CX Insights

The Usability ABC – part 1

2 min read

I studied Information Design, and besides to my fellow students and people who work in the field, explaining what I do is not always easy. I believe it is not because really smart people study information design and others just naturally have a hard time getting it. It’s rather that Information Design belongs to a quite new field of studies which most people are not yet familiar with.

With a new field of study comes new trade language which demands to be explained. I decided to collect these rather new, usability-related terms, and offer brief and concise definitions step-by-step on our blog. Everytime I post new definitions, I will add them to our new page the ABC of Usability.

I appreciate any suggestions for terms that either you or your conversation partner had difficulties with to understand.

Let’s start with some basic terms:

Human Computer Interaction (HCI)
Obviously, HCI has something to do with people, computers, and interaction. Basically, it is all about how people use computers. HCI looks at human usage of interactive computing systems from multiple perspectives including computer science, psychology, ergonomics, and sociology. The main objective is it to bring users and computer systems closer together so systems can be used more effectively.
User Experience (UX)
The UX is the subjective feeling users get when using a product, system, or service. User experiences come from users’ individual perception of different aspects such as appeal, information content, accessibility, credibility, relevance, ease of use, etc.
According to the International Standards Organization (ISO 9241), Usability is the extend to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use. Now this is a very official sounding definition. In other words, good usability implies that users can easily use a product and by doing so, reach their goals quickly and without falling into dispair. Some aspects of usability overlap with the user experience of a system. Good usability should also include a good user experience.
Usability Engineering
Usability engineering basically comprises the execution of all aspects related to usability. However, it’s not about the design of a product but about creating computer interfaces that allow users to effectively and efficiently accomplish their goals. Besides, usability engineering links the challenges claimed by the user with often inflexible organizational processes.
Interaction Design
When we heare the term Interaction design, we might be tempted to believe that it is the actual design that we encounter on a website. However, while a graphic designer comes up with the visual design, an interaction designer is responsible for the dialog between user and interface. Interaction design comprises the conception and functionality of the interface which facilitates the communication between the user and the interactive system.
Sabina Idler
Sabina was technical writer & UXer @Usabilla for 5 years before she started her own UX research and consultancy firm; UXkids. With UXkids, Sabina leverages her academic research expertise, know how in child development, and strategic vision to help companies build successful digital products for children. You can connect with Sabina on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.