Utility, usability and user experience have all influenced the user-centred design process. The goal of the user-centred design process is to obtain a product that is functional, operational and satisfies the user (Ames, 2001, p.139). In order to do this, utility, usability and the user experience all need to be considered throughout the various stages of the user-centred design process.

The utility of an object is simply how practical and useful it is. Nielsen (2003) defines usability as a “quality attribute” of a product that is concerned with 5 quality components; learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors and satisfaction. User experience is a term describing the “overall experience and satisfaction” of a user whilst interacting with a system (Crew, 2006).

Usability vs. Utility

Good utility and usability are closely related, yet they are not the same thing. Utility and usability are similar in that they are both critical in producing a quality product; the product needs to be operated easily and intuitively (usability) to accomplish the given task (utility) (Nielsen 2003). There are however subtle differences; utility is solely concerned with usefulness; however usability includes not only utility, but also efficiency, safety, memorability, learnability and satisfaction (Nielsen 2003).

Usability vs. User Experience

Rubinoff (2004) believes that a usable, functional, aesthetically pleasing, enjoyable and memorable product will translate to a good user experience. Both usability and user experience are concerned with the satisfaction of the user. While usability considers the user’s satisfaction with the interface, user experience delves more into whether the user is emotionally fulfilled. This is a major difference between the two terms; user experience encapsulates usability, however it builds on usability by also considering the user’s emotions towards the product.

Utility vs. User Experience

Utility and user experience are quite different; utility is not really concerned with the user at all, whereas user experience is heavily user-orientated. Rubinoff (2004) considers both utility and user experience to be concerned with functionality; however user experience is, once again, a lot of other things. While both utility and user experience incorporate functionality, user experience includes issues closely related to the user, rather than the product. Some of these issues include emotional fulfillment and satisfaction with the product.


Ames, A. L. (2001). Users first! An introduction to usability and user-centered design and development for technical information and products. Paper presented at the Professional Communication Conference.

Crew, I. (2006). User-centered design for IT services: the low-hanging fruit. Retrieved 20 October, 2010, from http://www.educause.edu/Resources/UserCenteredDesigninITTheLowHa/161640.

Nielson, J. (2003). Usability 101: Introduction to Usability. Retrieved 20 October, 2010, from http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030825.html.

Rubinoff, R. (2004). How To Quantify The User Experience. Retrieved 20 October, 2010, from http://www.sitepoint.com/article/quantify-user-experience.

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