Is a product still usable if the user has to “get used to it?”

January 31, 2019

During usability, when participants have trouble using something we often hear ‘I could do better but I’d just have to get used to it.’ This is a common phrase; it typically means there are usability issues. But maybe something more subtle is at play.

Sometimes the designs we test are not expected to be ‘walk up and use’ – in which case, ‘getting used to it’ might be a real thing. The design might be good, but it requires training. We have to know if the user is expected to have prior knowledge, require training, or need a ‘breaking in period’ (getting used to it!); if we don’t give the ‘breaking in’, the designs we test are not getting a fair evaluation. Experts perform differently from novices. Sometimes (often) user interfaces that novices find easy to use are frustrating to experts.