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Introduction to Usability

Usability is defined as 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 ( ISO 9241-11).

In simple terms, usability refers to how easily a product can be used. Usually we refer to usability while talking about websites or software but it applies to all kinds of everyday products that we use e.g, TV remote, washing machine, toaster etc.

When can we say that a product is usable?

For a product to be usable, it must have the following characteristics:

  • Effectiveness: Can the user complete tasks to achieve his goals with the product?
  • Efficiency: Once the user figures out how to use the product, how fast can he accomplish his goals?
  • Accessibility: Can the product be used by disabled individuals?
  • Memorability: When users come back to using the product after a definite span of time, how easily can they recall its ¬†use?
  • Learnability: Can first time users relate to past experiences and learn how to use the product?
  • Error Prevention: How many errors are the users making and how quickly can they recover from the errors
  • Satisfaction: How satisfied does the user feel after using the product

Why is Usability Important?

How many times you returned from a website because it seemed confusing or because using it made you frustrated? Usability is important because it can make a whole lot of difference between completing your task efficiently and enjoying it while doing it or being frustrated while completing your tasks. It can often mean the success or failure of your system. If you think from the managerial point of view, a software that has a poor usability will bring down the entire competency level of the office. Hence, clients usually tend to go for products that are user-friendly i.e, usable.

How to increase your product’s Usability?

There are no shortcuts to making your products usable. First and foremost, you must carry out extensive research to find out the needs, wants, expectations and limitations of the  target users. Once it has been done and the product is almost ready, it must be tested using real users to find out its acceptance. Any changes necessary must be made and retested. The whole process is an iterative one. A successful product will be the one that gives its users a positive user experience.

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