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Mise en Place

Why good UX is like attending the best dinner party you’ve ever been to

Christine Hart
Oct 21, 2013 · 2 min read

Mise en place is one of those fine terms that English adapted from the French. It is the practice of setting up your ingredients — measured and chopped, tools and pans all within easy reach. Like a place setting, mise en place makes me think of good products. Reach for a fork, it’s where you expect it to be.

Over the years, I’ve played a lot of different roles on projects. I’ve been the designer, the project manager, the product person, and the UX designer. Of all of these, for me, the most satisfying role is in UX and product management. Of all of the roles you can have on a project, product manager and UX are the most like setting up a table that is comfortable and inviting, but just challenging enough for people to be interested in sitting down to your meal.

Fundamentally, I am a host. I used to live in a tiny little studio apartment in Manhattan’s Chinatown. I would throw as lavish of dinner parties as I could in that space. 5 courses with wine pairings for up to 6 people. I even documented the challenges of logistically serving, cooking and hosting that many people in a 312 square foot apartment. You can see some of that here:

Hosting a great dinner party is like implementing a great UX. To your guests, everything they could want is within reach. The presentation is appetizing and delightful. The courses are transitioned into with grace and logic. The guest list is well curated so the conversation flows with ease. Hosting is the metaphor that I use the most when I am thinking about UX and design.

Good products give you something you need in a way that you never thought you’d get it delivered with an elegance that you now can’t live without. Just like the time you sat down at your friends place, got served up a parmesan panna cotta for an appetizer and were sat next to a cellist. Dessert inverted set the stage for a long and enjoyable meal, like an app that you keep firing up day after day.

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