What does usability actually mean?

I’ve been thinking about website usability lately, and this recent blog post over on Signal vs Noise really struck a chord with me. It’s the first time I’ve seen the idea of usability expressed so succinctly:

“It’s about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. It’s about looking into the future, foreseeing any potential obstacles, and removing them. And that’s a great way to get people on your side.”

I think when you get down to it, if you’re building a new website, application or physical product, those are the important things. Whatever you’re creating, it needs to be simple to use. Like my iPhone, it should just work.

That applies to copywriting too, of course. It’s why you should should always consider every sentence – every word, in fact – really carefully. First of all, is it necessary at all? Second, assuming it is, have you expressed whatever you’re trying to express clearly and succinctly as possible?

While I’m on the subject, I think Dare Obsanjo makes a good point about introducing new features to your product, service of website:

“If a user can’t find the feature, it might as well not exist”

I agree completely. You can cram your website full of information. You can make your product full of cutting edge features. But if poor usability means people can’t find that information or use those features, then really … what’s the point?

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