What is software usability?
Usability is a controlled aspect of User Experience design that ensures the end-user doesn’t strain or encounter problems with the use of a product or website’s user interface. A user experience designer can control accessibility, user interface, information architecture and usability to suit the uncontrolled aspects like goals, user lifestyle and habits. UX design uses the controlled aspects of technology to suit the uncontrolled.
A usable product does not mean automatically that its interface is simple or easy to use. Usability is not about making everything easy. The three main enhancements to the end-users experience from a usable product are efficiency, effectiveness and ultimately satisfaction. Efficiency is the ability to perform the intended task with desired speed. Effectiveness measures availability and unavailability. It is the comparison of usability with technology and without technology. It is the satisfaction of the end user with what they are capable of doing with the interface.
There are other myths in many organizations about usability that should be identified, understood and mitigated, such as being expensive, esthetically pleasing or asking what a persons preferences are.
Usability is expensive
This is never the case. Usability testing can be as simple as a free questionnaire or having a friend or colleague use your product. The more types of testing and more actual end-users you test the more accurately you will shape the usability of your product. You get out of testing exactly what you put in.
Usability is about a user’s preferences
Usability is human centered, collecting and understanding the full set of user preferences is better than just a handful of disparate facts. End-users are the best source of information, though most complex products and websites have multiple user groups so it becomes even more important to get the all the facts, across the board, not only preferences but needs and wants, the full set of information helps to ensure consistency and accuracy before finalizing on a usability direction.
Usability must look nice
This will be a clear indication of misplaced priorities. The first goal of usability is efficiency and effectiveness while aesthetic value comes after a product has proven to be usable.
Usability can’t be measured
Before embarking on improving a product, its usefulness has to be measured in order to ascertain its efficiency and effectiveness. Several parameters are essential in carrying out an assessment in order to determine where and what to improve or change to get maximum usage. Before improving, a measure has to be taken so that the final product, when compared with the original, will clearly show the differences.
Ultimately, any effort to enhance the usability of a product or website will make a difference to the end user, the goal should be to make “human-made objects that are easy to use and learn.” see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usability for more information on Usability.