In a world where increasingly complicated and impressively named methodologies have yet to prove they’re not over-hyped, Usability is the less popular but refreshingly honest old kid on the block.
When UX killed Usability
It all started when Usability was pretty much replaced as a term (and wrongly so) by User Experience. Of course, a few years down the line, we now recognize that Usability is a hugely important component of UX, albeit not the whole story. It stands firmly at the root of UX and continues to play a pivotal role in any digital project, despite its relative fall in popularity.
Meanwhile, slowly but surely, UX made its way out of the design and development departments, up the corporate ladder, into the boardrooms and across the organizational chart. It became the subject of conferences and the star of key note speeches. It flooded the Internet with inspiring articles, videos and slide decks. It became the decision maker in meetings and the driver of innovation.
Thanks to its astounding performance, we no longer need to justify or fight for UX work.
It’s been undeniably successful in firmly placing itself on a par with most business functions. As it became stronger, it kept asking bigger and bigger questions and began borrowing tools and methods from other disciplines. It added more acronyms, it grew and expanded and joined forces with other fields.
Looking for the next big(ger) thing
Alas, it grew too big for its own good. UX is no longer enough. We now look to Customer Experience for the even bigger picture, we recognize the need for Product Designers and we spend days in Customer Journey Mapping Workshops, brainstorming and ideating.
We start suspecting we should be doing the next big thing, we feel the itch to branch out as we read about Design Thinking, Service Design and Industrial Empathy.
Increasingly complex, over-hyped frameworks and sexy-sounding methodologies are now all the rage. While most are still climbing the Peak of Inflated Expectations, good old Usability remains a refreshingly straightforward endeavor.
Back to the roots
Amongst this over-abundance of methods and tools and post-its, Usability remains quiet, reliable, poised; its role, more important than ever. It stands there, certain of the science behind its premises and the track record of its methodologies. Confident that its services will always be needed.
It has a simple, straightforward, no-nonsense mission, to make user interfaces more usable, more intuitive, more effective and more efficient. The problems it aims to solve are tangible and explainable. You can see and feel them, but also measure them with objective KPIs. It sets goals that are reachable, tackles issues that are resolvable and sensible. At the end of the day, you can describe to colleagues, clients -even your mother-, what it is you do. Its explainable and identifiable. It makes sense.
I love Usability, because it doesn’t set out to change the world, but when it addresses the right problems, it can.
It solves what seem like simple problems, with important consequences. It has an impact, an immediate, visible effect. Of course, it’s not simple. To understand Usability, is to be an expert in Human Factors, in Human Computer Interaction and Interaction Design. But it is a focused, defined and finite body of work. It allows you to go deep and master it, understand every detail of it and apply that knowledge to make a more usable web.
What an honest and noble cause.