Having explored the basic nature of usability, along with the paradoxical nature of assessing it, and having looked at analytics and metrics of the concept, it’s time to broach the topic of key usability factors. These are the various aspects of the nature of usability – standards and attributes – which must be prioritized and addressed accurately in order to properly obtain solid usability by the goals at hand.
Without these usability factors, and understanding their importance and consequences, you will have no accurate measurement of how useable your design is in practical application. So, this is the missing piece of the puzzle in your picture of proper usability study, if you’ve been resolving this by the material we present. Below are five key factors to consider. Some of these may be familiar, as they are topics of other components of usability we’ve touched on, so never mind a wee bit of redundancy.
#1 – Consistency
Consistency is important to usability, because as someone uses a form or interface, whether it’s software or a website, they develop a learned pattern of how something works. Projecting patterns of expectation based on previous experience is part of human nature, and one of the things that makes us so innovative and clever.
Inconsistency in the layout of forms, the shape and appearance of controls, labeling themes and other aspects (colors and fonts among them) can hinder usability, because it will disrupt this natural intuition. This will hinder their interaction and speed of learning, and make them uncomfortable.
#2 – Speed of Recognition
Along with this, the ability of a user to quickly recognize different aspects of a design, and from that conclude what must be done to begin processes and solve any initial quandaries they may have is also important. While it’s natural that some learning of a system is always going to be important, the less that is necessary to get going, the better off everyone is.
#3 – Feedback
Feedback is important, too. When a process is being undertaken, and requires users to stand by (websites can do this, either during load times, or during dynamic processes), it’s important to indicate activity. Progress bars or some sort of activity to show that either the software has not frozen, or that the website’s load process has not timed out is very important.
#4 – Simple Aesthetics
Simplicity is bliss with aesthetics. It is important that the aesthetic look nice, but not be overly designed. Along with this, though, in simplicity, it is important that a design not be too stark or utilitarian. If a design becomes tiresome to look at, it makes long term use of the design less possible.
#5 – Accounting for Screen Real Estate
Screen real estate issues are a bigger problem in web design usability, but given the growing use of this as a software platform, it’s become a key factor. With the advent of mobile platforms (tablets, smartphones) being serious devices for work and web interaction, designing things to retain their practicality in various aspect ratios and screen limitations is important. This also goes along with making things friendly for more awkward interaction mechanics such as touch screens.
These are some of the key usability factors to consider, but they’re far from all of them. From here, what other factors come into play depend on the specifics of what kind of design you are working with.