The success of a website boils down to two primary factors: Usability and User Experience (UX). While some people believe that these two terms mean the same thing, they are actually quite different from each other. This article highlights the key differences between user experience and website usability to help you reach optimum levels of customer satisfaction.
Web usability refers to the easiness to use a website. Some aspects of website usability include lack of ambiguity, presenting choices and information in a concise and clear manner, and placement of different items in appropriate places.
The primary goal of a business website is to generate leads and deliver relevant information. However, if your website does not contain essential features like intuitive navigation, accessibility, and a pleasing design, the audience may find your website completely unusable. Given below are the main principles that contribute to website usability:
- Accessibility and availability:
The accessibility and availability of your site is a very basic, yet an important aspect. Your website might lose all of its worth if a user is trying to access it and it doesn’t work properly for any reason. Some basics of availability and accessibility include:
- Broken links: Make sure that your site does not have any dead links. Users immediately go back to Google search results if they see a 404 page.
- Server Uptime: Invest in good hosting to ensure the audience doesn’t receive an error while trying to load your site.
- Mobile Responsiveness: Make you website adaptable to slow connections and different screen sizes.
No one wants to be on a confusing website. Clarity is arguably the most important part of website usability. The more time it takes for a user to find relevant information on your website, the higher their level of dissatisfaction will be. Remember that your website is present to achieve a particular goal. Remember that a visitor comes to your site with a certain objective in mind. This could be as simple as looking for contact information or as complicated as ordering a product. Either way, if your website does not achieve its goal with clarity, there is high chance that the visitors will never come back again.
Here are the key aspects that contribute to a clear and usable website design:
- Simplicity: You do not have to overcomplicate things, instead focus on what is important. A simple but clear website that achieves its purpose is much more meaningful to the user than a beautiful but complex one. Make sure that nothing on your website distracts the user from their path.
- Familiarity: While innovation is always welcome, it is always best to stick with formats and designs that people are familiar with. There is no harm in looking at popular websites from your niche for ideas (just do not copy them!).
- Consistency: Consistency is key to producing a clear website design. Make sure that the layout and content are consistent throughout your website. A consistent experience will ensure that the visitor’s mind is at ease during their time on your website.
- Guidance: No one today has the time to explore a website in search for information. As a website owner, you need to guide the visitors on your website to the information via tools such as navigation menus.
- Direct feedback: There has to be a way for visitors to interact with you via your website. Feedback is essential because it strengthens the bond between your business and its consumers. It is also a good way to learn what parts of the website do the customer like and what they dislike (so that you can improve on it).
- Intuitive design:
Learnability is the next most important part of website usability. Your goal should be to design your website intuitively so that visitors do not have to spend a lot of brain power. The entire purpose of an intuitive design is to create interfaces that do not need instructions and provide information that is simple to understand. The key here is to build on what people already know. For instance, people are now familiar with most design concepts (and website layouts) used on the internet today. You can use these and adapt them to your own business so that the audience can absorb information more easily and quickly.
On the other hand, if you are looking to be innovative with the design, there is no harm in doing so. Just make sure that any new features added to the design should be consistent with the rest of the design. In short, keep it simple and make it visual.
- Creditibility and relevance:
When people visit your website, they are looking for credible and relevant information. Your website is worthless and practically useless if it is not providing information that the user wants or believes. Remember here that the amount of information that available on your website is not as important as the quality of information being provided. Your website’s reputation and success are directly dependent on how credible and relevant the information on it is to the target audience. Remember that if a user finds anything wrong or incorrect on your website, not only will they stop visiting your website but leave back a negative review as well.
Make sure that the content available on your website is perceived as trustworthy by the audience. How? Be honest with what information you are providing and be precise. Avoid making grammatical and punctual errors in the content because that can be misleading. Also avoid using filler content on your website. Remember, quality over quantity. Even if it is concise, make sure that the information on your website is credible and relevant for your customers.
User Experience (UX) is described as the feeling that users have when they seek to accomplish a task on the website. For a company’s website, it is essential to provide positive user experience to ensure that the visitors turn into leads for the business. The ultimate goal of a business website is to promote sales of the products and services on offer. To do so, a website has to leave a lasting impression on its visitors. A positive user experience is generally defined as the means of delivering the right information, to the right customer, at the right time.
Your website’s goal is to convey information to the user and accomplishing this task is good usability. However, the user experience is how well you provide this information to the visitors. For instance, a website that provides good user experience would have a visually appealing website with content laid out in a manner that is easily digestible for the user. Without the features for a positive user experience, your website will be boring and dissatisfying. This means that the audience is likely to leave your website to look for information elsewhere.
Now that you know what exactly the user interface is about, let us move on to the requirements for positive user experience. The first and foremost requirement is to meet the needs of the user without causing them much of a bother. In usability, the requirement is to fulfill the website’s goal, while in user experience, the requirement is to satisfy the user. This is the key difference between the two terms. In order to provide exemplary user experience, you need to seamlessly merge development, marketing, and design to make sure that the customers have everything available right at their fingertips.
To help you understand this better, here are the fundamental principles of user experience:
- Context: A website is an entire book of information. Consider the visitor’s journey on your website as a storybook. Every word in every sentence on every page should have meaning that contributes to the message that you want to send out to your audience. The title of your website should be brief but clear, it should give an idea of what the site is about and what information it will provide.
- Transparency: Interacting with machines can be a difficult task for most. We, as humans, feel naturally more comfortable interacting with humans than we do with machines. This is why you should make sure that your website is approachable, interactive, and trustworthy. Transparency is key because you do not want the user to feel uncomfortable while browsing through your website. Ask your developer and designer to provide human-like interactions over machine-like interactions.
- Ease of use: The entire purpose of browsing for information online is so that you have to make minimum effort. Instead of increasing the user’s cognitive workload, you should try to make everything as easy as possible for the user. For providing good user experience, make sure that the user does not have to make an effort. Avoid placing useless jargon (such as ads) on your website that does nothing but distracts the user. Be consistent and clear, establish a sensible visual hierarchy that is easy to navigate through.
A COMPARISON OF USABILITY AND USER EXPERIENCE:
Once you have a clear definition of what usability and user experience mean, it is time to understand how to distinguish between them. Usability is generally restricted to how efficient the website is at delivering a solution. The user experience, on the other hand, is a broader concept, that incorporates the feel of your website and how easy it is for the user to accomplish something on it.
To draw a clearer boundary between user experience and usability, let us take a practical example. The purpose of a vehicle is to take you from point A to point B. If a vehicle is able to do that, it is usable. However, this does not account for how comfortable you are with the vehicle itself, that is what user experience is. The seating, appearance, drive, and comfort of the vehicle are all aspects of user experience. While almost every vehicle is usable, it does not necessarily provide positive user experience. Another thing to note here is that user experience varies from individual to individual. For instance, if you like a particular vehicle and enjoy driving it, that does not necessary mean everyone else will too!
The same rule applies for the usability and user experience of a website. Even if you have a website with high usability, it does not necessarily mean that your visitors have a positive experience of using it. Generally, your focus should be based on providing flawless user experience, but remember that if your website is not usable i.e. if it fails to achieve the task it was created for, it is practically useless!
The list below highlight the key differences between user experience and website usability:
- Definition: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has different definitions for both the terms. According to ISO 9241-11, usability deals with the effectiveness, satisfaction, and efficiency with which users achieve their particular goals while ISO 9241-210 states that user experience is everything related to the user’s experience as they interact with the service, product, or environment.
- Aim: The purpose of usability is to ensure the website useful and productive for the user as they seek to achieve a goal on the site, while the purpose of good user experience is to ensure that the user is happy as they use the website. Usability is most usually modeled as “Can a user accomplish their objective easily?”. User experience is modeled as “Will the user have a satisfactory experience as they reach their goal?”. Essentially, the perfect website incorporates both usability and user experience.
- Definition as a metaphor: There are numerous metaphorical representations of usability and user experience. Some believe it to be art i.e. user experience vs. science i.e. usability. Others say that the usability is a freeway (as to how simple it is to achieve) while user experience is a twisted mountain path (that is complex and confusing but it looks beautiful). The freeway is more usable if you wish to move from one place to another but it is boring while the mountain path is less usable but provides the ideal scenery for the journey. This is exactly how we illustrate usability and user experience in their own. As a business owner, your goal is to make your website interactive and responsive without compromising on the usability.
- Resources Required: There is a difference between the resources required for integrating usability and positive user experience in your website. Usability requires the efforts of employees that produce content and work on the user interface of the website. On the other hand, user experience needs the collaborative effort of different departments such as engineering, interface design, marketing, and graphical design to perfect.
- Impact: While usability is something that every website must have, the user experience is something that not every website owner focuses on. This is why user experience has a great impact on the brand-user relationship. The more effort you make on building up a positive user experience for your website, the higher the chances of converting your visitors into customers.
- User interface (UI): Usability and user experience both have a different influence on the UI. A usable interface is one that is simple and intuitive. An interface that aims to provide good user experience, though, is one that is pleasing for the user through helpful and interactive elements. Typically, your website designer will study your brand’s requirements and draw up an interface design that ensures positive user experience and usability.
- Ability and emotions: Usability is the ability to perform a specific task on a website. For a business, this is the ability to find, understand, and use information quickly and easily. An ideal website is one that is easy to access and navigate through with any device. User experience, though, is the emotion felt when a user interacts with a brand’s website. This includes the satisfaction and feelings that visitors have when they are on the website. The content, visuals, and responsiveness of the website all contribute to the user’s emotions.
GOOD USABILITY VS. GOOD USER EXPERIENCE:
Good usability means that your website is easy to use, simple to understand, and intuitive in design. The goal of a website with good visibility is to limit the obstacles that are present between the user and the information. This is done by ensuring that there is a visual hierarchy and consistency on the website.
After you have made sure that your website has good usability, the next step is to work on providing a positive overall user experience. The issue with good user experience is that it requires thorough research on the target audience to understand what their likes and dislikes. You need to know exactly what makes the visitors happy and what interests them to deliver the right content, to the right customer, at the right time.
In conclusion, the fundamental goal of a website is to deliver quality content to the audience when they need them. A successful website is one that makes everything seamlessly easy for the user. From finding information to ordering products, everything should be made possible through simple and easy steps. This is where usability and user experience come hand in hand with each other. To build the perfect website, you need to understand that your website needs to provide an impeccable user experience with good overall usability.