Hey again, Visitor.  I wanta talk about the use-ability of products.  I think this should be pretty easy, but you never know.  Ready?

When we put humans at the center of our design projects, it changes our perspective.  One thing it should make obvious is that our products should be use-able.  There are several really important concepts, packed into that one little word.

Jeffrey Rubin is a human factors and usability expert who has written one of the most widely used book about this.  He includes these objectives for making a product usable:

  • Usefulness - a product should enable users to achieve their goal; it should facilitate the tasks it was designed to carry out;
  • Effectiveness - it should allow users to carry out the task more quickly (efficiency) or with fewer errors (accuracy), measured quantitatively; often called "ease of use;"
  • Learnability - it should be easy for the user to understand how to operate the product/ system after a pre-determined period of training; also it should be easy for the user to re-learn when returning;
  • Attitude - the likability of the product; user perceptions and feelings are usually captured through written and oral communication, or direct observation.

You can see there is a lot packed up there, right?

Most consumers want a product that is simple and easy to use. They want a product that minimizes complex controls and allows the product to be used with little instruction.  What product do you know that is an example of this?

This may help.  Here's a list of some characteristics that are considered to improve the usability of a product:

  1. Simplicity - how complicated is the product to use?
  2. Ease-of-use - a combination of efficiency and accuracy
  3. Intuitive - how to use the product is obvious to most people without instruction
  4. Low memory burden - using the product does not require the user to keep multiple items in mind at a time
  5. Visibility - what is necessary for the user to know or see is readily apparent
  6. Feedback - indications to the user that something happened (lights, sounds, feelings)
  7. Affordance - the fundamental properties that determine how a product can be used
  8. Mapping - when the controls physically resemble what they control, so they are more intuitive
  9. Constraints - when the product limits incorrect use through design

So, you should now have an idea of what usability is.  I'd like you to collect four examples from here on our campus at CAC based on your understanding so far.

  • Find two examples that demonstrate poor usability.  These could be products, parts of buildings, and so on. Post photos on your Portfolio and explain why they are poor, using specific terms and explanations from the list above.
  • Likewise, find two examples of good usability, according to the explanations above.  Post photos of these also, along with descriptions of why you feel they show good usability (using the list above).
  • Please save all 4 photos and explanations as part of one single post to your portfolio, then put a link to that post here.

Top notch, Visitor.  These are good aspects to keep in mind when you start thinking about a couple things.  There are likely problems all around you for your Design Project (IA) that have to do with poor usability, which you could improve.  This is also good to consider when designing your own project - how is your usability?

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