As the diversity of services in the financial market increases, it is critical to design usable banking software in order to overcome the complex structure of the system. The current study presents a usability guideline based on heuristics and their corresponding criteria that could be used during the early stages of banking software design process. In the design of a usability guideline, the heuristics and their criteria are categorized in terms of their effectiveness in solving usability problems grouped and ranging from usability catastrophe to cosmetic problems. The current study comprises of three main steps: First, actual usability problems from three banking software development projects are categorized according to their severity level. Secondly, usability criteria are rated for how well they explain the usability problems encountered. Finally, usability heuristics are categorized according to the severity level of usability problems through two analytical models; corresponding and cluster analyses. As the result, designers and project managers may give more importance to the heuristics related with the following usability problem categories: Usability catastrophe and then major usability problems. Furthermore, the proposed guideline can be used to understand which usability criteria would be helpful in explaining usability problems as well as preventing banking system catastrophes, by highlighting the critical parts in system design of banking software. (c) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.