Friday, February 8, 2008

What is usability?

Usability is a process for measuring and improving the user's experience with a web site or application. Within the KWeb team, Usability begins with a focus on users’ needs, tasks, and goals. Usability requires that you change your mind set, and spend more time on initial research and requirements. Instead of starting with the design of the system, you start by identifying your target audience and observing them as they use an application to accomplish their tasks. You use this research to identify what the users needs are, what they want to accomplish, how their environment affects their behavior and identifying their priorities.
This process creates an emphasis on iterative design process. You need to develop applications in a prototype form, test the application with the end users – have them try to accomplish tasks using your prototype. Once you see the pain points, change the prototype to address those pain points and test again. Through a series of iterations you develop a product that solves real end user’s problems in a simple and intuitive way.
One way to describe a usable system is that it is easy to learn, easy to use, easy to explain and hard to forget. Think of a tool, software or hardware, that you enjoy using – which works well. Usability is a way of developing new tools that hit that sweet spot. It all comes back to measures – in order to make effective change you have to know where you are, know the effect of your changes and have a target goal in mind. We target improvements in task completion, task time, user satisfaction as measured by the System Usability Scale and a reduction in way finding errors.

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