Usability 101 – What Are The Basics?

To market effectively to web consumers requires marketing practitioners to have an increasing understanding of the core elements of .

A basic model of developed by Davis in the 1980′s is the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) – (some 62,000 Google search results!). Based on years of research on what influences an individuals propensity to accept or adopt a technology, it’s basics parameters are still fundamental today. There are many others, but let’s start here.

It identifies two core elements for usability:

  • – how easy something is to use – the level of perceived complexity or simplicity
  • - how useful something is – the core value it delivers over another channel, technology or tool!

What is the difference between ease of use and usefulness?

These two are not one in the same.

It is like saying that a push bike (cycle) is easier to use compared to a car (automobile) in how complex it is to use, however a car has more value (usefulness) to us in terms of distance travelled, number of passengers and protection from the weather than a push bike (cycle).

It sounds quite simple, but usability, especially in terms of complex interfaces such as web sites, social network sites etc is not that simple.

But how usable a technology is perceived, especially in terms of how much value they deliver compared to other channels, technologies, tools will most certainly have an impact on your brand and your market’s tendency to revisit and reuse your site.

What do we need to know about usability?

Now we understand the very basics. It is important to develop insights in the very least about what ease of use and usefulness means to the of our websites, systems, networks and technologies! Do they find it useful for communication, information search, transactions? Of Perhaps none of the above!

We also need to profile what influences these – is it age, income, education, gender … or is it more complex, such as experience, knowledge, usage context and user aspirations.

Don’t just skip over these questions until after your site is launched, ask your market, your users of the technology before, during and after system design and launch and ensure you listen to them, document their language and how they feel!

How do you gain this insight?

Very simply – talk to users, conduct a survey, hold a focus group or workshops during the system development stage and profile their usage of your site or other related technologies.

In this day of social web technologies, there are loads of technologies that can facilitate a dialogue about what makes a useful and easy to use technology or channel.

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