The international standard, ISO 9241–11, provides guidance on usability and defines it 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.
Usability is an attribute of quality which assesses how easily can a user interfaces is easy to use. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process. A user-friendly interface design is easy-to-learn, supports users’ tasks and goals efficiently and effectively, and is satisfying and engaging to use.
There is three main question to answer which clears what usability is generally about:
Efficiency: How much of users effort is required to accomplish the task ?
Effectiveness: Can the user achieve his/her goal ?
Satisfaction: Is the user satisfied using our product ?
Which is affected by three main situations ?
- Who is using the product? Who are the users? e.g. are they mature professionals?
- What are the users trying to do with the product? What are their goal? — does it support what they want to do with it?
- Where and how is the product being used?
Usability is necessary for all of us in modern web today. It helps us to make our users fulfil a task completely/accurately or not to fulfil. It depends on usability whether the user is happy/enjoying using the product or unhappy with the product? It’s vital part of web today because it can mean the difference between the success or failure of a system. Usability is a necessary condition for survival after all. If a website is difficult to use, people leave. If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers clearly and what users can do on the site, people have high chances to leave.
The first law of e-commerce is that if users cannot find the product, they cannot buy it either.
If we given a choice, people tend to buy systems that are more user-friendly rather than difficult to use. You may think what they may choose. Lack of usability can cost time and effort and can greatly determine the success or failure of a system.
We can improve the level of usability in our product is through user feedback and design iteration. Which progressively refines the design through evaluation from the early stages of design process until the design reaches acceptable level of its usability.
In general there are various methods of knowing usability. But one of its simplest method is user testing. Which comprises of three main components inside it:
- Get a repetitive user to perform our task eg: students for course study site and customers for e-commerce site.
- Get a user to perform representative task.
- Observe what users do where they fail to accomplish the task, where the user finds difficulty in accomplishing the task.We just need to listen and do less talking.
It’s important for us to test users individually and let them solve any problems on their own. If you help them or direct their attention to any particular part of the screen, you have contaminated the test results.
Usability plays a role in each stage of the design process. Here is the list of steps we can take :
- We need to test the old designs to identify the good parts that you should keep or emphasise, and the bad parts that give users trouble which needs to be excluded.
- Test our competitors design and make a new interface for similar interface with same feature.
- Conduct a field study to see how users behave in their natural habitat.
- Make paper prototype of one or more new design ideas and test them. The less time you invest in these design ideas the better, because we’ll need to change them all based on the test results.
- Multiple iterations, to refine the design ideas that test best and gradually moving from low-fidelity prototyping to high-fidelity representations that run on the computer. And testing the iterations. Inspect the design relative to established usability guidelines whether from your own earlier studies or published research.
After we have decided on and implement the final design, test it again.
Usability can be done in any digital has to do with bridging the gap between people and machines. Usability and user-centred design are iterative. The work proceeds in a cycle of hypothesis and evaluation, with a picture of users and design solutions to meet their needs building in richness and completeness with each iteration. The five E’s (effective, efficient, engaging, error tolerant, easy to learn) provide the practitioner with a set of characteristics which can be used to organise and analyse information from users. They offer traceability from initial information-gathering through requirements setting and finally in evaluation. This might allow the understanding of the specific needs around each characteristic to grow, or be an opportunity to confirm whether the user requirements were chosen correctly in the early stages of the project. In either case, they let us go beyond “ease of use” in a practical way and help make it easier to make products more usable.