Sunday, May 31, 2015

Outreachy week 1 - What is usability?

I wanted to point folks to this excellent start from Gina in our Outreachy usability project! In her post from week 1, Gina answers the question "what is usability?" and provides her thoughts on usability. She has described usability very well, and is absolutely correct that usability is about effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. And that users achieve specified goals in particular environments.

Another definition from Joseph Dumas and Janice Redish (A Practical Guide to Usability Testing, revised ed., 1999) describes usability as resting on four points:

  1. Usability means focusing on the users
  2. People use products to be productive
  3. Users are busy people trying to accomplish tasks
  4. Users decide when a product is easy to use

To ensure good usability, we need to engineer it into a product through an iterative design and development process, involve users, and allowing usability and users' needs to drive design decisions.

We can never settle on a design and say "this is good enough, it has achieved usability" because good usability is a changing, evolving expectation. What was considered good usability ten years ago may no longer meet the mark. And what we find has good usability today may not be considered so by our users in another few years.

That is why we need to keep performing usability testing at every release, and within the development cycle. We need that feedback from users who are trying to achieve goals in real scenarios needs. And that is what we will do during this cycle of Outreachy.

Great start, Gina! Follow Gina throughout the rest of our Outreachy project as we examine usability in GNOME.
image: Outreachy

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