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Blog > UX design > The Ultimate Guide—Difference Between Usability and User Experience

The Ultimate Guide—Difference Between Usability and User Experience

Dec 28, 2017 914325

User experience and usability are very close related terms in web or app design. However, the more technical terms people come across, the less they understand the difference, especially for the young designers.

So, even though this topic has been discussed in many posts, it is still necessary to clarify the differences between user experience and usability based on my years of research.

To make it clear, I shall discuss 6 aspects of differences:

  • Definition
  • Typical issues
  • Basic elements
  • Different goals
  • Design principles
  • Best examples

1. Definition

What is user experience?

User experience refers to a person's subjective feelings and attitudes when using or interacting with a particular product, such as a website or app. It can be affected by the UI functions, interactions, product brand, psychological expectation, and actual emotional feelings, etc. It is an indispensable part of product design.

What is usability?

Usability is an important quality indicator for interactive IT products/systems. It refers to the degree to which products are effective, easy to use, easy to learn, efficient,  error-free, and satisfying to users. So, it is mainly about the functional part of a product. In short, "Don't make me think" is one of the typical principles for usability design. Just remember to stop making usability mistakes as they can reduce your website conversions.

If you are still not clear about usability design, an introduction to usability can help you.

From the definition, we can understand that usability is only a narrow aspect of user experience. Usability focuses more on the functional aspects of a product. However, user experience is often concerned with nearly all aspects that can make users enjoy a product.

2. Basic Elements

Let's talk about the basic elements:

Four elements of User Experience

  • Usability: Is it easy to complete tasks?
  • Adaptability: Will people start using the product?
  • Desirability: Is the experience fun and engaging?
  • Value: Does the product provide value to users?

Four elements of Usability

  • Functionality: Can this product work functionally?
  • Learnability: Can this product be used without extra learning?
  • Flexibility: Can this product do extra things apart from the main tasks?
  • Design: Does this product look pretty?


3. Different goals

Usability: Is it easy to use?

For a website or app, the only goal of usability design is "easy to use".

In other words, when a product is intuitive and easy to understand, and users can easily complete any task in a few clicks, we often say that a product has high usability. However, if most users have difficulty in understanding the interfaces and functions, and a complicated process is involved in completing a task, we often say that a product has very low usability. If so, we often think that its usability needs to be improved.

User Experience: Does it feel good?

However, the concept of user experience is about the overall feeling that a user gets before, during, and after using a website. Usability is related to how easy it is for the user to complete a task while using the site; the user experience focuses on the user's perception of how the site interacts with him.

So, if users do not have a good feeling about a product, we often say that its user experience needs to be enhanced, including the functions, interactions, interfaces, and more.

4. Typical Issues

While designing a user-centered product, designers often analyze many aspects of a product.

Typical user experience aspects

  • Design and evaluate what the users do in the process of starting and ending interactions with the product.
  • Maximize the realization of the stimulus, recognition and arouse emotional resonance.

Typical usability aspects

  • Evaluate overall effectiveness and efficiency of the product, and consider it as a design goal.
  • Evaluate the degree of user comfort and satisfaction, and consider it as a design goal.
  • Design the product for ease of use, and evaluate usability issues.

5. Design Principles

There are a few basic principles that designers often adhere to:

5 crucial principles of website/app UX design

1) Usability first

The functions a product offers are often why people choose to use it. So, no matter what types of website or app you are working on, usability design is one of the top things you should pay attention to while designing UX.

2) Content is key

To make a product usable for everyone, the content in every page should be simple, short, and easy to understand. So, it is always necessary to spend a lot of time on page text design.

3) Pay attention to visual design

To provide users with a more enjoyable experience, a product should have good visual design. For example, you may need to create a clear, intuitive hierarchical layout, a beautiful or fashionable color scheme, an immersive video, audio, images, or other visuals.

4) Keep designs consistent

Design consistency is one of the most important factors that can put users in a good mood and give them a better experience.

5) Make users enjoy waiting

It is inevitable that you have to let users wait sometimes due to poor network or much page data. You can add a loading animation or progress bar to make users enjoy waiting.

5 crucial principles of website/app usability design

1) The 2-second loading rule

A product with high usability will not make users wait too long. So, to improve the usability design of your product, you should try your best to decrease the loading time of every page to less than 2 seconds.

2) User-centered design

Usability focuses on the functional part of a product. And the functions that a product should have often rely on the needs of users. So, always remember to design everything based on users' needs.

3) Manage errors correctly

Apart from main functions, you should also learn to manage errors correctly. All products can have problems. How you explain the problems and guide users to overcome the problems can make your product stand out easily.

4) Make CTA buttons clear

To help users buy a product or complete a task, CTA buttons help a lot. A clear and effective CTA button can definitely streamline the entire process.

5) Make easy-to-follow navigation

An intuitive and easy-to-follow navigation also helps users find their desired functions and information quickly.

Principles that both usability design and UX design should follow:

1) Testing

No matter what types of designs you are working on right now, continuous testing is one of the basic rules.

2) Accessibility 

These days, many people uses different websites/apps on their mobile phones. So, while designing a product, you should also pay attention to the responsive design and make it accessible on different PC or mobile devices.

3) Responsibility

Be responsible to your users and try to think from their perspective.

6. Best Examples

We've picked 5 of the best usability design and user experience design examples. They can enable you to have a better understanding of the differences between them.

5 best user experience design examples

1) Line Friends Online Store

Day and night view modes help highlight page content and reduce eye strain, often providing users with a pleasant experience. Line Friends Online Store is a considerate website which uses day and night modes to enhance UX effectively.

2) Bike Shop

To help users find their desired bikes quickly, Bike Shop uses seamless, immersive navigation interactions and animations to provide a cool user experience.

3) Explore the Space

Explore the Space has a very eye-catching hand-drawn design style that helps attract users and ease the entire browsing process.

4) Rate Your Ride

Rate Your Ride uses cute emojis to guide users to rate their rides and provides them with a different and interesting experience.

5) Tesla Mobile App

Tesla mobile app uses an intuitive, simple sidebar to guide users through the app, and know more information about their cars. It simplifies the user exploration process effectively.

5 best usability design examples

1) Baker Tilly

A poor navigation experience is among the top reasons why users leave a website. So, the navigation usability design is an important aspect that designers should pay attention to. Baker Tilly provides clear navigation menus. Every website visitor can have a fluent and pleasant navigation experience.

2) The Bazaar

The Bazaar has a cool accordion style navigation bar that simplifies the entire navigating process effectively.

3) Housing Search

Search usability design is another vital part that cannot be underestimated. Housing Search is designed with a powerful search bar that allows visitors to easily search for their desired houses quickly. It helps empower the navigation system of the entire website.

4) Bug Store e-commerce Website

Precise and well-formed website content helps explain website services or products clearly, and guides visitors to complete tasks easily. So, content usability design should be a focus of the design process. Bug Store e-commerce Website uses simple and clear hierarchical content design to enable users access information on the page quickly.

5) Useberry

As we've mentioned above, managing error messages correctly is an effective way to improve website usability. Userberry has a very interesting 404 animation design that helps visitors understand the error and guide them to browse the website smoothly.

So, user experience design includes every detail that can improve user experience on your website/app. However, usability design is a part of user experience design and covers everything that can help people use your website/app easily. They are different and also similar to some extent.

Extra Things You May Want to Know

1. Usability plays an important role in creating good UX

Products with good usability are convenient  and make users feel comfortable while using a product. It also reduces the possibility of users making mistakes while operating a product. If it arouses a good emotional experience and makes the user feel happy and enjoyable, then the user experience design of the product is good.

2. The Difference between Website Usability and Accessibility

Accessibility refers to whether a website is available and can be easily accessed by a normal person or even a disabled person. Accessibility testing focuses on testing if the website is accessible to disabled people and is compatible with various tools used by them.

Usability deals with how easy and intuitive a website is to use. If the users can use a website without any instructions, it can be called highly usable. Usability testing focuses on measuring the ease of use of a website. Remember, you should conduct a usability review before jumping into design.



Usability involves effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction enabling users to complete certain tasks as easily as possible. On the other hand, user experience covers a wider aspect of a user's interaction with a product. Hope you can get a clear understanding of the difference between user experience and usability from this post.


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Summer ye

In- house content editor, specialize in SEO content writing. She is a fruit lover and visionary person.

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