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3 simple questions to ask when evaluating a design

Does that text make sense? Is the navigation clear? Should that button be a different colour? What does Herb think of the design?

There are all sorts of questions that you could be asking when evaluating a design. However, you don’t need 20 questions, just these 3 simple questions to quickly evaluate a design and identify some potential improvements.

1. What will a user want to do?

Assuming you have some idea of who your users are, you should start by asking what it is that a user will want to do? What are the key tasks that users will want to complete? For example, if you’re designing a Google maps type app some key tasks might include:

  • Find out where a point of interest is (e.g. address)
  • Find out how long it will take to get somewhere
  • Get directions to somewhere
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What will a user want to do using an app like Google maps?

User stories can be an excellent way to capture what users will want to do. For each user story / task you should ask questions 2 and 3, starting with what you believe to be the most important story / task for your user.

2. Will a user know how to do it?

Given the user’s task, will the user know how to do it? Is there a clear starting point or call to action, such as a button, or option within the navigation? Ideally it should be very clear what to do in order to carry out the task.

I was reminded of the importance of this recently when I spent 5 minutes trying to attach a file to an Outlook appointment. It turns out that rather confusingly this option is only available under the ‘Format Text’ tab, rather than the default ‘Appointment’ tab. I knew what I wanted to do (schedule an appointment with an attached file) but didn’t know how to do it.

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Hmmm… How do you attach a file to an Outlook appointment?
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Of course, you have to go to the ‘Format Text’ tab!

It might be that the product doesn’t even allow the user to complete an important task. Remember, good design is not only about getting the design right, but about designing the right thing in the first place.

3. Will a user know whether their actions were correct?

Imagine if having finally attached the file to my Outlook appointment and hit the ‘Save & Close’ option, the appointment simply disappeared into the ether. I’d have no way of knowing whether I’d been able to successfully schedule my appointment or not.

The third question to ask is whether the user will know whether their actions were correct. Does the product provide good feedback and visibility of what is going on? If for some reason the user has not been able to complete their task, will he or she even know this?


With these 3 simple questions you can quickly evaluate a design against user tasks, and more importantly identify some potential improvements. You can ask them early on in the design process, use them to evaluate existing products and designs or even use them as part of a competitor review.

If you like this article then please recommend and share it. You can find lots more articles like this on my blog: UX for the Masses

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Originally published at on July 1, 2019.

Former techy turned UX Jedi. Checkout out my blog (UX for the Masses) for more about me.

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