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What Is Usability?

We often come across challenges or difficulties when using a product, a machine or an interface that result from its design. This is what is known as usability, which is fundamental to the always difficult task of communicating with a device or a computer.

In its simplest definition it means “ease of use” and it is, generally speaking, universally recognized in many languages in the field of information technology. It addresses how complex or easy the use of a type of product (from a wireless phone to a netbook) is designed. According to the International Organization for Standardization, it is the extent 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.

Following this conclusion, we can go further to see that usability is defined on the basis of some key aspects:

1) How easy is a product to use the first time it is touched. This refers to the ease of learning.

2) How quickly tasks are performed once the design is learned. This refers to the efficiency.

3) How much we remember how to use the object after not using it for a long time. This aspect is the ease of recall of the product.

4) How much satisfaction we get by using the object. If it helps or hinders the work, if we would use it again.

Usability in language

Usability refers not only to the case just mentioned, namely the use of a particular product, but it can also be applied to other aspects. For example, usability in language and its implementation.

A clear example is the use of language on the Worldwide Web, i.e., writing on the Web. Writing on the Web is not just about writing correctly, but also about writing in a language or tone that fits the reader of this text: Worldwide Web consumers. Normally, there is very little time and space to write on the Web. Time because the user does not spend too many hours reading on the web and space because the space of the screen is not too large.

So how should we write for the Web? The list of indications is very long and I would need another post (or many) to share the small amount of knowledge that I have about writing on the Web. Just to give you some data, concentrate on the content of the text, on paragraphs, lists, the use of words in bold in headlines. Think about what you can do to improve the text with these elements and perhaps in our next post we can address other doubts.

(Versión en español: