What makes something easy to use? What process will set you up for success every time? These are the questions at the core of design usability.

Sometimes we (the end users) internalize poor design usability. If you’ve ever been frustrated with the way something works, you’ve probably been the victim of bad design. This is why design cannot happen in a vacuum (hello design thinking). Designing with usability in mind is designing for success.

If we imagine what can happen in a perfect world and create solutions for that world, our solutions will always fail, because they aren’t based in the lived experiences of the people they are meant to help.

For example, a logo that is difficult to read or does not reproduce well in many formats is poorly designed for usability. Consider the end user, but also consider what has to happen to get an item in the hands of the end user. Usability extends to the pain points that might prevent an organization from fully employing all of the materials and tools available to them. Knowing what you want your materials to do is just as important as having them in the first place.

Anyone else love to come up with perfect solutions while completely ignoring who they are in real life?!

For example, if I make a dinner date and know that it takes me an hour to get there, know that I don’t finish work til 6, the logical thing to do would be to plan for dinner at 7. But somehow I always think I can teleport and make the plans for 6. Totally unrealistic. Then I feel like I failed because I didn’t make it in time — but I set myself up to fail. Design takes into account real world limitations of the materials and people using them.

Usability is not just what the end user does, but what happens to get something in the hands of the end user in the first place. If we don’t think through the way we think and do things on a day to day basis, and work with our real limitations, we will never get our work into the hands of the people who need it the most — that’s usability. Literally, what is useable. What is doable. What’s realistic given the limitations of the circumstances we’re facing.