January 6, 2021

“A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.”

– Martin LeBlanc

Usability is the ability of a system to help users achieve their goals effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily. (ISO 9241 Part 11)

Learnability is the ability of a system to help it’s users accommodate with the system interface measured over a period of time and interactions.

In the previous article, we saw how Systems Usability Scale helps measure the usability of the system. In this article, we intend to learn about the Learnability of a system. (pun intended).


Ideally, people should get accustomed to the user interface and remember it’s functionality on their first interaction with the same.

Imagine your users understanding the navigation and the structure of your app on their first use and never have to contact support.

This rarely happens in the real world. And, that’s’ where the learnability factor comes in. Learnability helps us understand how users perform a task and accomplish their goals on the first use of the app (or the system) and how many repetitions do they require to be proficient at the same task.



While usability tells us how easy to use a system is, learnability tells us how easy to learn to use the system is.

Even if learnability and usability are two different concepts, the high learnability of a system contributes to its usability.

That is because a system that’s easy to learn requires low training cost and quick onboarding.



Measuring learnability requires two parameters. Time and number of repetitions. The graph drawn with the help of these two parameters is known as the learning curve.

(This learning curve shows the hypothetical completion time for a backup as a function of the number of task repetitions (or trials). Notice that the time for the first repetition is longest, and then the completion time decreases — by trial 4, it levels off, reaching the saturation plateau. Although details such as how many repetitions are needed to reach saturation will vary from case to case, this learning curve is representative of all human learning.) (Credits – www.nngroup.com)

As per Alita Joyce, there are 3 aspects of learnability:

  • First Use Learnability: This aspect is relevant to users who will perform the task on the system only once. For example, the feature of choosing Google Chrome as the primary search engine for your personal computer. This task has to be performed only once and the system takes note of it. What we are looking here for is how easy it is to perform the task on the system on the first-ever try.
  • The steepness of Learning Curve: This aspect is relevant for repetitive, but not excessive, users. We intend to measure how quickly do users get better at using the system. If users feel that they are getting better and quicker with the system they’ll be motivated to stick with it.
  • The efficiency of Saturation Point: With repetitive use of a system or design the users reach an optimal saturation point after which there is no possible growth. Our focus here is to measure the efficiency of this point. For example, once an accountant has learned to use Tally ERP and uses it extensively and repetitively – how high is his/her productivity with the system?


We can see that the different aspects of learnability relate to different types of users. Measuring learnability for a system that’s used repetitively and extensively, like Tally ERP, is necessary since it affects the productivity of the user. High learnability contributes to usability since it motivates users to stick with the system. Also, high learnability equals less training cost.

Measuring learnability for one-time use systems is useless and a waste of time and money.


3 Elements Influence Learnability:

  • Simplicity: The more simple a system is to read and navigate the more learnable it is.
  • Content Structure: When the important and frequently used features of a system are placed in obvious places and prominent sizes, it allows the user to spot them easily. Also, this helps the users to remember the places of the features and functions the next time he/she visits the system.
  • User Expectation: When users interact with the interface they bring their expectations, based on experience, with them. Imagine you have created a search engine. Your users will expect the search dialog box to be prominently placed in the middle of the screen rather than placed somewhere in the corner. Any dissatisfaction with this expectation will demotivate the user.

“Consistency is one of the most powerful usability principles: when things always behave the same, users don’t have to worry about what will happen. Instead, they know what will happen based on earlier experience.” ~ Jakob Nielsen

At ArtAttackk we follow these learnability principles to design websites and apps. Take a look at our designs.

To read more articles, click here.



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