I recently received an email from an inquisitive UX beginner who had three really great questions for me — but each one of them was so great that I think they each deserve their own column, so I’m going to tackle them individually. Let’s take a look:

Dear Caryn:

Hi, My name is Yuda. i am new to UX/UI Design. i am doing some Game Designing right now and UX/UI is my big part because i love draw interfaces and solving the problems.

i read your five-part series to becoming a video game UI/UX designer again and again, and its really inspired me to dive into this world.

i have some questions that i really want to ask you :

1. I read in many articles that UI/UX designer come from many different disciples (like management, psychology, chemistry, physics, etc), and the way they solve the UX problem is come from their respective disciples too. my question is : is there general way to solve UX problem ? and because i am still new, is there a good problem for me to start as UX designer ?

Yuda actually had another great question in that email, but we’ll tackle that one, as well as the question about good problems to start on as a beginning UX designer, in another column because each one of those can be discussed at length on their own.

So let’s talk about the first question Yuda asked: is there a general way to solve a UX problem?

The short answer to that is, “yes…and no."

No, because UX design processes are as individual as the people who practice UX design — designers embrace favorite techniques that work for them and discard those that tend not to. And some techniques just won’t be applicable to the design problem you’re tackling right now. Because design problems are so widely varied, the process to solving those problems must be varied as well. The process you would use to, say, create an app to help people with social anxiety deal with social situations would, of course, be radically different than the process you would use to create a car’s dashboard interface. Both are design problems, but both are pretty unrelated to each other.

That said, there’s also a bit of a “yes" in there. There’s a general roadmap that UX designers can use to begin tackling a design problem, and as with all roadmaps it’s up to you to decide which points to stop at and which points to forget about visiting, depending on your journey and where you’re going. Below is the roadmap that I’ve been carrying around, so to speak, for a good chunk of my design career. It’s the framework that I go to whenever I begin solving a new design problem.

1. Define the problem

What is it you’re trying to solve? What are you trying to help your users or customers do? Create a kind of mission statement for your problem — “How does a user change their profile?” “How does a player open their backpack in this RPG game?”

2. Sketch

Before even thinking about opening Photoshop, Sketch, or any other mockup tool, get out your sketchbook and your pens and start sketching any and all ideas, good and bad — it’s important to get everything out onto the page so you can quickly clear away the bad ideas without thinking too much about them. Sketch notes, ideas, UI screens, menu flows, anything that seems like an idea that helps solve the problem you outlined in step 1. It’s even better if you have other designers to do this with on a big whiteboard. Collaboration is key!


A UI screenflow sketch I did attempting to solve problems relating to inventory in an RPG game. 

3. Refine

Look at all of your ideas. Now pick out the ones that look like they might hint at a solution to the problem you’re tackling — circle them on your paper, or photograph them on your whiteboard. These are the ones you’ll carry with you through the next steps. 

4. Prototype

Pick the idea that seems the best and make a quick prototype to test its most basic parts. That might mean making a paper prototype out of sketched screens. Or it might mean making a more robust prototype if the idea is more complex. (I’m a big fan of using InVision to make quick prototypes, whether it’s out of sketches or full-on mockups). 


I often create paper prototypes to test out quick interaction ideas without spending a lot of time mocking up ideas that might not work.

5. Test

Test your prototype in single-user “kitchen tests” — design a task for a user to accomplish in your prototype that will give you data on the problem you’re trying to solve. Then take your prototype and camp out in your company kitchen and ask people who come in to take a minute or two and try and do the task. Take notes. You’ll immediately be able to see if your design has merit or if you need to go back to some of your other ideas.

6. Repeat as necessary

Use the data to go back to any of the previous steps and pick up where it makes sense. Did your prototype pretty much fail completely? Maybe it’s time to look at step 1 and think about whether you defined the problem you’re trying to solve well enough. Or maybe your users were mostly able to accomplish the task but there were a couple of small items they didn’t get — some of your earlier sketches might be worth revisiting for additional ideas. 

This framework is a pretty broad process that you should be able to apply to any user experience design problem, but you should also be open to tweaking it and adding steps as necessary, such as scenario mapping or persona definition, which are more in-depth UX design tools that you may or may not need depending on your design problem. 

Yuda, I hope this gives you a framework to think about, and we’ll look at your question about good problems to tackle as a UX beginner in the next “This UX Thing” post. Thanks for sending in your questions!