I once had a discussion with my colleague about:

  • “What does it take to make good UX decisions?”
  • “What are the principles that could guide us when we form our ideas, concepts, and wireframes?”
  • ”What does it mean to make a good UX decision?”

Well, let’s see.

I believe a good UX decision should be focused on human beings. I also believe it’s important for this decision to be fact-based and helpful for users to reach their objectives. Looking for some answers to my questions, I found 2 interesting methods that could guide us in making good decisions & could help us improve User Experience. The first one is from Donald Norman who explains the steps a human being follows consciously or unconsciously when interacting with an object. The second one is Jacob Nielsen’s 10 heuristics, that serve as UX rules of thumb.

In this article I’ll write about the “Seven stages of action” principle and how can use it.


In order to make good decisions, it’s important to know how human beings make decisions when following an objective. Usually, when someone is planning to interact with an object, he or she goes through several steps. These steps could be divided into 2 categories called Gulfs. There is a Gulf of Execution, where we tend to discover the object’s properties, and Gulf of Evaluation, where we get feedback related to our interaction.

The Gulfs in UX

Before interacting with an object that we didn’t see before, we form a conceptual model in our mind. The more a human being’s conceptual model is closer to the functioning model of the object, the more pleasant and efficient the interaction is.

Gulf of Execution

A good example of a product that doesn’t respect these principles is the new Volvo trunks. The trunk opens when the sensor detects movement under the car’s trunk.

Here we can see that there’s an issue in the Gulf of Execution when discovering the object’s features. When interacting with this type of car,  a human being needs additional information about the way the trunk opens. When missing the clear indicators about the object’s functionality we often get frustrated and tend to avoid such products.

Gulf of Evaluation

Another good example that lacks clear feedback in the Gulf of Evaluation is the Nespresso coffee machines. On the top of the coffee machine, the led lights that blink indicate something, but without a proper explanation, a human being will make different assumptions about what happened.

When pressing the button, it starts to blink, which indicates that the user needs to do something, or that the machine is doing something.

Discoverability + Feedback = HCD

Decisions we make when creating a product’s components should offer good discoverability and clear feedback. There’s a large distance between these two Gulfs and our mission is to build a bridge between them by improving the experience. Human beings subconsciously pass seven steps when going from the first Gulf to the second one. These steps could be translated into seven questions:

  1. What do I want to do and why?
  2. How can I do it?
  3. What options do I have?
  4. What can I do now?
  5. What happened?
  6. What does it mean?
  7. Is it good what happened?

When we address the steps from the Gulf of Execution and Gulf of Evaluation, our product is human-centered designed.

Now that you understand the seven stages of action, let’s analyze a digital product (Gmail) that responds to the seven questions mentioned previously:

  1. I would like to get rid of the emails that I don’t need. (Objective)
  2. I would like to delete these emails. (Plan)
  3. I can tap on the item, or I can tap on the checkbox. (Specify)
  4. I want to tap on the delete icon. (Perform)
  5. I see a notification. (Perceive)
  6. The notification says that the mail was moved to trash. (Interpret)
  7. The email was deleted. (Compare)

GMAIL UX feedback



When we interact with either physical or digital products, we consciously on unconsciously follow seven steps. These steps are not necessarily successive as the order changes with interaction. It’s important to know these steps while designing a product because it gives us guidance when we get stuck.


– Julian Corunga