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What is Usability?

Usability is the degree to which something - software, hardware or anything else - is easy to use and a good fit for the people who use it.

  • It is a quality or characteristic of a product.
  • It is whether a product is efficient, effective< and satisfying for those who use it.
  • It is the name for a group of techniques developed by usability professionals to help create usable products. See the Methods< section for more information.

Usability as a professional discipline

Usability, which is a dimension of User Experience practice, is an approach to product development that incorporates direct user feedback throughout the development cycle in order to reduce costs and create products and tools that meet user needs.

Two international standards define usability and human-centered (or user-centered) design:

  • "[Usability refers to] the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use." - ISO 9241-11
  • "Human-centered design is characterised by: the active involvement of users and a clear understanding of user and task requirements; an appropriate allocation of function between users and technology; the iteration of design solutions; multi-disciplinary design." - ISO 13407


In this section of the Usability BoK

History of the Usability Profession<

The profession has a deep history, responding to user needs in many domains since the early days of the industrial revolution.

Professional organizations<

There are a wide range of organizations that support user experience practitioners and researchers, as well as further disciplines that are more generally related to UX skills areas. Organizations are provided, along with links to their web sites if you want more information.

Professional development<

The UPA actively supports practitioner development, whether to hone existing skills, extend into new practice areas, or update knowledge. At the same time, there are other organizations that support UX professional development.


© 2010 Usability Professionals Association