I have an app I am building where a user can browse through content similar to the Facebook timeline.

One action the user can take is follow this person.

All actions for each piece of content I have placed in an overflow menu based on Android guidelines. However for follow I want to visually indicate to the user at a glance which pieces of content they have followed by placing a star that is either empty (not followed) or filled in (followed).

The user will be able to follow/unfollow from tapping the star as well as clicking follow/unfollow in the overflow menu.

Are there any reasons as to why I should not do this?

6 Answers 6


Many ways to perform the same action is fine

Just make sure they don't get in the way of the most important task at hand.

No two users are created equal

Anyone who has done usability testing knows that each person has their own unique workflow. It is good to accommodate each individual style and workflow.

Andrew Martin correctly points out in the comments below that...

In most operating systems there are at least three ways to do anything: with a direct click from the mouse, via a menu system, or with a key combination - This kind of affordance seems to accommodate most users from first timers to pros and with a range of accessibility issues.

One concrete example that tested well among a variety of users

I once made a photo gallery for flipping through a stack of pictures. The only actions were "show next photo" and "show previous photo" I didn't want a lot of UI buttons cluttering up the screen so the entire view port was just the picture.

There were so many ways to flip through the images that it didn't matter if users found them all:

  • hovering the mouse over the right 1/4 of the screen showed an arrow overlay and clicking anywhere in the right 3/4 of the picture went forward, hovering over the left 1/4 showed a back arrow and clicking anywhere in the left 1/4 of the screen went back a slide
  • using the right/left arrow keys or up/down arrow keys could go forward/backward
  • using the mouse wheel down/up could go forward/backward
  • hitting the space bar showed the next picture

Every user I tested it with found something that worked for them right away and just assumed the application was built according to their expectations.

  • Using 3/4 of the screen to go forward and 1/4 of the screen to go back seems a confusing and could lead the user to think that clicking anywhere on the screen will go forward, unless he happens to click on the left 1/4 of the screen. I think it would be more clear to divide the screen in half (or even 1/3's, where the middle third does nothing), even if users want to move forward nearly all of the time.
    – Johnny
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 18:12
  • 10
    i did 1/3 where the middle does nothing originally - the users were pretty elementary and enough of them tried clicking the middle of the image to show the next slide. i agree with you though the point here is that adding 10 ways to do the same thing is fine because the user only has to discover one.
    – DaveAlger
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 19:57
  • 3
    @Johnny Since most users only go forward and don't ever use the back button in a slideshow I think it's totally ok to make the forward function more present.
    – Kweamod
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 8:18
  • 2
    I think the only thing I would add is that in most operating systems there are at least three ways to do anything: with a direct click from the mouse, via a menu system, or with a key combination - This kind of affordance seems to accommodate most users from first timers to pros and with a range of accessibility issues. Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 16:29
  • 1
    Just FYI, if that front page of your wife's site is supposed to advance (which it seems like it should given the hover on the right), it doesn't advance at all for me. Firefox 36.0.1. Tried disabling all plug-ins. Didn't see anything on the error console from Firebug.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 23:27

This is common practice so this is acceptable.



you can see on youtube when browsing a video/channel you can decide to unsubscribe on the spot.

Also when managing your subscriptions.

  • Also: after highlighting text, right click and choose Copy; use menu Edit > Copy; use keyboard Ctrl+C. I agree there's no harm in providing shortcuts. Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 12:00
  • 5
    I agree with the conclusion, but "common practice" does not imply "best practice". It is at best a supporting 'dataset' that would support a hypothesis that it is acceptable, but not the reason in itself
    – Nanne
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 14:21
  • 3
    @Nanne: In general, certainly. But perhaps it's a little different with UX, because the goal is to not make users think; if it's common practice enough that the average user will be familiar with it, that familiarity alone could make it a good option.
    – wchargin
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 15:13
  • Personally, I find YouTube as well as many other Google products recently to be fairly unintuitive and confusing, I'm not sure an answer using YouTube as an example is compelling to me. There is a fine line between accommodating many different workflows, and randomly vomiting controls onto an interface.
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 0:56
  • @WChargin but that would mean that there can be no common mistakes in UX, as any common method would be familiar, so therefore good. I disagree with that. You can have common practices that are actually mistakes so the reasoning is still flawed. As said, the conclusion isn't per se.
    – Nanne
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 12:37

While multiple paths to do something might be convenient, this has a flip side.

Consider the PCB design software I'm using. The image below shows two of many ways to add a new schematic document to the current project:

Altium Add schematic

As many other features are also accessible from multiple places, the amount of buttons and menus in the software is enormous. If options where available once, they might actually be easier to find.

Additionally, once you add a way to do something, you'll have to support it permanently as users grow to depend on it.

  • Most of the other answers here discuss having multiple triggers across the entire application's UI, whereas this is referring to having multiple menu items that mean the same thing. I'd definitely argue that the latter is confusing and not very helpful. But it would be fine if you had a main menu item, plus a hotkey, plus a right-click context action somewhere.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 20:56

One reason why you might not want to do this:

The user may see both options, and assume they are different actions, and then be confused about which one they should use to perform their desired action.

However if both buttons change visually when the user has performed the action, then it is likely they will notice that they are the same option, and the concern will disappear.

Another argument would be simply to avoid clutter. Since the star can perform the follow action, the follow option in your overflow menu is functionally redundant, and will make it slightly harder to pick out other options in the menu.

Still, there may be advantages to keeping the menu option: the user may not realise the star is clickable until they use the menu option and see the star change color, so having the menu option may make it easier to discover the star action!

On balance, I think it would be quite reasonable to keep both paths, as others have also suggested. I just wanted to present some potential arguments against doing so.


There are accessibility issues to consider too. One user might have a touch sensitive screen, another a mouse, and a third might be severely disabled and using voice recognition to simulate keyboard input. Dave's photo gallery could cope nicely with that, the disabled user just repeating the word "Space" when required.

So I believe that multiple ways of doing something is not just acceptable, but can often be good design.

If you spill your coffee on your mouse now and it stops working, how many of your open applications can you close nicely saving any changes etc? For example in notepad - a program I dislike - you can type control-s to save work, or press Alt and use the cursor keys.

There can be times someone needs to do something out of the ordinary, e.g. install mouse drivers, and if the clever engineer decided that almost everyone has a mouse, then he has created a problem. The rarely used alternative way of doing things can be a life-saver at times.

I once bought a CDROM drive and the drivers for it came on a CDROM disc! Doh! What was that manufacturer thinking of? Eventually I installed the drivers by using the CDROM disc in a different computer and mounting the files over the network.


Multiple indicators for the same thing are good.

I just recommend that you tie your code to the same base methods/functions to determine follow/unfollow. Otherwise, you'll have a lot of coupling and sprawl.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.