2 June 2006

Why “humane” might be a better word than “usable”

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Humanized
“A lot of people call good software ‘usable’. But what does that mean?”, writes Atul Varma in the new blog of Humanized.

“Taken literally, something is ‘usable’ if it can be used. Calling an interface ‘usable’ is kind of like calling food ‘edible’: it’s setting the bar pretty darn low. And as such, it doesn’t really say much about the interface (or food) in question. At Humanized, we try to avoid using words like ‘usable’ and ‘usability’ because we think that they’re confusing at worst, and don’t mean enough at best.”

“That’s why we’d rather just use one term, with one clear definition, that sets the bar pretty high. It doesn’t require any modifiers, and it doesn’t leave anything out. It’s called humane. An interface is humane if it is responsive to human needs and considerate of human frailties. It’s really that simple: if you ever use an interface and can honestly say that it’s responsive to your needs and considerate of your frailties, then it’s a good interface. An interface that just works.”

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(via Usability in the News)

Fair enough I’d say, but how would you then call the discipline if usability is no longer good? In fact, the Humanized people themselves write about “users” and “usability” in their web texts.

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