Designing actions flow in UX

Don Norman’s Psychology of Everyday Things covers a model of how people act when they’re acting in the world to pursue goals that they have.

Have you ever wondered how we get hooked to certain websites and spend hours without realising? Or, how it becomes so easy to navigate between some websites while with others it’s simply annoying even to identify the provided action items. So what makes these websites or products stand out? The answer to all these questions is a better User Experience Design. So grab a cup of coffee and let’s know, how, when and where we can use UX to make our products stand out by focusing on the User as the primary source of inspiration.

Stages of Action by People

In 1986, Don Norman published a book called The Psychology of Everyday Things. It was later re-released under the title The Design of Everyday Things. But this book has had an enormous influence on the field of user experience, and many user experience professionals have read it and used it. One of the things that Norman covers in this book is a model of how people act when they’re acting in the world to pursue goals that they have.

How people act (7 stages)?

  • Deciding a goal
  • Deciding a specific intention to inch towards the goal
  • Selecting an action for the same
  • Executing the action => changing the world
  • Perceiving the changed state of the world
  • Interpreting the state of the world
  • Evaluation of the outcome and moving back to step -1 in a loop

Execution and Evaluation?

  • You see the 2nd,3rd and 4th steps are execution and the next 3 steps are Evaluation

Difficulty in bridging the gap between GOAL and EXECUTION? Try using Gulf of Execution.

The Gulf of Execution

  • Some specific Instructions to do
  • For example, intro.js to tell everyone what to do once enter the website

It provides….

  • Indication of action being done
  • For example, light glowing after button pressed

How to bridge the gap?


  • User’s goals
  • How they think about accomplishing them

Make sure likely actions are

  • Visible when needed
  • Make sense

Make sure the results of actions

  • Are visible
  • Make sense

Design Principles for Discoverability :

  1. User needs to be able to discover the action.
  2. User needs to know how to operate the system.
  3. Two things people need to discover. First is all the actions available and next is whether the action execution is successful or not.

Features of Good Design


  • Possibility of an action: The button is for pressing affordance or Doorknob for grabbing affordance

Conventions and Standards

  • Sometimes user knows what to do
  • or, they are habituated with it


  • Unavailable actions should be disabled
  • Feedback on Action
  • Feedback on a particular action
  • Whether successful or not: Showing numbers while typing password and converting them to dots afterwards


  • A sign for the occurrence of an action

Conceptual Models

  • Where the user understand the whole action cycle to simulate future action
  • Use of Consistency Metaphors (like icons) to make a better conceptual model.
  • Remember that designer’s Conceptual model is NOT EQUAL TO Customer’s conceptual model

So that’s it for this article. I hope you all liked it and if you liked it then do not forget to tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Anisha Swain

Anisha Swain

MTS @Salesforce, Former SE@Red Hat,GHCI18 Scholar,Open Source Contributor, Computer Vision and Deep learning enthusiast. contact: