Usability

Your constantly-updated definition of Usability and collection of topical content and literature

What is Usability?

Usability is part of the broader term “user experience” and refers to the ease of access and/or use of a product or website. A design is not usable or unusable per se; its features, together with the context of the user (what the user wants to do with it and the user’s environment), determine its level of usability.


The official ISO 9241-11 definition of usability 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 usable interface has three main outcomes:

  1. It should be easy for the user to become familiar with and competent in using the user interface during the first contact with the website. For example, if a travel agent’s website is a well-designed one, the user should be able to move through the sequence of actions to book a ticket quickly.
  2. It should be easy for users to achieve their objective through using the website. If a user has the goal of booking a flight, a good design will guide him/her through the easiest process to purchase that ticket.
  3. It should be easy to recall the user interface and how to use it on subsequent visits. So, a good design on the travel agent’s site means the user should learn from the first time and book a second ticket just as easily.

Designers, usually user experience (UX) designers, tend to measure a design’s usability throughout the development process, from wireframes to prototypes to the final deliverable. This is because usability is what determines whether a design’s existing attributes make it stand or fall.

Literature on Usability

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

Learn more about Usability

Take a deep dive into Usability with our course The Practical Guide to Usability.

Every product or website should be easy and pleasurable to use, but designing an effective, efficient and enjoyable product is hardly the result of good intentions alone. Only through careful execution of certain usability principles can you achieve this and avoid user dissatisfaction, too. This course is designed to help you turn your good intentions into great products through a mixture of teaching both the theoretical guidelines as well as practical applications surrounding usability.

Countless pieces of research have shown that usability is important in product choice, but perhaps not as much as users themselves believe; it may be the case that people have come to expect usability in their products. This growing expectation puts even more pressure on designers to find the sweet spot between function and form. It is meanwhile critical that product and web developers retain their focus on the user; getting too lost within the depths of their creation could lead to the users and their usability needs getting waylaid. Through the knowledge of how best to position yourself as the user, you can dodge this hazard. Thanks to that wisdom, your product will end up with such good usability that the latter goes unnoticed!

Ultimately, a usable website or product that nobody can access isn’t really usable. A usable website, for example, is often overlooked when considering the expansion of a business. Even with the grandest intentions or most “revolutionary” notions, the hard truth is that a usable site will always be the windpipe of commerce—if users can’t spend enough time on the site to buy something, then the business will not survive. Usability is key to growth, user retention, and satisfaction. So, we must fully incorporate it into anything we design. Learn how to design products with awesome usability through being led through the most important concepts, methods, best practices, and theories from some of the most successful designers in our industry with “The Practical Guide to Usability.”

All Literature

Please check the value and try again.