5 steps up the UX needs pyramid

5 steps up the UX needs pyramid

When you design your product you get completely immersed in it. As you spend days, weeks and months working on the code, functionality and design, you may start to forget that most of your users will be completely unfamiliar with the concepts and functionality of your product. To a great extent this is where a lot of usability issues arise. Figuring out a good user onboarding is almost akin to reverse engineering your own development process.

To help you on this journey I’ve put together a pyramid of user needs when it comes to product design. There are several helpful posts on the subject with slightly different views on Smashing Magazine¬†and UX Movement, but I largely agree with the article by Wouter de Bres.


It’s the foundation of the pyramid. The search for you app begins with a need for a solution to a specific problem or task at hand. The alignment with the ultimate goal makes your app useful and creates meaning. Without that functionality and design make no sense as it serves no particular purpose. We usually see an implementation of Purpose captured and communicated in the marketing pitch on the main page, which conveys that alignment between vision behind the app and your ultimate purpose in using it.


Once the purpose has been established, the functional usefulness comes into light. Does your product actually work? Can it perform its functions to fulfill the purpose? Does it provide the tools you need in order to achieve your goal. When you see a Features page or a Feature tour link on a website, that’s the message that communicates the Function segment of the pyramid.


That’s where it gets interesting… and difficult. You’ve now been able to communicate the value of your product through it’s vision and functionality, but you can hit a wall if it’s not clear how it works or how to use it. This is where usability comes into a play over a broad spectrum of activities to make the value and functional wealth of your product accessible. If your users don’t get past this stage in understanding your product the adoption will be low and likely prolonged, which brings us to the next point.


If you do first two steps right to establish the purpose and functionality of your product, most people will be motivated enough to actually try the product if there are some obscurities remaining. In fact the trial stage is where we expect to clear those point that might have been ambiguous by simply poking around and test driving those advertised features. This stage becomes pivotal – if the product has a robust user onboarding in place, which helps to grasp new concepts quickly and easily, it will drive them through the adoption cycle and get to sustainable usage.


Finally, the pinnacle of the pyramid. To be honest, this is incredibly hard to achieve. Are people actually enjoying using your product? Every product is unique and offers a different value proposition so getting it right is extremely difficult. At the same time once in a awhile you stumble upon a product like that and I encourage you to search your memory and study how they did this, so you can borrow a few tips and tricks. A personal example – Canva – simple graphic design app, that uses a combination of vivid imaging, animation effects and solid user guidance to make for a great experience.

As you can see user onboarding comes into play very early in the product adoption cycle and plays a vital role in helping your customers grasp the value of your product and develop a usage pattern for a happy long-term relationship.