Paul Mirocha UX Design

Drawing to understand UX

I drew my own versions of some common UX design diagrams to help me think about design problems. Since our brains are primarily visual, I also use these to help explain design concepts to others.

It’s tempting to rely solely on advanced technology and business acumen for success. We often think we already understand our users, audience, or customers. However, we are usually wrong when it comes to designing for others. It’s a mistake many website owners make–it’s called “designing for ourselves” and it’s based on assumptions.

Adapted from Willie Lai. Donut icon by Vecteezy.

Technical functions and business goals are critical. Yet, none of it truly works if you don’t have a good user experience, the third circle. It’s just so easy for site visitors to close a window or click through to another site if that ux is not present. 

The Double Diamond of Human-Centered Design

My version (everyone has one) of the “Double Diamond” creative process diagram from the British Design Council in 2005

This diagram can be elaborated almost infinitely to accommodate almost any creative process. Note that most businesses and organizations focus only on the right side, the orange diamond. This is commonly called “brainstorming.” Because most organizations are focused on execution and quick results, they have not spent the time defining the problem. Rushing to a solution without a problem may provide a quick solution, but it may be an incomplete one or simply wrong. Many organizations have long lists of accomplishments that look good on paper, but do they really provide significant, meaningful, and useful products to their users.

Here is a simplified version if the idea.

Looked at this way, the creative process is a series of stages where you expand, generating lots of ideas, then throw many out, focusing on only a few; then expand again in the next phase.

Defining the problem to be solved is the job of the left diamond, often invisible, misunderstood by non-designers, but the heart of the creative process.

The UX or human-centered design process is usually defined in phases over time. UX usually includes a DISCOVER, DEFINE, and DEVELOP phases. The DELIVER phase is done by visual designers and developers using the materials created in the first three phases as a guide.

Normally this is a team process, but I can do a lean version as a “UX team of one,” working with other designers and developers. Here is a simplified chart of what I might do in each stage, depending on the project. In actuality, it’s not so linear. Each stage may loop back onto the previous one in an iterative process, as ideas are tried out, discarded, and replaced with better ones.

Chart of Paul's user-centered design stages

The UX hierarchy of needs

The hierarchy of needs for user-centered-design
The hierarchy of needs for user-centered-design (after Maslow, Stephen P. Anderson, and other UX designers)

This diagram has received criticism from the design community for being too linear and hierarchical. I agree. However, if you realize that a design can function on different levels at the same time, it’s a useful thinking tool.

As you move up the pyramid, the values do become more complex and harder to achieve. It’s worth having that top of the pyramid as a goal. I believe the function of design is to create this kind of deep cultural and personal meaning. That’s what I would call “great work.”

I think about these drawings when I lay awake at night. They keep evolving.