Customization Features Done Correctly for the Right Reasons

Report PDF cover image

Web technology allows organizations to move beyond one-size-fits-all interfaces and products — allowing users to define and design their own experiences. Users appreciate custom homepages and web-based design-it-yourself processes. However, our research shows that users often encounter severe usability issues when trying to accomplish customization activities.

This 93-page report offers 46 design guidelines based on our usability research. Discussions and 78 screenshot illustrations supplement our findings.

The report does not cover personalization — where a software system tries to predict individual users' needs automatically. It is solely about designs where users themselves employ features to manually customize or configure the UI or a product.

Topics covered

  • Overview
    • Business benefits of customization
    • Customization vs. personalization
    • Customization can be effective when implemented correctly
    • The importance of good defaults
  • Usability findings
    • Users have difficultly to adding content and tools on interface customization sites
    • People experience high levels of difficulty on product customization sites
    • Users have trouble adding content and moving page elements on custom homepages
    • People feel lost and out of control on sites featuring customization
  • Design guidelines for customizing the interface
    • Level of customization and number of choices
    • Designing for user intentions
    • Directing users to the customization path
    • Familiarizing users with new concepts
    • Educating people of advanced options
    • Illustrating usefulness of options and features
    • Browsing and search for content and tools
    • Providing feedback
    • Shared and private pages
  • Design guidelines for customizing products
    • Users' mental model, how users htink about product configuration
    • Workflow, structure, layout, sequence of choices
    • Initiating the process, process navigation
    • Communicating the scope of options
    • Save and apply data
    • How to avoid error messaging
    • In-line help and definitions
    • Comparing options and attributes
    • Review and approve features
  • Detailed methodology section that shows how you can conduct your own usability studies

Research Method

The information in this report is based on one-on-one usability studies.

Representative users tested customization features on 7 websites. Users also tested websites with no customization to allow us to compare the user experience among different approaches.


Research Reports

Training Courses


Which License?


Purchase an individual license if the report or video will only be used by one person.

Customers who choose an individual license are not authorized to share the report or video with anyone else, or post it to any internal or external file server, website, or intranet. Individual License Terms


Purchase a group license if the report or video will be used by multiple people within your organization.

Customers who choose a group license are authorized to post the report or video on internal file servers or intranets and make it available to others within the organization. The group license does not grant permission to make the report/video available to people not employed by your organization, the general public, or to post it to a publicly accessible website or file server. Group License Terms


You’ve just added the following to your cart:

Customization Features Done Correctly for the Right Reasons

Individual License


Checkout Now

You’ve just added the following to your cart:

Customization Features Done Correctly for the Right Reasons

Group License


Checkout Now