Goal-Directed Design Process

Goal-Directed Design is a method of user-centered design that prioritizes looking for the goals of the end users and developing solutions to assist them in achieving those goals and overcoming the obstacles that block them. This is well documented in the books About Face and Designing for the Digital Age. Hugh Dubberly wrote a concise overview in his article Alan Cooper and the Goal Directed Design Process. Below is an overview of the process.

Stage 1: Research

Define the scope and research questions of the project, conduct an audit of the current solution and/or competitor solutions, write a research guide, interview stakeholders and users, and observe users going through the current experience. The purpose of this stage is to give you the raw data to understand the environment, mental models, data models, and goals of the end users’ world. It also provides the business rationale for the work.

Stage 2: Modeling

During this stage, synthesize the raw data into personas and other models like workflows, journey maps, etc.

Stage 3: Requirements Definition

Now that you have the cast of characters derived through the evidence, define the world in which they live. The best and fastest way to do this is with text-based scenarios. Tell the story of the persona’s current experience, through a transformational experience, and finally to an enhanced future. From here, pull out the functional and data needs and any other requirements.

Stage 4: Design Framework

Now define how information flows, navigation works, and functionality enables the personas to achieve their goals in line with the scenarios written in stage 3. Any other special scenarios like key path or validation scenarios are written at this time.

Stage 5: Design Refinement

This is the stage where user interface (UI) design becomes more prominent. What is the brand experience, what is the design language? The team addresses these and other more visual design questions in this phase.

Stage 6: Design Support

As the design moves forward through various iterations, the design team remains engaged to ensure that the software achieves the goals of the business and users that they discovered in the previous stages. Monitoring outcome metrics at this stage helps identify the impact the design contributes.

This design process stretches further than most other design models out there today such as Lean UX or Continuous Design and Discovery. It enables designers to play a larger role in the organization and make a difference in the lives of users.


Cooper, A., Reimann, R., Cronin, D., & Noessel, C. (2014). About face: The essentials of interaction design (Fourth edition). John Wiley and Sons.

Dubberly, H. (n.d.). Alan Cooper and the Goal Directed Design Process. Retrieved February 28, 2024, from https://www.dubberly.com/articles/alan-cooper-and-the-goal-directed-design-process.html

Goodwin, K. (2009). Designing for the digital age: How to create human-centered products and services. Wiley Pub.

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