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Usability criteria faves

Article Reading Time: 2 minutes

A long time ago in the 80’s a decade of mullets, big hair, green computer screens, and a young Mr Jobs taking on big blue, usability engineering with the rise of the computer industry became prodigious and mentioning Mr jobs it was actually his company that popularised the use of usability, at a little known startup called apple, step in Jacob Nielsen and the apple human computer interface guidelines.

Usability was used as a means to aid the testing of a computer system against the end user for criteria such as efficiency and user friendliness, and arguably can be dated back to further historical achievements in computing and technology at large.

Several key concepts of usability exist and stay in use to present day:

  • Learnability – How easy is the interface to learn?
  • Memorability – That a user only needs to visit use your system e.g. website, mobile app once to make it memorable

Here is one of our favourite examples of later added criteria but with of course a message to all designer’s deep at the heart of its roots and a concept often used in the teaching of many HCI students:


So lets say we work at a well known cartoon family’s nuclear power plant.

The system errors that controls the plant, everyone’s under pressure yet how is the user protected from making the mistake of pressing the wrong button so the plant goes into melt down?

How do we as UX people, businesses and designers developing software and hardware safely and compensate for this concept?

That’s right we design for safety. In example of a less than suttle approach you may do something along the lines of this:

Big computer screen message: ‘are you sure you want to go ahead and cause a reactor meltdown. Yes / No?’.

Here we’re giving the user a second chance to think about what they’re about to do and why?

Well………..Other key factors offer that understanding in this example Steve Krug’s infamous phrase ‘don’t make me think’ is demonstrative of how a typical user approaches a system. A system should be a tool, it should be a means to an end, but the user doesn’t want to think about how to use the system they just use it.

Usability and its many criteria is key to getting the design process right no matter what type of device your designing for or who the intended user is and we can certainly help your business get on the right path.