Chapter 4. The Three “Whats” of User Perspective

Ah, finally! It’s time to discuss the user’s mind, and it’s always good to start with the basics and build from there.

A good design communicates three things:

  1. What is this?

  2. What is the benefit for the user?

  3. What should they do next?

“What Is This?”

It is always a good idea to have a title or an image (or both) that answers the question: “what is this?” Seems pretty basic, right? But it’s amazing how many websites forget to do it. Why? Because we already know. But the user doesn’t. Is it an article? A registration form? A party for people who love lemons? A place to see goats? Your gerbil’s secret YouTube channel?

Just tell them. Directly. And use simple words. Nobody is excited when you pull out the dictionary at a party. Especially not a lemon party.

“What’s in It for Me?”

This is the “why” of user experience. What can the user gain?

It is better to show users what they will get, rather than tell them. You can use a video, demo, example images, free trial, sample content, testimonials, or several of those things!

The best answers to “what is it?” also tell you a little about what you get. For example, “A global network of megalomaniacs cooperating to conquer the world and share funny cat pics.” That tells you what it is, and what you get (assuming you’re a megalomaniac who loves cats).


You’re saying what’s in it for them. Not why you want them to register/buy/click.

User motivation is a thousand times more valuable than beauty or usability—for the company—but how much time do you spend talking about it at work?

“What Do I Do?”

If the user understands what it is and they are motivated to know or see more, their next action should be obvious in your design.

It could be something small, like “What do I click now?” or “How do I register?”

It could be something bigger, like “How do I get started?” or “How do I buy?” or “Where do I get more training?”

There is always a “next” step. Sometimes there are a few possibilities. It’s up to you to figure out what the users might need, and tell them how to get it.

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