Usability vs UX Design

Usability and UX Design are very often neglected, too often pages are designed by programmers and the results are there to be seen.

If you jump in the middle of a project and find such a situations a possible approach is “Let us work on usability immediately and begin something about UX Design when we do have time and resources”.

The usual reactions are skeptical faces and somebody comes out with “Usability does not exist anymore, has been killed by UX Design. I've read this in many articles and web sites”.

This concept is published in many articles but it is simply WRONG!

One of the most fascinating approach uses the metaphor of getting on top of a mountain. It says that usability is go via the more easy track and UX is using a the more difficult one.

In one case I go on top on the fast and safe way, on the other is much more difficult, but I have fun using my skills and have wonderful views of the mountain.

This is a wrong way of looking at the problem!

In reality which way to choose is in both cases a problem of UX (User's Experience).

We must start from needs and constraints: if you are not a climber the direct way cannot even be taken in consideration or if you want to go on top to perform maintenance operations to a radio repeater and need a lott of tools with you again the most fast and easy way, the normal track, will be the only reasonable choice. On the other side if you are a mountain guide and have some climbers customers to go on top with the most beautiful, but difficult, track will be the choice.

Once you have chosen which track to follow (id est which User eXperience) usability may, and must, be applied and must be applied to each one of the tracks! In the metaphor one possible aspect, but not the only one, of usability it is the choice of the most suitable tools.

We must start from the users, their needs and the constraints.

If I'm not a climber the direct way cannot even be taken in consideration or if I want to go on top to make maintenance to a radio repeater again the most fast and easy way, the normal track, will be the most reasonable choice.  On the other side if I am a  mountain guide and have some climbers customers I will reasonably choose the most beautiful, but more difficult, track.

When I was younger I was a climber: that tome we had only one type of karabiner, it was simple and sometimes too easy to be accidentally opened or to damnage the rope.

Nowaday there are several options and security has been greatly improved.

Amelioration of tools can be applied to all the type of sport activities. You may choose better tools even if you go up via the normal and more easy track, to tell it in another way you may improve usability usability!

Once alpenstocks where long wood sticks, nowaday we use much more modern and light aluminium one.

The bottom line is that it is NOT true that UX Design killed Usability, they are two different activities to be performed in two different phases of the project: they may influence each other deeply. UX without usability and Usability without UX Design usually takes to very poor page design.

To summarize:

  • User eXperience Design (UX Design) are not alternative, they are complementary
  • UX Design is giving to the customer the most delightful experience: from the user's point of view it answers to the question “Do I WANT to use IT”
  • Usability makes possible for the customer to reach their goals: it answers to the question “Can I easily use it?")
  • In a system UX Design could be done informally or as an heritage from the previous practices, is not a good idea, but is not a tragedy.  In some industries UX comes form common and consolidated practisces, adaptation to the new channels in anyway a good practice.
  • Usability MUST be done anyway ready to review it after UX Design has been approached.

UX Design and Usability not alternative, not conflicting: good design is finding an equilibrium!

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