Getting to the Bottom of Things: UX Edition

T. M. Southall
3 min readDec 13, 2020


As I navigate life in the world of UX I seek for constant growth. This time has given me the chance to contemplate on my work. I’m a user experience designer and researcher and it’s my passion to improve the experiences that users go through on the web and mobile. I’m always pushing myself to learn more and to be a designer that brings meaningful work to the table. To be meaningful, the first thing that comes to mind is the research that I do in my work. I set parameters, talk to users, and audit similar websites, amongst much more. After all that work I can’t help but wonder to myself, did I get everything? What have I missed?

I leafed through my copy of Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things for some more insight.

“One of my rules in consulting is simple: never solve the problem I am asked to solve.” (Norman, 216)

I came across this quote while reading through the chapter about design thinking. When solving experience problems, it’s not always best to have a certain result in mind. It’s rational to work with an idea of what you think the data will tell you but it shouldn’t cloud your expectations.

You need to be open to surprising yourself with what you find during your research. What I try to get to with this questioning is to know what customers are trying to do. I additionally want to know what impediments lay in front of them.

Observing Customers

One of the most interesting parts of my work is observing people. As a designer and researcher I’ve led user interviews. It’s fascinating because people can create a thousand perspectives from any experience. I’ve conducted these interviews in-person and on the computer. Whenever I have the chance I always take the in-person option to speak to people. Interviewing over zoom calls requires you to sacrifice a lot of nuance. It’s harder to read facial expressions (especially if they have their face cams turned off). It’s unfortunate but due to everything going on right now, it’s the safest option. Luckily I have other tools at my disposal.

Errors & Root Cause Analysis

We all have experienced errors. They’re annoying, stressful, and in certain situations, deadly. Errors get in the way of what we as users what to do. In focusing on these barriers, I use Root Cause Analysis. This kind of analysis takes a look at human error and asks “why did this error occur?” and “what can be done to prevent this?”. In his book, Don Norman adds that a useful tool when performing the root cause analysis is The Five Whys. The Five Whys strategy was a strategy first implemented by Sakichi Toyota. It asks those investigating a problem not to stop when they uncover the first reason to a failure. It’s not a hard set rule to only go to five, but it’s still a good discipline to push your expectations farther.

I like working in UX is because I’m able to make digital spaces more pleasant and efficient. I’m grateful that I have resources such as The Design of Everyday Thing and similar resources. I will become a better designer with all the resources I have available.



T. M. Southall

UX Designer/Researcher. Interested in the history of thoughts and beliefs. I share my professional experiences