Making Usability Recommendations Useful and Usable

Peer-reviewed Article

pp. 162-179Download full article (PDF)


This paper evaluates the quality of recommendations for improving a user interface resulting from a usability evaluation. The study compares usability comments written by different authors, but describing similar usability issues. The usability comments were provided by 17 professional teams who independently evaluated the usability of the website for the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York. The study finds that only 14 of the 84 studied comments (17%) addressing six usability problems contained recommendations that were both useful and usable. Fourteen recommendations were not useful at all. Sixteen recommendations were not usable at all. Quality problems include recommendations that are vague or not actionable, and ones that may not improve the overall usability of the application. The paper suggests characteristics for “useful and usable recommendations,” that is, recommendations for solving usability problems that lead to changes that efficiently improve the usability of a product.

Practitioner’s Take Away

Do as you preach. Show a good example by making your usability recommendations useful and usable.

  • Communicate each recommendation clearly at the conceptual level.
  • Ensure that the recommendation improves the overall usability of the application.
  • Be aware of the business or technical constraints.
  • Show respect for the product team’s constraints.
  • Solve the whole problem, not just a special case.
  • Make recommendations specific and clear.
  • Avoid vagueness by including specific examples in your recommendations.