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Six Common Usability Mistakes in Software Product Design

By now, all good designers and developers realize the importance of usability for their work. Usable products offer great user experiences, and great user experiences lead to happy customers.

Six common mistakes and recommendations for product design and usability –

1. Usability Vs Utility Utility refers to the ability of the product to perform tasks. The more tasks the product is designed to perform, the more utility it has. Usability refers to the ease of learning and performing these tasks.

Utility vs usability

Most software give higher priority to features than usability. As a result it becomes more and more confusing for the end user to get work done.

2. Liking it Vs Using It Likeability is always a desirable trait in a product. If people like the product, they are more likely to use it and to recommend it to others. But as with utility, likeability is often confused with usability.

Liking It - Skype

People often like a product for reasons unrelated to utility and usability. They may be attracted to its styling and flash, or to the status they believe the product confers upon them. People tend to like highly usable products, but you should not assume that means a well-liked product is usable.

3. Discovery Vs Flow Some of the most widely used products do not have an instructions manual e.g. toothbrush or Skype.

Products with “Installation Manuals” turn me off. IMO, there is place on earth for installation manuals. And admin guides should be only when you want to learn a little extra or troubleshoot. Instead the product should try and use inline or in-GUI help as much as possible.

Discovery involves looking for, and finding, a product’s feature in response to a particular need. And it gets worse when a complex feature needs multiple inputs or choices to be made.

I am a big fan of wizards. I think the task becomes much simpler when broken down into series of actions.

4. Tiny Meaningless buttons The buttons should signify action. The most common mistake with buttons is when they are labeled “OK” which in my opinion makes very little sense.

button with action

Buttons should have lables which signify clear actions like – “Modify Report Schedule”

5. Duplicate Actions Quite often, products have more than one ways of performing the same task. This is confusing and often irritating. There should always be one clear way of performing an action.

6. Don’t Give Too Many Choices Never confuse flexibility with giving too many choice. You would never buy car from a salesman who gives you 8-10 names for “the cars that might suit you”. Instead you are more likely to buy, when the salesman gives you 1 (or max 2) options and convinces you.

Too many choices

If you are sure that more than 80% of your audience is likely to vote “yes” for the option, please make it a default. Or if you really want it, add it to “advanced”.

Disclosure If you think inSync is a very user friendly product, you would be pleasently surprised with the upcoming upgrade. Usability has been one of our core focus areas in inSync v3 release.


  1. Jacob 11 years ago

    Interesting. Can’t agree more with #2

    lets see what improvements you make in next release.

  2. Jacob 11 years ago

    Actually, even I liked the way entire UI is redesigned in skype v4.

    Its the flow of features rather than discovery. There are a few things missing like easy access to history, but overall good work.

    I liked the insync client styling, but the server lacked colors. The usability is good, but styling can improve.

  3. Jaspreet 11 years ago


    Take a look at the new website – http://www.druvaa.com/

    And the beta program is now open, please check the software usability for yourself.

    – J

  4. yoyoscoggins 10 years ago

    Hi Buddy,

    Nice site. Some useful and knowlegeable comments man :) I know, I am creeping,lol. I hope can produce something like this myself one day. Which site did you get your templates from?

    Hopefully one of you guys could help me out a little here. I am looking for someone who I was reliably informed told used to be a member on here. They did use to use the tag ‘wizardwebone’.

    Because I am wanting to start my own site on health type goods for things such as: at home teeth whitening (hence the where did you get your templates from,lol) but am having realllll difficulty getting hold of dropshippers for these goods. I had been in touch with this guy but my PC got stolen and unfortunately had all my contact details on it (I know, I know, should have backed it up :( )

    So if you guys have heard or seen anything of this guy could you let me know please? Failing that maybe one of you folks knows someone?

    Plus, which hosting do you use as I keep hearing bad tales about the host I am considering of hosting my site with. Plus any other informative tips you can give re starting up my website would be most helpful and very appreciated.

    I hope that someone has useful information on this

    Thanks Bro,

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