How bad design affects our workflows

Kinga Adamczewska
3 min readSep 30, 2021

Poor design choices are not only frustrating but can also cause a lot of friction and wastage in our workflows.

In this article I’m going to single out Microsoft products but this relates to any software. Let’s look at some examples.

I noticed Outlook kept my status as “appear away” probably since I started working at my company 3 years ago. For some reason it bothered me one day so I wanted to change but. It kept changing to “available” for a minute… and then back to “appear away”.

Is Outlook telling me to take a mandatory break?

Spot the difference between Outlook and the famous Cookie Monster.

Trying to access documents in Sharepoint. I click on the main file I want to open… and it’s empty. Where do I go?

Took me few good minutes to figure out what you need to do in order to access your files that you saved into this space.

Sharing a file. Ahh the joys of sharing a file. You can decide if you want people to edit it or not. But if you already shared it and want to stop giving people access — no way Jose.

All of these seem to be small details, but let’s think about the extra time it takes to do complete your tasks because of those details. Let’s say I’m comparing Dropbox Paper to Microsoft Word. When I create a doc in Dropbox Paper I don’t need to worry about styling, all I do is paste things in and ensure headings are headings and body text is body text.

Because Word isn’t that consistent with their “paste without formatting” feature, I spend an average of extra 2 mins per file in Word to fix things and look through my file again.

2 mins is not that much right? Let’s say I create 3 new documents each week.

That’s 24 minutes wasted each month.

5 hours and 12 mins a year.

Nearly a full day of work each year is wasted on fixing copy and pasted text in word that didn’t work even though word is supposed to take on the formatting.

Let’s look at another scenario. You accidentally share a link to a file that can be edited. You realise you don’t want people to edit it. I mean, reverting back changes or duplicating the file won’t take that long right? But it will take your time away from other things for you to do and make you double check your files every time before you share them. Again, how often would you share your files? In my case, it’s at least 2–3 times a day. Let’s say it takes me 2 seconds to check if the file I’m sending will be shared. Thats 26 minutes. Not that much? If we add it on to the other 5 hours and 12 minutes, that’s 5 hrs 38 minutes.

That is 5 hours and 38 minutes I could spend running usability testing sessions. Or designing new features. Reviewing my product. Replying to peoples emails. Or learning new skills.

It’s the little things that add up. And I know a lot of people say — it’s not that bad. Just get used to it. But why should we get used to it? Outlook was launched in 2012. Word — in 1983. Those are not MVP’s. Those are established products that should provide seamless experiences — and we need to have higher expectations from software that we use.