What is the Difference between User Experience (UX) and Usability?

User experience (UX), which used to be ‘look and feel’ in the 90s, has taken on increased importance given today’s software applications. But what about usability? Is it the same thing? In a nutshell, no.

Usability, as defined by ISO, reflects a user’s efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction in carrying out a specified task in a specified context of use. However, usability expert Dr. Nigel Bevan1 examined the ISO 25010 quality standard from the viewpoint of usability and UX and regarded usability as performance in use with satisfaction relating to user experience.2

hand pushing a button on a touch screen interface

Marc Hassenzahl, professor for “Experience and Interaction” at the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen, Germany, similarly classifies user experience in two categories, hedonic and pragmatic with hedonic referring to satisfaction in a broad sense while the pragmatic viewpoint deals with accomplishing tasks or doing things.3

The two are very similar and even interconnected, but usability and UX are not equivalent. UX is a much bigger concept that includes satisfaction and other intangible elements that usability alone cannot cover.

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1 Bevan, N. Classifying and selecting UX and usability measures, In Proc. of the 5th COST294-MAUSE Workshop on Meaningful Measures: Valid Useful User Experience Measurement, 2008.
2 ISO/IEC CD 25010 Software engineering — Software product Quality Requirements and Evaluation (SQuaRE) — Quality model and guide, 2009.
3 Hassenzahl, M; User experience (UX): towards an experiential perspective on product quality, IHM; V.339, Proc. of the 20th Int’l Conference of the Assoc. Francophone d’Interaction Homme-Machine, pp 11-15, 2008.

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