Mobile App User Experience Vs. Usability

The BTC Team

When it comes to mobile application user experience versus usability, the two aren’t poles apart. But there’s a subtle and often “goes-without-saying” premise about usability in connection with user experience. In this blog, we take a closer look at usability, how it impacts user experience, and why a great UX (User Experience) design doesn’t always mean that your app has implicitly passed the usability test.

The Idea Is Great – But What About App Implementation?

So, your designer came up with this brilliant idea that has everyone going “gaga” about the novelty factor and high UX design quotient it comes with. The prototype proved that it makes for a great UX because, “Hey, it’s intuitive!”

A couple of months later, you’re trying to use the actual iOS app in test mode, and you grumble as you try to get your finger to tap on that amazing-looking icon. Or, you have to strain your eyes to read the small font on a large-screen device.

This Is Where Intuitiveness & Usability Come Into Play

No matter how great the artwork and the ideas in UX design, at the end of the day, the user shouldn’t have to struggle to use it.

Perhaps the design didn’t scale up to the screen-size in development, or adequate attention wasn’t paid to the space given for a finger gesture.

Simply put –

  • Intuitiveness means that the user will know what to do.
  • Usability means that the user can use it on the first attempt.

(Note: Usability is best tested with new audiences.) Yes, that’s right — Neither your design/development team nor your QA (Quality Assurance) team should give the final verdict on the app’s usability.

Why Should You Rely On Someone Who’s Using The App For The First Time?

People who have already been in the project subconsciously know too much about the app to recognize genuine usability issues.

For example, you know what a button is supposed to do, so even without your realization, you’ll subconsciously try various actions aimed at achieving the expected outcome.

This isn’t true for new users who don’t know what they are supposed to see next.

However, an exception to this rule is covered in the next point.

The Scenarios

In most cases of apps that have a good UI (User Interface) and UX design to start with, the straightforward flow is what everyone focuses on at the prototype level.

However, not every functional scenario can be covered with a mock-up. So, it’s imperative that the dev team has an eye for UI/UX to ensure that the app gracefully extends design to all scenarios.

If lapses occur they can be caught in usability testing where you check to ensure that all scenarios are as easy to use as the default scenario.

Scenario-testing can be done by people already in the project and not necessarily by new people because only the former will truly know what scenarios are possible.

User Engagement As a Key Indicator

Users coming back to your app to perform the same tasks over and over again (e.g., shopping for apparel), is an excellent indicator of good usability.

Usability spells convenience, and people won’t be coming back if they can’t perform regular tasks quickly and easily.

User engagement is good even with utility apps that don’t have a great UI or UX, but where it’s easy to complete mundane tasks like paying bills.

This is how vital usability is, and how it “stands its ground” irrespective of design finesse.

Classifying Usability Feedback

One crucial aspect of beta testing or usability testing is to choose your user group carefully.

Be sure to choose a sample of your actual target audience. The group needn’t be too large, but it must be an active and focused one whose observations reflect real-world contexts of usage.

Ask each member to provide their feedback individually rather than in a group. This will ensure the collected opinions are unbiased and as diverse as they can be. It will give you a broader perspective regarding how the app is faring in the usability test.

Filtering feedback is as equally important. Isolated one-off points of input and feedback that lack knowledge of business-driven decisions are best left unused. For example, you may get feedback that says the app must be free for the first version. However, if there’s a good reason to have a price tag, let it remain this way.

This was a quick write-up on usability based on real experiences. Do you have insights based on your own experiences? Leave your comments in the section below.


What are your thoughts?

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