

Ease of use is a basic concept that describes how easily users can use a product. Design teams define specific metrics per project—e.g., “Users must be able to tap Find within 3 seconds of accessing the interface.”—and aim to optimize ease of use while offering maximum functionality and respecting business limitations.

“Ease of use may be invisible, but its absence sure isn’t.”


See why ease of use is a fundamental part of user experience.

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Designing for Ease of Use can be Complicated

Ease of use is a central usability concept. Usability comprises all user experience (UX) elements relating to the ease with which users can learn, discover content and do more with a design/product. In UX design, usability is a minimum requirement for any successful product, but good usability alone is no guarantee of market success. If you create an easy-to-use interface, though, you can partly tap into emotional design and help users fall in love with it, your brand and the service represented.

Ease of use is frequently at odds with functionality – a balance where functionality sometimes wins. For example, a DSLR camera gives users immense control. The “price”, however, is that users need some photographic expertise – unlike with point-and-shoot smartphones. A vital dynamic in user interface (UI) design is users’ ability to achieve goals without having to consider they’re using a website or app. So, ease of use is an integral part of seamless experiences. Designers typically strive to answer “Can users interact easily enough with the interface to complete their tasks/goals effortlessly?” with “How might we minimize the complexity of what users must do?”.

Author/Copyright holder: Bill Bertram. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 3.0

DSLR cameras are usually as simple as possible, for target users.

How to Maximize Ease of Use

Easy-to-use designs are ones which users find so familiar that they’re intuitive. It’s best to start with user research so you can understand your users and the contexts in which they’ll encounter and use your design. When your research helps you gain empathy with users through contextual interviews, observations, etc., you can see what “ease of use” would mean for them. Then, you’ll be able to determine how to map the best functions to their needs. First, you’ll want to consider your users’ goals:

  1. Overall goals –What your users want to achieve ultimately – E.g., healthier blood pressure levels.

  2. Completion goals –What they expect to have happened after using your product – E.g., lower blood pressure.

  3. Behavioral goals –What they would do to achieve the goal without your product – E.g., manually record their daily salt intake if they didn’t have your app.

A key part of maximizing ease of use is to understand the fine details of how users see their own needs, problems, etc. Helpful questions include:

  • What are users prepared to do to reach those goals and any subtasks on the way? – Specifically, what must they do as they progress and why must they do action A before action B, etc.? What expectations do they have at each touchpoint?

  • Where would they use this product? – e.g., at home

  • How would they use it? – e.g., on a smartphone

  • What would prompt them to use it? – e.g., needing to book travel tickets

  • What would they expect to find as they move through a process? – e.g., a shopping cart

  • What’s going on around them while they use it?– e.g., are they moving around, possibly stressed?

  • What obstacles might keep them from using it? – e.g., signal strength issues, other parties must act first.

  • What could motivate them to pick your product over a competitor’s? – E.g., they can wear your fitness app and scan food product barcodes with a smartphone.

When you answer these, you can work towards project-specific metrics, such as: “Train users must be able to find travel information within 15 seconds.”

Our homepage features affordances (blue buttons), whitespace and more to optimize ease of use.

Special Ease-of-use Considerations

Here are some helpful things to consider for easy-to-use designs:

  • Imagine a “perfect scenario” – When you address questions such as “What if this process magically occurred?” or “What if users had an incredibly knowledgeable helper?” as you begin the design process, you might just discover the easiest path for users to take on their task flows.

  • Affordances and natural mapping – Use design principles to make (e.g.) pushbuttons and match users’ expectations for how real-world items work. Instantly recognizable controls should work predictably (e.g., sliders offer smooth adjustment).

  • Mobile UX design – When users work on smaller screens and in hectic/uncomfortable environments, they’ll become frustrated far faster than when sitting with their desktops. So, try to discover their expectations, pain points, etc. from using tools such as customer journey maps.

  • UI design patterns – Patterns such as wizards, to prepare forms, help reduce stress and hard

  • Accessibility – When you maximize ease of use with features that include users of all abilities, your product will likely be more successful among all types of users.

Overall, reality rules – and sometimes you’ll need to make trade-offs for your product to be viable (e.g., avoiding expensive technology to run it on).

Learn More about Ease of Use

We have several courses discussing ease of use: e.g., https://www.interaction-design.org/courses/get-your-product-used-adoption-and-appropriation

Here’s a thought-provoking Experience Dynamics piece examining important ease-of-use angles: https://www.experiencedynamics.com/blog/2020/01/how-explain-ease-use-vs-context-use-your-boss

Discover this Nielsen Norman Group approach to measuring ease of use: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/pure-method/?lm=measuring-perceived-usability&pt=article

Literature on Ease of Use

Here’s the entire UX literature on Ease of Use by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Ease of Use

Take a deep dive into Ease of Use with our course User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide .

If you’ve heard the term user experience design and been overwhelmed by all the jargon, then you’re not alone. In fact, most practicing UX designers struggle to explain what they do!

“[User experience] is used by people to say, ‘I’m a user experience designer, I design websites,’ or ‘I design apps.’ […] and they think the experience is that simple device, the website, or the app, or who knows what. No! It’s everything — it’s the way you experience the world, it’s the way you experience your life, it’s the way you experience the service. Or, yeah, an app or a computer system. But it’s a system that’s everything.”

— Don Norman, pioneer and inventor of the term “user experience,” in an interview with NNGroup

As indicated by Don Norman, User Experience is an umbrella term that covers several areas. When you work with user experience, it’s crucial to understand what those areas are so that you know how best to apply the tools available to you.

In this course, you will gain an introduction to the breadth of UX design and understand why it matters. You’ll also learn the roles and responsibilities of a UX designer, how to confidently talk about UX and practical methods that you can apply to your work immediately.

You will learn to identify the overlaps and differences between different fields and adapt your existing skills to UX design. Once you understand the lay of the land, you’ll be able to chart your journey into a career in UX design. You’ll hear from practicing UX designers from within the IxDF community — people who come from diverse backgrounds, have taught themselves design, learned on the job, and are enjoying successful careers.

If you are new to the Interaction Design Foundation, this course is a great place to start because it brings together materials from many of our other courses. This provides you with both an excellent introduction to user experience and a preview of the courses we have to offer to help you develop your future career. After each lesson, we will introduce you to the courses you can take if a specific topic has caught your attention. That way, you’ll find it easy to continue your learning journey.

In the first lesson, you’ll learn what user experience design is and what a UX designer does. You’ll also learn about the importance of portfolios and what hiring managers look for in them.

In the second lesson, you’ll learn how to think like a UX designer. This lesson also introduces you to the very first exercise for you to dip your toes into the cool waters of user experience. 

In the third and the fourth lessons, you’ll learn about the most common UX design tools and methods. You’ll also practice each of the methods through tailor-made exercises that walk you through the different stages of the design process.

In the final lesson, you’ll step outside the classroom and into the real world. You’ll understand the role of a UX designer within an organization and what it takes to overcome common challenges at the workplace. You’ll also learn how to leverage your existing skills to successfully transition to and thrive in a new career in UX.   

You’ll be taught by some of the world’s leading experts. The experts we’ve handpicked for you are:

  • Alan Dix, Director of the Computational Foundry at Swansea University, author of Statistics for HCI: Making Sense of Quantitative Data

  • Ann Blandford, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at University College London

  • Frank Spillers, Service Designer, Founder and CEO of Experience Dynamics

  • Laura Klein, Product Management Expert, Principal at Users Know, Author of Build Better Products and UX for Lean Startups

  • Michal Malewicz, Designer and Creative Director / CEO of Hype4 Mobile

  • Mike Rohde, Experience and Interface Designer, Author of The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking

  • Szymon Adamiak, Software Engineer and Co-founder of Hype4 Mobile

  • William Hudson, User Experience Strategist and Founder of Syntagm

Throughout the course, we’ll supply you with lots of templates and step-by-step guides so you can start applying what you learn in your everyday practice.

You’ll find a series of exercises that will help you get hands-on experience with the methods you learn. Whether you’re a newcomer to design considering a career switch, an experienced practitioner looking to brush up on the basics, or work closely with designers and are curious to know what your colleagues are up to, you will benefit from the learning materials and practical exercises in this course.

You can also learn with your fellow course-takers and use the discussion forums to get feedback and inspire other people who are learning alongside you. You and your fellow course-takers have a huge knowledge and experience base between you, so we think you should take advantage of it whenever possible.

You earn a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you’ve completed the course. You can highlight it on your resume, LinkedIn profile or website.

All Literature

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