I want clarification on the above subject matter. Many authors refer to the two constructs as same. I will also like to to have full discussion on them and other external sources for further details.

  • Could you kindly provide a single source using both terms, either as the same or otherwise?
    – Izhaki
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 21:43

2 Answers 2


In short: usability requirements are the mean to reach appropriate usability attributes for concrete system.

Usability Attributes are some features, which are represent more abstract Usability concept.

Usability has multiple components and is traditionally associated with these five usability attributes:

Learnability: The system should be easy to learn so that the user can rapidly start getting some work done with the system.
Efficiency: The system should be efficient to use, so that once the user has learned the system, a high level of productivity is possible.
Memorability: The system should be easy to remember, so that the casual user is able to return to the system after some period of not having used it, without having to learn everything all over again.
Errors: The system should have a low error rate, so that users make few errors during the use of the system, and so that if they do make errors they can easily recover from them. Further, catastrophic errors must not occur.
Satisfaction: The system should be pleasant to use, so that users are subjectively satisfied when using it; they like it.

from Usability Engineering by J. Nielsen

But those are too abstract to use them as non-functional usability requirements for concrete project. So, for example, to claim the system is Efficient, it should be tested against some important points, which in sum give general asessement of the usability attribute.

So Usability Requirements decompose each Usability Attribute on concrete measurable and testable statements having in mind all the elements of the system, like context of use, users, tasks, tools, etc.

Usability requirements document measurable wants and needs for the system and include three type of information:

The context of use: the intended users, their goals and tasks, associated equipment, and the physical and social environment in which the product can be used.
Performance and satisfaction criteria: measures of usability for the product.
The test method and context of testing: the method to be used to test whether the usability requirements have been met and the context in which the measurements will be made.

from Common Industry Specification for Usability - Requirements

  • Or to put it another way: does the system do what the users want it to do - and can they figure out how to do it ?
    – PhillipW
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 8:22
  • @PhillipW Not exactly, i.e. user doesn't think in terms of learnability, memorability, etc. It's the "internals", which are setted and implemented by designer/developer. These attributes form either good UX, or bad UX. What you said "system does what the user wants" is more close to mental and system models, which strictly speaking are not usability elements. Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 10:32
  • I'd argue that the users mental model, the designers mental model and the system image are key UX concepts (covered at length in Don Norman's 'Design of Everyday Things')
    – PhillipW
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 12:21
  • @PhillipW sure, they are key UX concepts, but we need usability attributes, which are measurable. We cannot set e.g. mental model as a usability requirement, bacause it's hardly measurable. And the question was about requirements and attributes. Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 12:36

a usability requirement is what you want the website to do. for instance you want it to be easy to use, attractive, safe, secure, easy to learn etc. A usability attribute is how you can measure each of these requirements. for instance, easy to learn can be measured by the time it takes a user to learn how to complete a particular task on the website. Here, time is the attribute. I hope this helps.

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