In software design usability is about focusing on those aspects that make software easy to use. It is separate from, although it does overlap with, the functionality of software. Usability does not ask the question "Does the software achieve its task?". Instead it asks "How well, and in what way, does the software assist the user in achieving his or her task?". Simply, is the software easy to use?
According to the guidance set out in an international standard (ISO 9126) the quality of the usability of software is defined by the level of effort required from the user in:
- Understanding the software
- Learning the software
- Operating the software
Essentially, usability is concerned with improving the quality of the interaction between the user and the system within the context of achieving specific goals.
By focussing on usability software designers are able to tackle issues such as:
- User interface quality
- Software ergonomics
- The performance and satisfaction of users
- The ease with which users can learn to use software
- The level and type of skills required by users
Springwater Software believes that usability should be a high priority in the software we design and build. We ensure that usability is taken seriously by practising a user-centred design approach and extending this through the use of "participative design" and by developing our knowledge of areas such as user support.