Four Components for Determining Product Design Usability

It happens all the time. Someone thinks he has a bright idea, and a new consumer product is born. Unfortunately, not every new concept is worth putting on a retail shelf, as illustrated by this 2012 post on the “20 Useless Products No One Should Buy.”

So what factors do you need to consider when looking at product usability? Here are four components we recommend. 


When you pick up a new product, does it work? If not, consumers may think it has malfunctioned or isn’t working as planned. In our technologically focused world today, most people won’t spend much time trying to figure out how something should work.

In the article, “Americans Aren't Just Lazy Workers, They're Just Lazy. Period.” freelance writer Deborah S. Hildebrand suggests:

Generally, an item is returned because it doesn’t meet customer expectations. Perhaps it’s too confusing to use (68%) or the buyer returns the item due to a change of heart (26%), frequently called "buyer’s remorse."

Her assertion is that a product must function as expected -- meet the user’s expectations and goals – in order to meet the product usability demands of consumers. Otherwise, they will give up trying.


You’ve likely heard the term built in or planned obsolescence. Often consumers believe that products designed with a short life span are built this way, intentionally. The purpose, according to them, is purely profit.

Therefore, when you design a product, it is important to consider durability. This includes the impact not only on a consumer’s pocketbook, but on the environment as well.


Generally, you measure ease-of-use in terms of the mental and physical effort. However, ease-of-use also relates to how the product helps consumers accomplish their task.

Additionally, determine learnability by considering whether occasional users remember how your product works and retain their proficiency even after long periods of disuse?


Before you design a product, it is important to determine if, when, and how much it will be used. Once it is on the retail shelf, you need to reassess its performance continually to determine whether consumers actually enjoy using it.

As Eric Ries suggests in his book The Lean Startup, one of the primary reasons novice entrepreneurs fail is because they launch a product no one wants.

Reis suggests you ask yourself, “Will anybody buy this?” But don’t stop there. Continue asking questions. Obtaining continuous customer feedback is the only way to know if you are going in the right direction.

If you have an product in mind and want to determine its usability, you need the assistance of expert designers and engineers. That's where we can help. Contact us.

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