User Experience vs. Usability: How Can Startups Enhance Their Brand?

by Amol Kadam, October 22, 2012

When it comes to user experience and usability, both of these terms are still very new to this market, so it’s not surprising that people still get the two confused. Although the ideas are linked, here we’ll unpack the difference between the two to help startups understand what they should be working on.

Let’s start with some simple terms:

Usability is the measure of ease with which users can use the product, interface, or any other man-made object to achieve the assigned goal

User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the brand, its services, and its products.

So, usability is essentially part of the overall user experience.

Examples

Let’s say you are planning to order a camera from a local e-commerce website. The ease (or difficulty) with which you are able to use their website to find the product, get the information, place an order and pay online is depends upon the usability.

But, whether your order reaches on time, its packaging, the response from their call center, and all other communication points build the overall user experience that you have with the brand.

Here’s another example:

The fact that it’s difficult to understand the instructions and interface of your new washing machine is the matter of its usability, but the way you bought it, the way it washes cloths, and the customer service support comprise the overall user experience.

Usability Components

Ultimately the usability of any product, interface or physical environment can be understood by to these 5 components

  • Learnability
  • Efficiency
  • Memorability
  • Errors (Prevention and correction)
  • Satisfaction

Optimizing

Whether these elements are intact and the product, site, app, or interface has good usability depends solely upon its designers. Overall user experience is a bit more difficult and painstaking to perfect, as it involves people from all across an organization, including those focusing on implementation.

When optimizing, it might be best to start with usability issues and then work up to analyzing broader user experience.

While there has been an internet boom in the region, especially inciting a growth in e-commerce, how many of these new companies understand the importance of usability and user experience? If they do, how are they measuring it? In terms of e-commerce usability, here are few quick checkpoints:

  1. Conversions: Sites spend lot of money to bring users to the site, but in most cases they do not monitor the conversions from the homepage to actual transactions, assessing the steps where users drop out and the reasons behind the dropout.
     
  2. Conversation: Successful ecommerce site creates a bond with the user by talking to them in their language. For all of the errors, messages, instructions and everything that is written on the site.
     
  3. Check out your checkout: Data shows that most users dropout at the checkout stage. This could be because for many reasons: lack of payment options, difficulty in filling out the registration form, not having an account if that’s a requirement, or perhaps just the navigation of the shopping cart.
     
  4. Don’t develop the site before designing it. Most websites are developed by programmers(!). With due respect to their craft, one should understand that designing an interface is a specialized task. Even your print graphic designers or creative directors are not fully eligible to design an interface. Get professionals!
     
  5. Effective product search and filters. If the user knows exactly what they’re looking for, they will opt to use a search instead of browsing through categories and filters. The search feature on your site should enable them to reach to the desired location and should have all relevant filters to let them refine their results and give more controls and more freedom.

Aside from these there are other things like good customer service or online support, product images, and smart descriptions can go a long way to ensure better site usability.

In Sum

If you take a broader look at digital, overall in this region we feel that the most important issue is undelivered brand promise: Agencies and brands are great at creating a brand and generating good brand perception. What they neglect or fail to deliver on are their digital interfaces. Their website, mobile app, OOH interfaces (ATM/kiosk, etc) lack their personality and promise; perhaps this primer on usability will help! 

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Amol Kadam is Creative Strategist and UX Director at RBBi, the regions first and only UX / UI agency. He has 16 years of experience in the field of digital spanning over India, Singapore, and UAE. Before RBBi, Amol was managing a digital division for Fortune Promoseven and MCN for 6 years. With a design school background, he also has a master's qualification in Human Computer Interaction. Amol is also a certified usability analyst and is a registered member of Usability Professional's Association Worldwide. You can read more from Amol at www.amolkadam.com.

 
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