User experience (UX) and usability are related concepts in human-computer interaction, but they are not the same thing. For our clients and designers creating or rebuilding websites, apps, interactive kiosks, touchscreens and digital stands it's important to know the differences in order to create a product that not only functions effectively (usability) but also resonates with users on a deeper level (UX).
Usability is a measure of how easy it is for users to achieve specific goals when using a website, application or other digital product. It relates to the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction of a user's interaction with a product. Usability focuses on the design of the user interface, the clarity of the information architecture and the ease of navigation. It aims to make a product easy to use, intuitive and efficient.
Reviewing these objective usability goals will help a designer focus efforts on what matters in a website's design:
- Effective – how good is the website at doing what it’s supposed to do?
- Efficiency – the way the website supports users in carrying out their tasks.
- Safety – protect the user from carrying out unwanted actions accidentally.
- Utility – the website provides users the functionality to perform what they need or want.
- Learnability – how easy is the website to learn and use?
- Memorability – how memorable is the website from an interaction standpoint?
UX, on the other hand, refers to the overall experience that a user has when interacting with a product. It includes all aspects of a user's experience, including usability, aesthetics, emotions and perceptions. UX focuses on the entire experience, from the moment a user first encounters a product to the moment they stop using it. UX goals are also a great way to describe and focus the experience.
The list of UX goals can be endless, because they are subjective in nature. However there are few common examples can be divided into desirable and undesirable aspects:
- Desirable aspects such as flowing, satisfying, fun, rewarding, creative, helpful, pleasurable, stimulating and more.
- Undesirable aspects such as annoying, boring, frustrating, unexciting and more.
Interactive design aims to create a positive emotional connection with users through desirable aspects of the design, improving their satisfaction and ultimately increase engagement and retention. So typically you want to establish several desirable aspects as goals of your website design. Sometimes an undesirable aspect has to be present, such as paying a bill.
Here are common steps for UX and usability in regards to human-computer interactive design:
- User Research: Conduct user research to understand the needs, motivations, and behaviors of your target audience. This can include surveys, interviews, user testing, and analytics.
- Information Architecture: Design a clear and intuitive information architecture that makes it easy for users to find what they need. This includes organizing content into logical categories and using clear navigation labels.
- Wireframing and Prototyping: Create wireframes and prototypes to test and refine the user interface and user experience. This can include low-fidelity wireframes for early-stage concepts and high-fidelity prototypes for more detailed testing.
- Visual Design: Use visual design to create a consistent and appealing aesthetic for your product. This includes using color, typography and layout to communicate brand identity and enhance the user experience.
- Usability Testing: Conduct usability testing to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of your product's design. This can include testing with real users and gathering feedback on their experiences.
- Iterate, Test, Analyze: Continuously iterate and improve the design based on user feedback, testing and analytics. This can include making changes to the user interface, content or functionality of the product to improve the user experience and achieve business goals.
By focusing on both usability and UX in the design of digital products, businesses can create products that are not only easy to use but also provide a positive and memorable user experience that promotes engagement, loyalty and growth.