What is UX and Usability
The most widely accepted definition for User experience (based on ISO standards) is – User Experience is “a person’s perceptions and responses that come from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service.”
However, we can go a little bit more specific on this definition. You could describe user experience as the feelings that the product invokes on the person using that product. If we use feelings as the dimension to focus on, than you see that UX can be anything from adoration to absolute hatred, from frustration to joy, from predictable to surprise, and so on.
Probably the best layman’s language to use to describe usability is user-friendliness. Based on ISO standards, the term usability explains the extent to which a product, app, or system could be used by specific users in a particular context in order to achieve their goals effectively and efficiently (from a functional point of view). In other words, usability makes sure that web or mobile applications are easy to use for its target users and usability is what measures how quickly and easily the user can do so. Good usability doesn’t necessarily get noticed but bad usability always is!
UX and Usability Goals
When it comes to understanding the goals of UX and usability, it’s better to start with addressing those of usability. You’ll see why.
The goal of usability is to make a product / web application / app as easy to use for its users as possible. The more intuitive a user would find it to use (without needing a 500 page manual for example), the more user-friendly and thus “usable” you can call it. The main focus point should be this: Are the users able to fulfil their goals with the product, or not?
The goal of user experience, on the other hand, is much wider and covers many stages beyond just the functional use. The goal is simply that the user of your application should be as satisfied and happy with it as possible and hopefully come back whenever he needs to solve his need that the application solves. The key is that it’s not just about the functionality but the feelings and emotions he feels both while using the application or after should convince him that it’s the best bet for him.
UX components: Peeling the layers of the UX
Since UX is much broader. It’s worth spending a moment to discuss what exactly goes into it. In UX, all perceptions and reactions that the application invokes are relevant. To make sure your UX is optimal, you have to address the emotional aspects of the user in relation to your product: and all you’ve got to achieve that is three things typically:
The user should not only reach his or her goal quickly and smoothly, but – depending on the area of application – also experience positive emotions like joy or fun when using it.
The other important element is that user experience covers the whole process of what a user experiences:
- During, and
- After using the application.
Before actual use, there’s some expectations that are important to note. The most common one perhaps is the brand image influence. If it is a positive brand association, then your user experience is already stacked in favour of the positive. And vice versa: a terrible brand image decreases your chances of delivering a great user experience from the start. You have all the more hurdles to cross.
But the actual use of the application is also, naturally, very important: Is it easy to use, can the goal be reached quickly, does the design appeal, are there inspiring, perhaps even positively surprising and helpful functions in the application?
And after using the application, what does the user actually experience? If he can identify with the product while using it, chances are he’s likely to build some sort of a bond with the product or the brand – with the memory ingrained in his mind that he could solve his problem using your product and go through a positive user experience in the process. That will all help to make him responsive to your future communication as well as for him or her to return to you to solve the same need in future.
The boundary between UX and Usability
As we’ve established: user experience is the broader approach, usability only a part of the user experience. Usability looks in particular at the (graphical) look and feel of an application, as known as the user interface (UI), and how functional it is. However, the user experience takes into account all components between the company, product, communication and branding.
Accordingly, when you’re trying to build an outstanding user experience that will leave people coming back, you need to take into account the amount of different expertise you need involved for this. Not only web designers and developers, but also product managers, service employees, marketing and brand managers. With this you involve the different disciplines and aspects such as:
- Utility: Is the product/website useful?
- Usability: Is the product/website easy and intuitive to use?
- Desirability: Does the product/website look good? Does it feel good?
- Brand Experience: Is the overall impression of the brand/product/website good and consistent?
All of them are user experience factors; while utility and usability forms the core. Together with desirability and brand experience, they form the overall experience. The boundary from usability is that it’s only one of the functions within user experience (although a core one).
Measuring User Experience & Usability
Measuring usability involves both qualitative and quantitative tools. In each, you attempt to track just how user-friendly an application is for its target users. There are a number of usability metrics that you can use to keep track of it, for example:
- Effectiveness of task completion
- Number of errors
- Task level satisfaction
- System Usability Scale, and more
To measure these metrics, you can also make use of tools like Google Analytics and Smartlook and install them on your digital product and track the metrics these tools offer and also watch session recordings, heatmaps, etc. and even build your own metrics.
Measuring user experience would also use similar metrics as mentioned for usability, because as explained before, usability is a core part of UX. However, you should go a bit broader and measure specifics beyond usability such as brand experience, customer satisfaction, net promoter score, and so on.