Insights Blog UX vs Usability – What’s the Difference?


UX vs Usability – What’s the Difference?

It’s easy to confuse usability and user experience; often they are considered synonymous. Although both usability and user experience are a part of human computer interaction (HCI), i.e., the study of human interaction with computers, each has a distinct and specific focus and role in user interface (UI) design and testing. Customer happiness is a key success factor for virtually every organization; and therefore, it is critical to understand the role of each discipline in creating seamless customer experience.

In this post, we’ll gain an understanding of usability and user experience and how they both contribute to customer satisfaction by creating a seamless customer experience. We will begin by defining both usability and user experience and then review their implications to design and testing.

Usability is the measure of ease-of-use and learnability. It is about the ability of and the ease with which the users accomplish their journey’s through the application. The goal of designing and testing for usability is to create a user interface that is easy to learn and that allow users to derive the value they are expecting from your application, website or wearable in the most efficient and effective way possible. Usability is focused the aspects of the UI that affect the users’ ability to achieve the goal they desire to achieve through interaction with the website, application or device.

User experience is a much broader discipline. Don Gorman and Jakob Nielsen define user experience as “all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the Company, its services and products”. User experience encompasses the users’ thoughts, feelings and attitudes about your application website or interface. It involves the users’ perception of usability; examining how they view the efficiency and effectiveness of your user interface. Although user experience can be subjective, it is a value tool in HCI. It is also dynamic; user’s may constantly change their opinions of your application as features are added or removed or the context in which the user uses the application changes.

Clearly, usability is a critical part of user experience; and yet, the focus of usability is very distinct. Usability is focused on users ’ goals whereas user experience is focused on the entire experience. Since usability has clear goals, requirements can be developed and then used in design and testing. Usability requirements are not only functional but also include performance, reliability, accessibility and other non-functional considerations.

On the other hand, user experience is more difficult to quantify. Since user experience is subjective, what one user finds appealing may not be as appealing to another. The key t o designing and testing for user experience is a developing a thorough understanding of the users of your UI. The use of personas and user value stories can be invaluable in designing and testing for user experience. Personas are archetypal users who represents the values, needs and motivations of individual user groups. Developing personas gives the team insight into not only the demographics and background of the users, but more importantly into their goals, frustrations, personalities etc.

Creating a seamless user experience is truly a team effort. Incorporating the perspectives of all areas of the organization including business stakeholders, product owners, call center representatives, and operations specialists as well as the core development and testing team is critical in designing and testing for user experience.

A seamless user experience begins with usability; if users cannot meet their value goals from their interactions with the application, website or device, the user experience is guaranteed to be negative. However, a technically usable application doesn’t guarantee a delightful user experience.