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Why Usability?

A significant portion of the world spends some time online each day. Many businesses and organizations have web sites to support the online population. A user's experience on a web site directly determines whether he or she returns to use the site again. Usability is a large portion of the experience equation.

Usability is a function of a number of factors including:

  • Ease of Learning
  • Efficiency of Use
  • Memorability
  • Error Frequency and Severity
  • Subject Satisfaction

Usability is known by many names, and you likely have heard of one, or more, of its synonyms which include: User Experience Design, Usability Engineering, Human Factors, Human Performance Engineering, and Human Engineering. Many of these titles are or have been popular 'buzz words' in the software and computer world. Ultimately, each name revolves around the experience the user has with a system, and, as some of the titles imply, have much to do with the design and implementation of a system.

Increasing the usability of a website (as defined above) can provide the following benefits for a site:

  • Increase Repeat Visitor Traffic
  • Increase Overall Traffic
  • Increase Sales (for commerce sites)
  • Reduce Abandoned Sessions
  • Increase Outside Links to the Site
  • Increase Worker Productivity (intranets and web-applications)

While many initiatives have been coined, evaluating usability is elusive. Most methods are extremely subjective and can be largely skewed by the "evaluator effect." Few methods or tools have been developed to assist in quantitatively evaluating the usability of websites.

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