Usability Goal Setting

Learn different kinds of usability goals and a step-by-step procedure to set usability goals.

Every product that follows a human-centered design must include usability goals. Generally, there are two types of goals; qualitative and quantitative goals.

Qualitative usability goals

Qualitative goals are some general unquantified goals that act as a guide for product design. These goals are broadly stated and can not be measured. This might make it difficult to determine whether the goals have been met in the final design. An example of a qualitative goal for a highly interruptive environment should be that “the system should provide enough context information for users to remind them what they were doing and where they were in case they get distracted.” Some more examples of qualitative goals for various design system may include:

  • The system should allow group operations.
  • The system should provide consistency across pages and components.
  • The system should be self-explanatory and easy to remember to support complex tasks for infrequent users.

Quantitative usability goals

Quantitative usability goals are quantified, measurable, and objective goals. It is easy to determine whether these goals are met or not, which makes them fit to be used as acceptance criteria during the design evaluation process. An example of a quantitative goal could be that a search page should not take longer than 50 seconds to load a search result. Quantitative goals can be expressed as either ease-of-use goals or ease-of-learning goals depending on the user expertise level.

  • Ease-of-use goals: Ease of use is determined by the system’s speed, flexibility, and efficiency for an experienced user. For example, experienced users should take no more than 10 seconds on average to find a file in a folder.
  • Ease-of-learning goals: Ease of learning is determined by the effort and time required by novice or infrequent users. For example, a novice user should take no more than two minutes on average to sign up for a social media account.

Based on the type of quantification, the quantitative goals can generally be classified as either absolute or relative goals.

  • Absolute goals: These are the goals with absolute quantification. For example, users should not take more than 30 seconds on average to log in to their account.
  • Relative goals: These are the goals with relative quantification. The goals are evaluated based on comparative analysis with other products, platforms, versions, or processes that perform the same task. For example, on a new version of a social media account, users should take less time to log in than on the previous version.

There is another classification of quantitative usability goals based on the element that is being quantified.

  • Performance goals: These goals focus on quantifying user performance. Performance is measured in terms of time taken and errors made by the user to perform a task. For example, all the examples of quantitative usability goals we have seen so far can be termed as performance goals.
  • Preference goals: These goals focus on the users’ preference between alternative interface options based on the users experience. For example, users of a particular application prefer to read text with 50 characters per line. Even though the readability is best with 100 characters per line, this identified goal has importance and will be considered along with performance goals.
  • Satisfaction goals: These goals focus on user satisfaction with an interface. Satisfaction goals are subjective, unlike all other quantitative goals. For example, they can be measured on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 corresponding to least satisfaction and 5 to most satisfaction.

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