Lens: Type: Behavior

The sequence of steps required to use a design outcome.

Photo: Snapwire
man riding bike

When a person uses a design outcome, they operate it to achieve a goal. Operating a design outcome involves a series of steps. When someone uses a concert poster, they may go through the following steps to use it:

  1. See a concert poster from across the train station
  2. Notice the image, coloring, and headline typography
  3. Walk up to the poster
  4. Read the details about the concert
  5. Grab a phone from the purse, check the calendar for availability, buy tickets

All design outcomes are operated/used. Communication Design outcomes communicate information when used. Services and industrial design outcomes involve physical operation, such as using a hammer or using a cane to walk.

Some design outcomes require instructions in order to know how to use them. Signs posted at Zion National Park direct visitors so they know how to get to a specific trail. In this case, people are operating/using Zion National Park.

Researching Operation

When designers research an outcome’s operation, they gain insights into the sequence of steps required to use a design. This research can reveal that a design outcome is hard to use because its procedure is very complicated. It can also reveal that the design’s operation could make it hard or even impossible for different people to use.

Questions to Ask About Operation

  • What are the steps required to use the outcome?
  • Who is limited by the way this outcome is intended to be used?
  • What are the intended steps to take when using the design outcome?
  • How can the design outcome be operated in ways it was not intended to be used?

Look for These When Researching Operation

  • When people use a design outcome and get frustrated.
  • Overt instructions that direct people how to use a design outcome.


References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.


Revell, K. M. A., Richardson, J., Langdon, P., Bradley, M., Politis, I., Thompson, S., Skrypchuck, L., O’Donoghue, J., Mouzakitis, A., & Stanton, N. A. (2020). Breaking the cycle of frustration: Applying Neisser’s Perceptual Cycle Model to drivers of semi-autonomous vehicles. Applied Ergonomics, 85, 103037.

Social Sciences

Gaddis, E. S., Burch, R. F., V., Strawderman, L., Chander, H., Smith, B. K., Freeman, C., & Taylor, C. (2022). The impact of using wearable devices on the operator during manual material handling tasks. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ergon.2022.103294

Gould, C. E., Zapata, A. M. L., Shinsky, D. N., & Goldstein, M. K. (2018). Testing the Usability of a Portable DVD Player and Tailored Photo Instructions with Older Adult Veterans. Educational Gerontology, 44(1), 64–73.