When it comes to creating successful products, the concepts of product usability vs UX or user experience are often discussed and compared but the differences between the terms are rarely fully grasped. While these terms are related, they are not interchangeable, and it’s important to understand the differences between them when maximizing a customer’s experience.

In this article, we’ll define what product usability and UX are, outline the most important elements of each, compare and contrast the two, and explore which is more important for business owners. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how to create products that are both usable and provide a positive user experience.

What is Product Usability?

Product usability refers to how easy a product is to use and whether it allows users to accomplish their goals efficiently and effectively. It’s often measured by how quickly users can complete tasks, how few errors they make, and how satisfied they are with the product.

Usability is essential because it has a direct impact on how well a product performs, how likely users are to keep using it, and how likely they are to recommend it to others.

According to data from UserBrain, only five people are needed to test a website or application to find up to 85% of its errors and glitches. If more users are added to the test, the study they cite from MeasuringU highlights that the number of errors found per user on average will progressively diminish.

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The mobile-friendliness of an application or website is a key part of product usability. With over 60% of the world’s population currently owning a smartphone, it can be asserted that most users will pass on a website if it is not mobile-friendly.

Usability from this standpoint would refer to users’ ability to fully exploit the power of a website from their smartphones. If they are unable to adequately view the information they need or struggle to use some of the available tools, the website’s usability can be considered poor.

What Are the Most Important Elements of Product Usability?

what is product usability

To understand product usability, we have to dig deeper into the elements that make websites and apps useful and easy to engage with for people. Here’s a summary of the most relevant elements of usability that developers should consider:

  • Learnability: How easy it is for users to learn how to use the product. An intuitive product will anticipate users’ typical paths and queries and provide visual cues and even intentional guides and landmarks.
  • Efficiency: How quickly users can complete tasks. The number of steps needed to achieve the user’s goal will directly impact the product’s perceived efficiency.
  • Memorability: How easily users can remember how to use the product after a period of not using it. Non-professional digital products should typically be used by even those who are less comfortable with browsing the internet or engaging with mobile applications.
  • Error prevention: How well the product prevents errors and helps users recover from them. When filling out forms, going through multi-step workflows, and performing various subsequent actions, developers can create checkpoints that prevent the user from unintentionally crashing the product.
  • Satisfaction: How satisfied users are with the product after using it. Surveys are typically used to assess user satisfaction and opinions about usability.

All of the elements referenced above work together to create a product that is easy to use and meets the needs of its users.

What is User Experience (UX)?

User experience (UX) is a broader concept than product usability. It refers to the overall experience that a user has when interacting with a product, including how they feel about the product and the emotions it evokes.

UX encompasses all aspects of the user’s experience, from the moment they begin using the product to the moment they stop. It’s essential because it can have a significant impact on user satisfaction and loyalty.

So the debate is not necessarily product usability vs UX but rather how can the former contribute to improving user experience as it is an important piece of the puzzle.

The use of adverts in digital products is a great example of how user experience can be damaged by the inclusion of elements that are not considered by users. According to data from Digiday, advertisers lost approximately $35 billion in 2020 due to users’ decision to install ad blockers.

With so many digital products like websites and applications relying on ads to generate income, how these ads are displayed plays a relevant role in both their ability to monetize users and get them to reuse the product in the future by guaranteeing that they had a positive experience.

What Are the Most Important Elements of User Experience (UX)?

what is user experience

User experience is a compendium of elements that come together to make the users’ visit worthwhile. Usability is a part of the mix but there are other factors that make a website or app enjoyable. Here’s a summary of what those elements are:

  • Usability: How easy the product is to use. As readers may notice, usability is one of the key aspects of UX so the product usability vs UX debate is not necessary as one (UX) is relatively dependent on the other.
  • Visual design: How the product looks and feels. The better the design, the better the experience for the user.
  • Responsiveness: How quickly the product responds to user actions. Statistics from UX Cam indicate that 39% of users will stop using a digital product (website or app) if the images don’t load or take too long to show up.
  • Information architecture: How the product is structured and organized. Moving through the product’s features, tools, and sections, and completing its workflows should be a walk in the part – that’s what good UX aims for.
  • Interaction design: How users interact with the product. Products that are highly intuitive and provide a great experience in terms of reducing time-consuming tasks vs. expanding on those that the user finds enjoyable are typically more successful in UX terms.
  • Accessibility: How easy the product is for everyone to use. People who have disabilities such as hearing or visual disorders should be considered when designing a digital product.
  • Branding: How the product fits with the brand’s image and values. Designers have been playing a key role in shaping UX for quite a while now. It is now more than just programming a website to function properly, the visual aspect of the task is becoming more important as the number of options out there increases by the day.

These elements work together to create a holistic user experience that meets the needs of users and represents the brand’s values.

What’s the Difference Between Product Usability and UX?

While product usability and user experience are related, they are not the same thing. Product usability focuses on whether a product is easy to use and allows users to accomplish their goals efficiently and effectively.

User experience, on the other hand, encompasses all aspects of the product’s performance, including how the user feels about it and the emotions it evokes. Usability is just one element of user experience, but it’s an essential one. A product that is difficult to use will not provide a positive user experience, no matter how visually appealing it is.

Aside from usability alone, user experience (UX) as a discipline analyzes the visuals of a product, its ability to communicate the value of the brand, and how it can get users to interact with most of the features and tools available by holding their hands throughout their visit.

Is Product Usability the Most Important Part of Great UX?

Each business should choose its priorities carefully based on the intended audience and the project’s goals when designing a digital product. Product usability may be the most important part of UX to get right for some companies and products, but not all.

For example, an app that helps people book flights may prioritize usability over other elements of user experience because users want to complete the task quickly and efficiently.

However, if the product is designed to evoke an emotional response, then other elements of user experience should be the priority.

How to Prioritize What’s Best for Your Business

To prioritize what’s best for a business, it is important to understand the product’s goals and what users are looking for. If the product is designed to allow as many people as possible to best complete a task, usability should be the utmost priority.

However, if the goal is to raise awareness for a brand, create an enjoyable experience, or get them to buy goods online, the overall experience should be improved to the point that the time they spent on the website or app increases and they would like to return.

Hence, rather than resolving the product usability vs UX debate, developers should understand the dependence of both variables and learn how to improve usability to make the user experience better.

A product that is easy to use but doesn’t provide a positive user experience won’t be successful and the opposite may also be true.

If a developer is planning to design a mobile app for a busy professional audience, usability might rank at the top of its list of priorities. The app should be easy to learn and use, allowing users to complete tasks quickly and efficiently.

Think of calculators as an example. All of them accomplish their mission but how easy it is for users to add in the numbers and use the symbols and operators in the app. The easier it is for them to use it, the more likely it will be that the calculator will rank at the top of its category list in the mobile app store.

On the other hand, if the task at hand is designing a game, the user experience as a whole is probably what the developer should focus on the most. The game should be visually appealing, engaging, and fun to play. While usability is still important, it might not be the best primary focus. The game should be easy enough to learn and use, but not at the expense of the user experience.

It’s also important to remember that both product usability and user experience are ongoing processes. Developers should continually evaluate and improve both elements based on user feedback and data. By doing so, they can create a product that is both effective and enjoyable.

Bottom Line

Which triumphs in the product usability vs UX battle? The best answer is, none. Usability is an essential component of an incredible user experience. That said, while they are related, they are not the same thing, and it’s important to understand the difference between them.

By prioritizing the right elements for your product’s goals and users, you can create products that are both easy to use and deliver a positive user experience. Whether you’re designing an app, a website, or a physical product, keeping the balance between product usability and UX will help you create products that are both successful and satisfying for your users.