Episode 63 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with UX design consultant Sophia Prater. Sophia evangelizes object oriented UX, a methodology that helps teams tackle complex design challenges. In this conversation, we discuss OOUX and how it differs from other methodologies.

Sophia described OOUX as a philosophy “that respects and acknowledges the fact that people think in objects.” What are objects?

An object is a thing that has value to the user. So, when I say objects, I’m not talking about your navbar or your calendar picker or your dropdown. All those things are valuable, but they are a means to an end. And I often say no user is coming to your site for your calendar picker. It could be the best calendar picker in the whole world, but that’s not what they’re coming for. They’re coming for the event, or they’re coming for the people that they can invite to the event.

In this model, objects have structure, instances, and a purpose. Clearly articulating the objects we’re dealing with helps designers communicate more effectively, both among ourselves and (more importantly) with our stakeholders, subject matter experts, and other collaborators.

As the designers of these environments, if we don’t get super clear on what our objects are, there’s no way — there’s just absolutely no way in hell — that we’re going to be able to translate that to our end users. We’re just not! If we can’t get it straight on our team and we can’t get it straight among ourselves, then that’s going to create a lot of communication problems internally, which is a problem that I hear all the time.

OOUX reminded me of conceptual modeling in the Johnson and Henderson sense. Sophia pointed out key distinctions between the two approaches. For one thing, objects are more tangible than concepts. For another, OOUX analyzes objects before delving into the tasks they accommodate, whereas conceptual modeling starts by understanding tasks.

The ultimate goal of modeling objects is to define the system’s “objective truth” — i.e., underlying structural considerations that are independent of user interpretation. (My phrase.) I found this idea especially intriguing. Alas, we were running out of time by this point in the conversation.

I’d love to have Sophia back on the show sometime so we can delve deeper into how we can discover the objective truth of the systems we design. For now, this episode serves as a good introduction to OOUX. I hope you get as much value from our conversation as I did.

The Informed Life episode 63: Sophia Prater on Object Oriented UX