User experience, or UX, is often confused with usability; however, usability is only one of seven factors that influence overall UX. So what is the difference? Usability refers to how easy it is for users to use your site to accomplish a goal. UX involves the entire interaction users have with the site and what they feel along the way. If your site is easy to navigate but users can’t find it, it isn’t appealing, or it’s not practical, effective usability alone won’t make it successful in the marketplace. Therefore, it’s important to be thoughtful in how your product successfully addresses each of the factors that influence UX.
Useful – Your site has a purpose and meets a need
For your site to be useful, it must fulfill a purpose or meet the needs of users. No matter how novel it may be, without purpose, it will not succeed in the long run. Of course, purpose and need depends on your target audience.
Imagine what life was like before the introduction of the shopping cart (the physical one, not the digital one, although that would apply here, too). The need was to transport a large number of grocery items to the checkout to make grocery shopping more efficient. Before carts, shoppers were limited by the number of items they could fit into a basket.
Usable – Users can accomplish their goal effectively, efficiently, and intuitively
As mentioned above, usability refers to the ease at which a site allows the user to accomplish a goal, which involves the simplicity, effectiveness and efficiency of doing so. Interactions shouldn’t require a lot of thinking or effort, as it is well organized and intuitive. When it comes to websites, 94% of consumers desire one that is easy to navigate.
The wheels of a shopping cart make it easy to navigate throughout the store no matter how many items you add. Think about the frustration you experience when one of those wheels malfunctions; it takes more effort to operate and reduces the efficiency of the shopping experience. The more often a shopper has this experience, the more likely they will avoid the store altogether.
Findable – Users can find your site
Potential users simply must be able to find your site in order to use it. While organization is part of this process, the needs of the user should be at the forefront of your mind.
When grocery shopping, the shopper (or user) needs the cart before they start shopping. Stores purposely organize and place carts near the store entrance for this reason. If carts aren’t placed where and when they’re needed, shoppers would have to search for them in the parking lot.
Credible – Users trust that your site will be able to meet their need
Credibility involves whether users trust in the ability of your site to meet their needs. Of the approximately 250,000 products launched each year in the U.S., 85-95% fail due to the lack of users’ trust in the product, regardless of its quality.
With the shopping cart analogy, overall store credibility, not cart credibility, is lost if workers don’t provide a functioning cart. For shoppers to perceive the cart (and store) as credible, they must feel they can rely on the cart to hold items and last for the duration of the visit.
Desirable – Your site is physically and emotionally appealing to users
Sites that are desirable are those that appeal to our senses. This may literally involve our physical senses (e.g., whether the site is visually appealing, comfortable, clean) and emotional senses (e.g., whether the site makes us laugh, feel empowered or safe).
It’s arguable whether a shopping cart particularly appeals to physical senses, other than desiring a clean cart; however, transporting a hundred items at once empowers shoppers to shop efficiently, reducing time spent getting groceries.
Accessible – Users of various abilities can use your site
Sites will be most successful when accessible by all individuals. Approximately 13% of the U.S. population has a disability, 41% of which includes those at least 65 years old. The more your site is usable by everyone, regardless of age or ability, the more successful it will be. One of the most basic accessibility opportunities in app and website development is to include features that improve the UX for those with visual impairments, as this makes up over 53% of Americans 45 years old or older.
If a shopper has a physical barrier that makes it difficult to go throughout the store, adding a cart to the equation will make the shopping experience even more challenging. Thankfully, accessible shopping carts were invented!
Valuable – The benefits of your site outweigh the cost to users
A site’s worth, or importance, is determined by the cost of the problem it solves. The user must perceive that the benefit of the site outweighs its cost (not necessarily its monetary cost, but how much effort it “costs” to use it).
Shopping carts are valuable to both the business and the shopper. While store owners must invest in purchasing the shopping carts upfront, the long-term benefits will pay off, as customers will return to stores where they had a positive shopping experience.
In summary, although usability may be the most important factor that influences UX, a site that strategically addresses all 7 factors will optimize user experience, resulting in long-term sustainability in the marketplace.