The Importance of Learnability for User Interface Design Part 1

This is the first part of my two part blog post on the importance of learnability in user interface design.

One of the cornerstones of solid user interface design is to ensure the maximum usability possible for users of your website or software application. A user interface design could very well be pretty but if it’s unusable then users are bound to get frustrated and cross over to your competitors’ side. Another crucial component tied to usability that is gaining more and more traction today is learnability. In terms of user interface design learnability is when a user interface design is optimized to teach users how to use it. Pretty much every new user interface design we come across requires some level of learning it, however much the steepness may vary. The learnability of a user interface design is now even more crucial than ever as the computing landscape stratifies into various form factors.

Ever since the inception of the GUI user interface design has largely been based on the venerable desktop coupled with a mouse and keyboard. Today there are smartphones and tablets using a number of natural user interface designs as inputs. For smartphones the preferred mode of input has become the touchscreen, while voice control is also gaining in popularity. These all call for users to learn new ways of accessing their favorite websites and apps because not every user interface design element is going to be instantly usable. With the desktop there has been plenty of time for user interface design conventions to come to the fore. Many mobile devices apps have to arguably pay more attention to the learnability of their user interface design. Invariably this means making decisions such as which features to add to the default user interface design and which ones to bury in advanced settings. But even more than that how are your users going to be shown how to use the user interface design, by way of a tutorial for example.

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