Samantha Kalita //

Use the 5 W’s to Create an Excellent User Experience

A woman sits and smiles in front of her tablet computer.

The 5 W's—the fundamental writing mnemonic we learned in grade school—can help us clearly communicate a story to our audience. They remind us to tell the key points of a story: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. This mnemonic method can also be used as a tool to guide successful user experience design.


Who is your target?

One of the most important considerations in any design is to know who you are designing for. Think about that user’s needs, limitations, and expectations for all aspects of the experience.

Consider what language you want to use.

For example, if you’re designing a learning tool for a student, make sure the vocabulary matches their reading level. Also consider what tone and voice you want to use. Do you want to be authoritative or chummy? If you have a culturally diverse customer base, it may be important to offer multi-lingual experiences.

Empathize with your user.

Do they have any disabilities (e.g., color blindness, poor hearing, poor vision, etc.)? What information and in what format (e.g., text, image, video, audio) do they want? Always try to make their lives easier.

Who does this well:


Their target is schools which means they have optimized their designs for both students and educators.

A mockups representing an application for students on a laptop and tablet with an illustration of a woman.


What is your goal?

This is the “Raison d’être” as the French say. It’s the reason for existence. Keep this foremost in your thoughts. Let it dictate every decision you make. After all, it is the whole point of why you’re creating this experience.

State your goals.

Make sure everyone is clear about those goals from the beginning. Know what your goals are before you start designing. When designing, constantly ask yourself, “Is this helping the user achieve their goal?” If the answer is no, consider excluding it from your design.

Measure your progress.

Don’t forget to establish metrics to evaluate how well you are doing. Create measurable and achievable goals. If your goal is to increase email subscriptions, state that you want to increase conversions by a particular percentage within a window of time.

Who does this well:

Silicon Shire

Their goal is to promote technology businesses in the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area.

A screenshot of the Silicon Shire website.


When should you show CTA’s?

Make call to actions (CTA’s) relevant and easy. Provide users with the context and information that they need to take action. Don’t make conversions a battle. Guide them through the actions they need to take.

Make it relevant.

Be context-sensitive. Both the content and the action should be aligned. For example, if you mention that they can reach out to customer service if they have additional questions, enable them to contact customer service directly.

Be strategic.

Often you’ll have several goals for users. Prioritize those goals and be selective about when you present them to users. Don’t list all the possible actions that a user can take at one time. Distribute them across your experience. Give the highest priority action the most visibility. Provide context and support for taking action. Make sure action language is clear and concise.

Who does this well:

Hatch Canada

Since their primary goal is to have parents sign their children up for after-school programming instruction, this appears as the dominant CTA above the fold. Their secondary goal is to have users contact the instructor. This appears below the primary CTA and in a more modest styling.

A screenshot of the Hatch Canada application.


What platform makes sense?

To answer this question, you need to have previously answered “Who” and “What.” It’s important to understand your users’ behavior as well as the benefits and limitations to the networks and platforms they’re on.

Know where your users are and aren’t.

You have this great social networking plan. It will be the next viral sensation. Everyone will be tweeting about it for months. Except your target isn’t on Twitter, they’re on LinkedIn. Make sure to focus your energy on platforms where you get the most bang for your buck.

Know how to best leverage platforms.

Every thing isn’t designed to do everything. Don’t design a mobile application if all you really need is a mobile optimized website. Pinterest is great for image sharing. Twitter is great for short thoughts. Understand each platform’s strengths and weaknesses and decide which matches your goals best.

Who does this well:


Since this service helps users track their favorite drinks, it’s important that users can access it on the go, wherever they are. They chose to create a mobile app which is ideal for on-the-go access.

A screenshot of the Libration application website.


Why should users act?

Users are savvy. It’s important to demonstrate how you will benefit their lives both from a logical and emotional point of view. There’s a lot of fish in the sea, so don’t get lost in the current. You might have the best service or product, but if you can’t communicate that to your user, you will have lost them.

Address their problems.

Life is complicated. Make it better. Show them that you understand their problems and how you’ll make it better.

Show your value.

This can be done by illustrating cost savings, sharing third party testimonials, displaying comparison charts, etc. Whatever approach you take, make sure you demonstrate your worth.

Who does this well:

Mama Seeds

To establish their credibility as pregnancy experts, they identified well-known pregnancy resources who have leveraged their content.

A screenshot of the Momma Seeds application.

At its core an excellent user experience is achieved by understanding your users and making their lives easier.

What mnemonics have you used in your design process?