I remember that we had a fierce discussion in school around the term “User Friendly” where our lecturer with emphasis stated that “… there is no such thing as user friendly. The only valid term you can and will use is useful. An application can never buy you coffee”. I never paid any thoughts on it since then, but I came to think of it again this weekend.
The thing is, my (windows) phone broke down and went to repair. In the mean while I picked out an iPhone 4 (which will later be used by my seven year old daughter) and started to use it. As I started to learn the iPhone UI it really felt “friendly”. Nice looking, simple and everything worked from the start with very little configuration. So in a sense – it is friendly to me as a user.
But Wikipedia has an additional meaning of user friendly:
“The term user friendly is often used as a synonym for usable, though it may also refer to accessibility. Usability describes the quality of user experience across websites, software, products, and environments.”
Smashing Magazine uses the term in a slightly different form, calling on aesthetics:
Web design has significantly improved over the last years. It’s more user-friendly and more appealing today — and there is a good reason behind it: over the years we’ve found out that design with focus on usability and user experience is just more effective.
... and ...
In the past we didn’t cover web applications the way we should and now it’s time to take a closer look at some useful techniques and design solutions that make web-applications more user-friendly and more beautiful.
From the looks of it user friendly is a term used, sometimes a synonym for usable or the equivalence of accessible. Other sources uses user friendly as something related to aesthetic qualities. But from the university, I learnt that user friendly as a term is invalid. It all boils down to the question is ”User Friendly” a valid term in User Experience?