Workflow is one of the most important elements of application design. Can users proceed through their tasks with ease or are they subjected to irritating detours and burdensome extra steps?

A workflow’s usability can be lowered in many ways, such as when you require users to remember anything from one step to the next. (Lower the burden on short-term memory — there’s a useful guideline to remember 🙂

Here, I want to focus on a common problem: users being disrupted from proceeding with their natural task flow. This can happen in two ways: a poor user interface design can deliberately sidetrack users, or a system problem can divert users’ attention to fixing the system instead of doing their work.

To see the difference between bad user interface design and a bad system, let’s consider two examples of user-unfriendly account updating.