Usability Glossary

Our glossary contains descriptions and definitions for over 150 terms and titles used in the user experience industry.

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

A/B testing

A/B Testing is a method of presenting two design alternatives to two separate but similar sets of users/consumers to establish which is preferred.

Accessibility

Accessibility refers to the ability for any person, in any circumstance, using any device to access content on the web, including people with disabilities and is of increasing concern to organisations for financial, moral and legal reasons.

Accessibility Audit

Accessibility Audit is a service name for the process of evaluating a website for accessibility. Typically an accessibility audit provides an in-depth evaluation of a website’s design and technical implementation against web accessibility guidelines (e.g. WCAG 2.0) and other guiding principles.

Accessibility Evaluation

Accessibility Evaluation is a service name for the process of evaluating a website with real users to establish whether it is accessible for people with disabilities. It is generally carried out with a wide-range of users with disabilities. Testing with users identifies key areas of difficulty and confusion with a websites content, structure, design and interactive features and provides actionable recommendations to improve the online experience for people with disabilities without hindering usability for everyone else.

Accessibility Training

Accessibility training is a course that provides developers, designers and content editors with the knowledge and skills necessary for iterative implementation of accessible websites and applications and knowledge of how best practice can transform the online experience for people with disabilities.

Active Listening

Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to demonstrate the act of alert, intentional hearing in order to extract the meaning from what the speaker is saying.

Affinity Diagramming

Affinity Diagramming is frequently used following a brainstorming session as it is a technique for organising and synthesizing large amounts of data and ideas into more meaningful categories.

Affordance

In usability terms Affordance refers to an objects characteristics in relation to its function. For example, a well-designed button will look like it should be pressed or clicked. The button exhibits high affordance.

Agile development

Agile development is a light weight or rapid software development framework. The framework allows for rapid but short cycles of development that create entire design elements.

Agile usability

Agile usability is the method by which usability testing and user experience techniques in general are integrated within the agile development process.

B

Benchmarking

Evaluate something, such as a user interface, against a standard or external comparator such as when comparing a website with a competitor.

Blind voting

Blind voting is where the votes from each person included in the poll remain hidden or secret until all votes are cast.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is where a group of people (generally more than one) gather for a spontaneous or organised discussion about a subject in order to generate ideas and solutions.

C

Call to action (CTA)

A call to action (cta) is a message that invites a reader, user or consumer to take an action such as download, buy, read.

Campaign optimisation

Campaign optimisation is a set of rules, generally acted upon by campaign optimisation software, that attempt to deliver a positive outcome from an ad campaign either against a business objective (i.e. cost per click) or in relation to a conversion funnel (i.e. budget spend against conversion).

Captology

Captology is the academic study of computers as technology for persuasion - persuasive technology.

Card sorting

Card Sorting is a user-centred design methodology used to inform the design of an information structure. It is a reliable method for finding patterns in how users would expect to find, navigate to, group and label content. Analysing these patterns can provide valuable insights in user’s mental models, that is, their thought process for how something works in the real world. Card sorting involves users ‘sorting’ cards into groups that make the most sense to them. There are two different types: an open or close card sort.

Chunking

Chunking is the method of taking small groups or information and organising them into larger more familiar groups.

Closed card sort

See card sorting. Closed card sorts are used to verify existing information structures.

Closed questions

Closed questions are those that require only a yes or no response when answered.

Co-creation

Co-creation is the method by which products, services and processes are created with the involvement or the originating company/organisation plus customers or users and other third parties, such as agencies. The process can often be led by a design agency on behalf of a client.

Co-creation workshop

A Co-creation workshop is a group session attended by multiple stakeholder groups in order to solve a problem or create a solution.

Cognitive attention

Cognitive attention is a measure of the mental effort expended in order to selectively concentrate on one aspect while ignoring other things.

Cognitive walkthrough

Cognitive walkthrough is a usability method carried out by a trained professional who attempts to identify usability issues by mimicking the actions of a user.

Competitor analysis

Competitor analysis in strategic terms is a technique used to evaluate and identify the marketing and business strategy of competitive brands, businesses and products. In user experience terms it is applied to identifying and analysing competitors web, mobile or digital strategies.

Competitor benchmarking

Competitor benchmarking is the process by which a company or organisation compares itself with relevant market competitors at a product, service or process level.

Content marketing

Content marketing is a collective term for the forms of marketing that involve the creation of content such as white papers, guides and case studies for sharing and distribution into the market.

Contextual inquiry

Contextual enquiry is a type of interview technique that is semi-structured and designed to gather data from users. It is carried out by way of a one to one interview between interviewer and interviewee and the goal is to capture as much data as possible for analysis later.

Conversion optimisation

Conversion optimisation is a process applied to a web funnel and designed to maximise the total number of web visitors who complete a desired action whether that is purchase, download or other.

Conversion rate

Conversion rate is the percentage of users or visitors who complete an action out of the entire population that began the process.

Critical Incident Technique (CIT)

The Critical incident technique is a set of procedures designed to capture observations about human behaviour usually as a result of a user telling a story about an experience they have had. A critical incident is considered to be one that has had a material impact either positively or negatively on an activity.

Customer analytics

Customer analytics is a process used to evaluate data gathered as a result of customer behaviour and to make decisions based upon the analysis carried out.

Customer centricity

Customer centricity refers to companies that select a strategy focussed or built upon a specific orientation toward its customers and prospective customers.

Customer experience management (CEM)

Customer experience management is a strategy and process for managing all the experiences and interactions a customer has with an organisation over the duration of their lifetime as a customer or user.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

Customer relationship management refers to a set of strategies and processes for managing the relationship and interactions between a customer and an organisation.

D

Dashboard

A Dashboard is a simple visual representation of often complex data sets designed to make understanding and decision making easier.

Demographic/s

Demographic relates to how a population is structured and is used in user experience when defining participant profiles.

Depth interviews ("Depths")

Depth interview is the term used in user experience and market research to describe an individual interview - i.e. one to one between an interviewer and a participant or interviewee.

Diary Study/ies

A diary study is a method for collecting data from research participants over a period of time. Participants literally make notes in a diary about their experiences although with the advent of the smartphone device digital information capture techniques are frequently employed.

Digital analytics

Digital analytics is the capture, measurement, analysis, reporting and visualisation of data from any digital source and used to optimise channels.

E

Effective

Effective in the context of user experience is one of three terms used to define usability (the other to being satisfaction and efficiency). Effectiveness refers to a user’s ability to achieve their goals accurately and completely.

Efficient

Efficient in the context of user experience is one of three terms used to define usability (the other to being satisfaction and effective). Efficiency refers to a user’s ability to achieve their goals with the minimum cognitive load.

Electroencephalography (EEG)

Electroencephalography is the recording of electrical activity along to scalp believed to indicate changes in emotional state.

Emotional attraction

Emotional attraction is the level with which a user records how positively or negatively attracted they are when measured using EEG.

Emotional engagement

Emotional Engagement is a measure of the level of visceral activity during an experience measured using EEG.

Engaging

Engaging in the context of user experience is the level with which a user or customer is emotionally connected with an experience.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the study or science of understanding the interactions between humans and systems, products or equipment.

Ethnography

Ethnography is a method used to capture information about behaviour in the context of people’s real world environments. It can be used to obtain unarticulated needs, motivations, and drivers to develop innovative designs. Ethnography is an effective user research method because it gives insights into the elements that constitute an overall customer experience. It is also useful in helping to map and explain the relationships between the elements of the whole customer experience.

Experience design

Experience design is the approach for designing systems, products, processes, services, interfaces and more with emphasis on the experience the user will have at the forefront of the design process.

Eye Tracking

Eye tracking is the online tracking of people’s eye position whilst they are engaged in a particular task. Eye tracking is a very powerful and sophisticated tool that provides a direct measure of online thought processes and unconscious behaviour. Eye tracking provides rigorous quantitative measures of attention. These can be correlated with task completion time, error rate, success rate, backtracking rate and other indicators of an interface’s efficiency and used together results from usability testing or as a standalone tool to tackle specific issues.

F

Facilitator

A facilitator in the context of user experience is a practitioner present during workshops, meetings, focus groups or one to one sessions who makes progress in the right direction easier.

Feature inspection

Feature inspection is the process by which analysis of a website is carried out using end user scenarios focussed toward the specific features rather than the whole site.

Field work or study

Field study in the context of user experience is where research is carried out "in the field" i.e. outside of the office or laboratory environment and often in the users context.

Fishbone diagram

Fishbone diagrams are a method for presenting cause and effect information and were developed by Kaoru Ishikawa.

Fitt's Law

Fitt's Law is a model that helps designers place and position the size and location of user interface elements for their optimal utility.

Flow diagram

A flow diagram or flow chart is a visual representation of a series of steps in a process that explains how the process works.

Focus groups

A Focus group is a 1 to 2 hour session held with a group of representative users or consumers facilitated by a researcher who guides the discussion about a specific product, service, system, brand or interface.

Folksonomy

A folksonomy is an information classification system where the outcome is derived by collaboratively sorting information with the user base.

G

Gaze path

Gaze path refers to the path taken by a user’s eyes and captured using eye-tracking technology.

Gestalt Principles

Gestalt principle is also known as the law of simplicity and concerns the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and that people tend to perceive things in their simplest form.

Guerrilla usability testing

Guerrilla usability testing is a method for carrying out rough and ready usability testing by applying the core principles but not going to the expense of employing an agency, using labs and creating a detailed usability report.

H

Heat map

A heat map when produced as a result of eye tracking is a visual representation of data that uses colour to explains the area’s most frequently looked at by a user. Red indicates a high frequency of attention with degrees to white representing lower levels of attention.

Heuristics [usability]

Heuristics in the context of user experience are the ten best practice guidelines published by Jakob Nielsen to help guide usability assessments.

Hi fidelity [prototype]

A hi-fidelity prototype is one that is quite close to the final design and contains a considerable amount of detail and functionality. It is sufficiently well formed to allow for rigorous testing with users.

Hick's Law

Hick's law, sometimes referred to as Hick-Hyman law, is a model for measuring human reaction time based on the number of choices presented to them. Hick's law states that the time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of design alternatives increases.

Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

Human computer interaction (HCI) is the scientific study of the interactions between people and computers.

Human Factors

Human factors refers to the science that concerns itself with designing elements of systems to optimise human well-being and overall system performance.

I

Ideation

Ideation refers to a process or method for forming ideas or concepts.

Industrial Design

Industrial design uses both applied art and science to improve the aesthetics, functionality, ergonomics and or usability of a product.

Infographic

Infographics or information graphics are visual representations of information or data designed to communicate complex or detailed information simply and contextually.

Information architect

An Information Architect is an experienced professional that practices information architecture.

Information architecture

Information architecture is the art of expressing a model or concept of information used in activities that require explicit details of complex systems.

Innovation

Innovation is process of developing or introducing something new.

Interaction design

Interaction design is the process of designing and developing digital items and interfaces to enhance their use by people.

Interface

An interface is the point at which a person or user comes in to contact with an organisations systems, processes, products or services.

Interview

An interview is a consultation between people face to face, generally one to one or one to many.

Iterative Design

Iterative design is a process that refines a design over time by using repeated stages of prototyping, analysing and refining.

K

Key performance indicators (KPI)

A KPI is an ultimate measure of performance on a defined dimension and measures a material impact on the outcome.

L

Learnability

Learnability is the ease with which users are able to complete or accomplish tasks on the first time they encounter them.

Likert Scale

A Likert scale is a scale commonly used in surveys and market research questionnaires. A typical Likert scale contains five possible answers to a question.

Lo fidelity [prototype]

A lo-fidelity prototype is one that is some way from the final design but allows ideas to be captured, visualised, tested and discarded or retained at low cost and in a short amount of time.

Localisation

Localisation in the context of user experience means the degree to which design, language, terminology, features and functionality are adapted for a specific market.

Log files

A log files is the data recorded by a web analytics package about the interactions between a user and a website.

Long tail

A long tail is a statistical term that refers to a probability distribution where a larger share of the population rests within the tail than normally would. In simple terms it describes sales that are made on products not commonly sold that can return a profit due to the reduced marketing and distribution costs.

Longitudinal Study

A longitudinal study is a technique typically used in market research where repeated observations of the same experience or item are carried out over time.

M

Market research

Market research refers to the industry and profession that gathers and analyses information about how consumers use, interact with, perceive and consume goods and services.

Marketing optimisation

Marketing optimisation refers to the systems and processes required to maximise a marketing process in order to deliver a specific business outcome.

Mind map/ping

A mind map is a visual representation through a diagram used to represent the thoughts, words, ideas, actions or other aspects linked to or arranged around a key word or idea.

Mock-up

A mock-up is a full specification or full size representation of something which has been built for testing or analysis.

Moderator

In the context of user experience a moderator is normally a user experience practitioner who is responsible for managing and facilitating a user testing session or user group.

Multichannel

Multichannel refers to retailers who have integrated multiple channels in order to better serve their customers, maximise revenue opportunities or/and reduce costs.

Multichannel customer experience

Multichannel customer experience refers to the aggregated experience a customer has of a brand gained from all interactions across managed and unmanaged touch-points, for the duration of that relationship.

Multi-screen

Multi-screen refers to the recent phenomena of users interacting with multiple screens simultaneously such as using a smartphone, tablet and PC or tablet and TV.

Multivariate testing (MVT)

Multivariate testing refers to the use of a statistical testing technique where multiple versions of a design are presented to a representative group of users and the optimum composition of elements is selected.

N

Normative data

Normative data is a market research term that describes the normal or average score for a survey derived across various levels of performance.

O

Observation

Observation is the process or action of closely watching something or someone with the intention of capturing information.

Omni channel

Omnichannel refers to retailers that create a seamless consumer experience across all channels that a customer interacts with over time.

Open card sort

See card sorting. Open card sorts are used to help identity new information structures

Open questions

Open questions are those that typically include a what, how, why, when and where component and cannot be answered with a yes or no response.

P

Panel [user panel]

Panels create a bank of profiled customer information over time and allow for in-depth research. Panels provide an ideal base of opinion for research on a broad range of topics, the findings of which can be analysed and incorporated into business strategies. Panel members complete live questionnaires online, with submission and moderation carried out under secure and controlled conditions for complete accuracy and integrity.

Paper prototyping

Paper prototyping is a design technique that uses rough and ready designs, sometimes even employing pencil and paper to rapidly and at a low cost develop prototype concepts. These prototypes can be discarded, altered or iterated through testing quickly and efficiently before investing in more serious visualisation methods.

Participatory design

Participatory design is a technique that attempts to involve stakeholders outside of the design team, including customers/users or potential customers in the development of the design.

Persona

Archetypal users that represent the needs of larger groups of users, in terms of their goals and personal characteristics. They allow others to understand the user and what they want and act as stand ins for real users. They help guide decisions about functionality and design. Effective personas are created through research not made up or ‘pulled out of the air’.

Persuasive design

Persuasive design is a design methodology or approach for creating persuasive technology that will influence the behaviours of the users.

Pilot

A pilot is an experiment or test that is carried out before the launch of a finished product or service in order to illicit feedback and iron out bugs.

Pluralistic walkthrough

Pluralistic walkthrough is a usability method that revolves around a group of users, designers or developers together with usability practitioners stepping through tasks and scenarios in an attempt to identify usability issues and establish solutions.

Process map

A process map refers to the visualisation or output of a business process mapping exercise and illustrates each step in a process, what it does and where responsibility for it sits.

Prototype

A prototype is a representation of a final design that doesn't contain every element of functionality or features.

Q

Qualitative

Qualitative relates to measuring the quality of something as opposed to its quantity.

Quantitative

Quantitative relates to measuring something in specific terms so that we can describe the quantity of something.

R

Rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping in user experience terms is the set of techniques used to quickly create a workable prototype that can be used for testing.

Readability

Readability is the quality with which an item is written that makes it easy to read and comprehend.

Remote testing

Remote testing commonly refers to usability testing using online testing tools where tasks are presented to users via a software interface that captures all aspects of their interactions. It can also refer to remote moderated testing where a one to one session is created between moderator and participant using the internet so that they can be in separate locations at the time of testing.

Remote viewing

Remote viewing is when people from the client organisation are able to view and listen to lab usability testing from a different location over the internet.

Requirements gathering

Requirements gathering is the process by which the scope and detail of a requirement is elicited from customers, users and stakeholders.

Research Plan

A Research Plan is a document that describes the objectives, scope, tasks, participant profiles, methodology and any questions that will be asked during user research.

Retention marketing

Retention marketing is a marketing approach directed toward existing customers with the explicit intention of retaining their business.

S

Satisfaction

Satisfaction in the context of user experience is one of three terms used to define usability (the other to being efficient and effective). Satisfaction refers to a user’s level of comfort and attitude toward the completion of the goal.

Scenario

A scenario in the context of user experience is a description of a user situation, broader in scope than a task that closely aligns reality.

Service design

Service design is the process by which services are designed and developed from a user centred perspective.

Site [architectural] map

A site map provides the overall structure and organisation of a website or application. Site maps are produced as diagrammatical representations of the flow or structure of a site/application. When done as a part of the information architecture, rather than providing a navigation structure, the site map highlights how the user will flow through defined tasks, identifying the individual steps in the task.

Sketching

Sketching is the process of making a rough drawing of a design, process, system or concept.

Smartphone

A smartphone is a mobile device that provides advanced computing capability, features and functionality and is frequently equipped with a touch screen interface.

Socio economic classification (SEC)

Socio economic classification is a method for grouping society into culturally similar segments and is defined by six groups: A, B, C1, C2, D and E.

Storyboard

A storyboard is a sequence of drawings that include dialogue and instructions and represent a user journey, scenario, process or design.

Survey

A survey is a market research method for capturing answers to structured questions from users or consumers.

T

Tablet PC

A tablet PC is a mobile device that is similar to a laptop PC but fitted with a touch screen interface.

Task

A task is a tool used in usability research that describes a desired action by a user similar to one they would attempt in the real world.

Taxonomy

Taxonomy is the science of classification according to a predetermined system and is derived from biology. In user experience it refers to how subjects in a website are separated into categories and sub-categories so that they are simple, easy to use and learnable.

Telephone interviews

A telephone interview is a consultation between people face to face, generally one to one or one too many carried out using a telephone or mobile phone.

Testing

Testing is the process by which measures are taken to establish the quality of the subject being evaluated across a range of categories.

Think-aloud protocol

Think aloud protocol (TAP) is a method used to gather information in usability testing. The participant, test subject or user is asked to verbalise their thoughts as the progress through the test.

U

Un-Moderated

Usability is a qualitative attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word "usability" also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process

Usability

ISO defines usability as "The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use."

Usability Audit

Usability Audit is a service name for a cost-effective method for gauging the overall usability of an interface, system or process. These usability audits are sometimes referred to as a heuristic reviews or expert reviews and generally encapsulate the 10 heuristics established by Jakob Nielsen.

Usability Evaluation

A Usability Evaluation is the service name given to usability testing by a large number of service providers. A Usability Evaluation is conducted by having a representative sample of site users attempt to perform tasks typical of those users would be attempting in the real world. It provides insight into how specific elements of the interface impact the quality of the user experience by obtaining reliable and interpretable data.

User Centred Design (UCD)

User Centred Design is a design process that places the needs of the potential users at the centre of the design process so that they influence decisions taken through the course of the entire process.

User experience (UX)

User experience describes how a user of a service, product or interface feels whilst interacting with it at emotional, subconscious and conscious levels.

User Groups

User Groups are similar to focus groups (see above) but tend to be used in usability research and involve a higher level of interaction between group participants and digital interfaces being evaluated or discussed.

User Journey

A user journey describes the path taken by a user or customer from start to finish that they have whilst interacting with something to achieve a goal.

User Journey Map

A user journey map is a visual representation of the path a user or consumer takes when interacting with something to achieve a goal.

User Journey Mapping

User journey mapping is the process by which user journey maps are created and involves observation and research of user and consumer behaviour when interacting with interfaces, services, systems, or processes.

Utility

Utility is a measure of how useful something is.

V

Visual attention

Visual attention is a measure of how engaged visually a user or consumer is.

Visual design

Visual design is the process by which the look and feel of a design is composed to be appealing to the user or consumer.

W

Way finding

Way finding describes the ways that people orient and navigate themselves in a physical space.

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops strategies, guidelines, and resources to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities. [source www.w3.org]

Web analytics

Web Analytics is the collection, measurement, analysis and reporting of the data captured about user interactions with a website.

Website

A website is a location on the internet containing one or more web pages that can be accessed via a single address.

Wireframes

Wireframes are low-fidelity diagrams that illustrate the structure of all elements on specific templates or pages. They allow people to visualise the unique pages first identified by the sitemap. Numbered and colour-coded annotations outline the basic behaviour of the elements on each wireframe. Wireframes are typically delivered for all templates and a small number of illustrative pages. They are a fast and cost effective way to produce an idea of how a page in a website or mobile device might behave. They can be developed in parallel to creative concepts, and redrawn easily.

Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz describes a research method where a person carries out an experiment (the wizard) enacting the role of the computer. The participant may or may not know that the system they are interacting with is being manually manipulated behind the scenes.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web.