“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya in Princess Bride

In the digital world, many words are often used incorrectly, because they sound similar to other words or because a person uses it without truly understanding its definition. There are two terms that we often hear used incorrectly in the data visualization world – user experience and usability. Most of the time, user experience is used when, in fact, the person using the word means usability.

What the Difference?

User experience (UX) “refers to a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership. Additionally, it includes a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.” – Wikipedia

Usability is simply the degree to which something is able or fit to be used.

Every data visualization dashboard is usable in one way or another. For example, self-service business intelligence tools like Tableau give the non-analytical person that ability to easily import data into a usable dashboard with interactive components like buttons, custom date ranges and draggable web parts. The usability of this dashboard is determined by its level of accessibility. Can it be accessed on different devices? Can individuals with disabilities or who are prone to certain medical conditions like color blindness use the dashboard?

User experience, on the other hand, is affected by the usability of the data visualization dashboard. Since user experience creates a connection with the user to the dashboard, what experiential aspects are created? Is it a positive or negative connection? Is the dashboard causing confusion or helping the user find the answers they need? Does the dashboard cause stress or evoke attitudes of pessimism or trust?

In data visualization, we believe the data story dictates the user experience and, in turn, the user experience dictates the usability of the dashboard. When we build custom data visualization dashboards, we take the time to understand your users and data first, so we can know how the users should experience the data story before building the dashboard. For example, how should the CEO experience the data story and what should be their conclusion? Business decisions? The same with other C-level executives. How should they experience the data story? Should they be able to walk away with predictive security measures?

Understanding the difference between user experience and usability will greatly benefit your approach to data visualization and data storytelling.

Questions? Let’s talk.