User experience design and the question of why?

Posted on: 29 Apr 2019
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Questioning why are we doing something


This is usually the first thing that I ask when a project, addition, change or idea is posed to me. It is something designers, researchers, testers, developers, product/project managers, execs… almost anyone involved can ask. It’s not an opportunity to create conflict or confrontation, it is just a query to provide context and ensure we’re doing something for the right reasons.

Why are we doing this?
Why do you want this?
What are you trying to solve?

These are slightly different angles to the question that could result in different answers.

Let’s take a step back and actually see if the problem we’re trying to solve is a user problem, a business goal or something else. Then we can start to gage how important it is and if we need to find out more before considering ways to solve it. We might need to look into analytics. Or, we might need to talk to some users to really understand why this ‘thing’ needs to be solved and potential ideas could pop up to lead us in the direction of a potential solution. We might need to do our own research or talk to other specialists in this area.

Taking a user focus

Are users struggling to find something?
Why are they bouncing off the site so quickly?
Are they struggling to complete a process?

If we can start to turn these ‘Why?’ questions into ones with a user focus then we can start to solve our users problems and in turn increase potential engagement, sales or time on site for the company’s own benefit too. Best way to start getting answers to these questions is user testing/research by surveys, interviews or informal chats.

Getting everyone in on the why

It’s really important for all those involved to understand why we’re doing something. This is not just so they can do a good job progressing a project, but also in case they have a different point of view or if something important has been missed out.

A good example of this is user flows or customer journeys. As a UX Designer I’m pretty good at figuring out many user flows, putting myself in the user’s shoes when I’m unable to ask users directly. Yet, the moment you get another person in the room, whether they are a developer, a product manger, a tester or someone else, someone is bound to spot a user flow/journey (or a consideration to one) that I’ve missed for some reason.

Once given context and the why, a developer may consider what happens when a user clicks the back button on the browser application, a tester might consider what happens when a user closes a modal, a product manager might consider the different avenues a user could end up in once their task is complete. They could all potentially add value to the user flows and project, just by being involved in the discussions early on.

We want to achieve x. Users want to achieve y. How do we do both?

We need to start asking ourselves more often if users achieve their task or goal with our website or app, could that mean they could also achieve our goals. Can we start to align those goals more to be serving users directly, in a transparent way so that they trust our brand and product? If we do this, will they return or share their experience with others so they may visit too?

If you’d like to find out more about User Experience Design (UX) check out my UX series of blog posts »

I previously touched on the topic of why in this blog post about my review on the Design Disruptors video ( and thought it would be useful to re-visit the topic in more detail as part of my UX series.

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