This subject may seem like a simple extraction of a broad concept of user experience, but usability plays a major role in achieving successful user experience of any product. Usability can be defined as the ease of use of any product we are designing. The term – ‘Usability’ evolved from the label “user friendly” in the early 1990s.

What is Usability and why does it matter?
Usability is about how easy your product is to use. And you guessed it, easy-to-use products are far more successful than difficult ones! Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.

A design can be broken down into parts by considering different prospects of its usability. From a designer’s perspective, a product can be of an ergonomic design with a unique look and purpose; for instance, this keyboard from Microsoft called Microsoft 5KV-00001 Ergonomic Wireless Keyboard. However, Usability plays an important role in achieving a successful product for the users.

Also, a product should have those visually appealing qualities along with good usability associated with it. Good usability with eye-catching design can help a company to achieve a worthy product for its customers with a successful user experience.

Why is Usability important?
On the Web, usability is a necessary condition for survival. If a website is difficult to use, people leave. If the homepage fails to state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a website, they leave. If a website’s information is hard to read or doesn’t answer users’ key questions, they leave. Notice a pattern here?

There’s no such thing as a user reading a website manual or otherwise spending much time trying to figure out an interface. 

Hence, usability is something that drives your website/product and can alter a users decision at any given time. A design is not usable or unusable per se; its features, together with the user, what the user wants to do with it, and the user’s environment in performing tasks, determine its level of usability.

Factors that influence UX
Peter Morville represents this through his User Experience Honeycomb.

For a product to have a meaningful and valuable user experience, here are some essential product attributes:
Useful: Your content should be original and fulfill a need
Usable: Site must be easy to use
Desirable: Image, identity, brand, and other design elements are used to evoke emotion and appreciation
Findable: Content needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite
Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to people with disabilities
Credible: Users must trust and believe what you tell them

The 5 components of usability
Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency
Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

There are many other important quality attributes. A key one is utility, which refers to the design’s functionality: Does it do what users need?
Usability and utility are equally important and together determine whether something is useful: It matters little that something is easy if it’s not what you want. It’s also no good if the system can hypothetically do what you want, but you can’t make it happen because the user interface is too difficult. To study a design’s utility, you can use the same user research methods that improve usability.

Definition of Utility = whether it provides the features you need.
Definition of Usability = how easy & pleasant these features are to use.
Definition of Useful = usability + utility.

Summing up
Usability refers to how easily a user interacts with the system. It comes under the umbrella of UX design but is not the whole story of user experience design. In usability, we designers have to focus on three aspects in particular:

  • Users should find it easy and become proficient when using a design interface.
  • They should be able to achieve their goal easily by using that design.
  • They should be able to learn the interface easily, so that return visits are just as, if not more, easy.

Usability being a crucial part for any user, it can impact any user’s drive towards your website or product. It is essential to assess the user’s emotions when he gets his hands on your product or website. Most importantly he should feel positive about why he found this product or website. In the end, I would say, User Experience can help us create a bright future.