Usability and how to achieve it

Usable information design certainly incorporates how most people perceive and comprehend. But it's best known for taking audience concern to a deeper level—examining how each particular audience varies from others and within itself—and designing accordingly.

An understanding of usability, and how you achieve it in your designs, begins with its multilayered definition. The word itself—dissected into use ability—provides a clue, but leaves out the essential parts: the people and their experience. Usability is the ability of an object or system to be used with satisfaction by the people in the environment and context the object or system is intended for.

Let's focus on satisfaction for a moment. Being able to fill out an insurance form or get an online boarding pass doesn't mean the experience was satisfying. By designing an experience for your audience members that's as satisfying as it is functional, you'll improve their day and probably earn their loyalty.

Usability combines useful content with a presentation and format that lets the audience easily, even intuitively, navigate and understand it. And although you might hear the term usability used most commonly with Web sites, it's hardly limited to them. Consider the audience's experience in every project you design.

To ensure your projects are usable, strive to design information that encompasses what Whitney Quesenbery of Whitney Interactive Design refers to as the “five E's of usability.” ...

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