Over the last couple of years, the field of HCI has slowly moved beyond the concept of usability towards the concept of UX (hereafter, I use the terms usability and UX for the sake of simplicity)

Some people still believe UX does not offer anything new, and is just 'the old wine in a new bottle'. On the other hand, there are people who believe UX is different than usability (although similar in some aspects).

One difference is discussed to be the broader scope of UX compared to usability. For instance, UX is argued to be directly related to innovation, creativity, and delivering unexpected functionalities and qualities to the end users. This is while usability mainly focuses on delivering 'expected functionalities' in a usable manner.

Also, UX is known to target 'positive feelings' rather than 'preventing negative feelings', i.e. UX focuses on pleasure while usability focuses on satisfaction , and preventing frustration, errors, etc etc.

If we agree that UX is broader than usability, and goes beyond that (please share your views if you don't agree to this statement), then the question is:

  1. How is institutionalisation of UX different from institutionalisation of usability?
  2. What are the similarities?

For instance, talking to quite a few practitioners, I have learned that from their perspective and based on their experience, there are more and different steps required to 'introduce UX to an organisation' compared to what they would have done in previous years for usability. I appreciate if you share your views and experiences in this matter, also refer me to sources for more learning.

Also, looking at the books out in the market, one sees a new trend e.g. Eric Schaffer the author of Institutionalization of Usability: A Step-by-Step Guide (2004), now have authored a book called:Institutionalization of UX: A Step-by-Step Guide to a User Experience Practice (2013). I own the second book but not the first one, and appreciate if someone can answer my questions, considering Schaffer's view on the matter and what he has covered in the two books.

1 Answer 1


One similarity between the two books you mentioned is in the editorial (back cover) reviews. They are by the same people, but for the most part simply replace the word usability by user experience. Uninspiring to say the least.

One might therefore be led to believe that in the 10 year period between the two books, the author has seen an opportunity to make use of the rise of the term 'UX' and offer his own book as your 'old wine in a new bottle', by rewording the same content for a new age.

And therein lies a problem. While some, potentially like this author and his reviewers, may see usability and UX as interchangeable terms, some will not. Whether or not that is the case depends on a person's own engagement or role in the industry. Everyone has different eyes and is affected by different experiences, different needs and different agendas. We come from different backgrounds and have different destinations.

To define either usability or UX is a quest sought after by many but has no right answer in a way that will satisfy all. For some they overlap, for others they are the same thing. [It depends!]

Why do we need to package them up in a neatly packaged boxes labelled with a single word on? The real world is not like that and since UX provides an interface between myriad products and that real world, UX cannot be like that either.

The definition of usability or UX is like the elephant in the room. Nobody can stop talking about the elephant. Instead let's just focus on helping get the elephant where it belongs.

Here's a favourite joke of mine. It's only slightly relevant to my point.

  • Q: What's the difference between a duck?
  • A: Because one of its legs are both the same.

Usability, UX - same difference :)

  • + 1 , Great answer!
    – Devin
    Jun 14, 2015 at 22:22
  • The more things change, the more they stay the same. The business jargon POD (point of difference) was also replaced by USP (unique selling proposition), but can you spot the difference?
    – Michael Lai
    Jun 15, 2015 at 0:16

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