How Unusable Systems Can Be Successes: When You Are Not a Stakeholder

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


I have recently used several systems that are not usable but have been declared successes. Success means that their use is increasing, no one was fired, and the usability problems are solved by the users who either work much harder or through surrogates. After defining usability, I describe these systems and provide a list of reasons why these systems are both unusable and successes, seemingly a paradox for human factors. The article concludes by explaining this paradox, noting several ways this can happen, particularly when stakeholders’ viewpoints are excluded or discounted by designers and by other types of users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-61
Number of pages6
JournalErgonomics in Design
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • General Engineering


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