What is usability

What is Usability? that is something I get asked all the time after I tell people what I do for a living. Then I find myself explaining what Usability is. It happens all the time, and it is not getting any easier.

Usability, while not a new concept it is still something unknown.

I can think of 3 different definitions of Usability:

  1. ISO 9241-11,
  2. Jakob Nielsen’s and
  3. My Mother’s.

All 3 have their good points, but the one I like the most is obviously my mom’s!

Here is an edited version of what she thinks I do for a living:

“Usability is to make things work the way they are supposed to. Making websites help me do what I need to do without getting in my way”

I want to add also what one of my friends said once:
“If I can’t use it, I don’t need it”

Now, let’s get boring  and  take a look at what ISO 9241 says about what usability is:

  1. Suitability for the task
  2. Self-descriptiveness
  3. Conformity with user expectations
  4. Suitability for learning
  5. Controllability
  6. Error tolerance
  7. Suitability for individualisation

Jakob Nielsen’s definition of a usable system:

  1. Easy to learn
  2. Easy to remember
  3. Efficient
  4. Reliable
  5. Satisfactory

This are great definitions of what a usable system should have, and what usability is all about. But can you imagine going to your boss to tell him that you need to make your web-shop easier to learn and remember, more efficient, reliable and satisfactory?
Well, I bet you can. But how to convince your boss of that, if you at any point are not mentioning “profitability”?

If you want to find more about usability, contact us for information about our workshops.

- Lucas

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