Designing for process, not products

Design for Process, Not Products

As designers we often forget that people use websites and products to accomplish tasks and goals. These tasks and goals are often very clear when designing an ecommerce site, or a web-based mail client. Often the tasks and goals are based on existing processes and applications, as in the case of a web-based mail client or in the case of online shopping. It is possible to design new features that remove the frustrations of the existing real-world processes.

Identifying tasks and goals

In the field of ergonomics, identifying the tasks and goals has been studied using a variety of different techniques ranging from:

  • Task Analysis
  • Think aloud protocols
  • Ethnographic observations
  • Work process modeling


Recently there has been a focus in the HCI/Usability/Interface Design communities on Contextual Inquiry and Design as a way to model work, and the tasks that users need to complete. This is a great method for gathering data to make design decisions, however like the other methods it is not without it’s flaws. Contextual Inquiry (CI) is an intense, and comprehensive method for interviewing and observing users, collecting data, and interpreting the observations in to work models. CI can be a long, involved process that does not guarrantee high quality results.