As the term, UX continues to catch hold and grow, some people are lamenting the demise of the term “usability”. Ecclesiastes says “It is not wise to say the old days were better than these”.
I’m happy about the change. As strange as it seems and contrary to some people’s recollection, it is not true that everyone understood what usability meant. And the word not being in the dictionary made it seem a made-up idea invented by eccentrics. The stigma was felt by those of us who were in the battle over the past two decades. Usability defined as “ease of use” often came off as whiney sounding. And that didn’t help.
“Usability” was often synonymous with “usability test”. I hated that. Testing is not “a usability”. It also earned a stigma among developers as being a lot of expensive consultants who show up after the hard work is all done to write giant reports elaborating on developers’ failures. Who needs it?
UX is broader, much more positive, and less whiney sounding. It is also more tangible and yet clearly broader than a user Interface (UI) design. A great “user experience” is what we create. The UI is just a means. Usability is an attribute, as is also fun, satisfaction, great performance, and other desirable objectives.
Also, UI is now being associated more and more with UI development. Its a wonderful skill and vital for us all. But let’s be clear, that is not the same as designing the user expereince.
UX is better understood and respected than usability ever was. These are the good old days.