“Don’t dead him!” Why verbs are hard and what it means for our UX process

Sophia V Prater
6 min readJul 24, 2020


When we walk into a new physical environment, let’s say a friend’s home, we immediately begin identifying the things: couch, jug of lemonade, kitchen table, other people. These objects, their implied relationships to each other and to us, give us cues on how to behave and act in the environment. A beer in an ice bucket on the counter is different from a beer in the fridge. A beer in the fridge is different from a beer in your friend’s hand.

This seems so obvious, but the truth is, we UX designers often make it hard for our users to intuitively identify the important objects that make up our digital environments. When users enter our apps, websites, and software, their poor “physical world” brains desperately try to figure out: “What are the things here?” For a system to be truly intuitive, we need our users to quickly — subconsciously, even — answer this question.

Why do so many digital places not clearly communicate the valuable objects they contain?

Unfortunately, today, traditional UX design is completely verb-focused. We define all the things a user will DO in our system before we get really clear on all the things that are getting DONE TO.

In the PayPal world, the main objects are payments, people, invoices, and products. Yet, none of the boxes on the screen represent those critical things. It’s not until I scroll down to “Recent Activity” that I see a list of payments. But the visual design does nothing to communicate to the user that these are distinct objects.

Object-Oriented UX is based on the theory that to understand an environment, we first have to understand the objects in that environment. Users can’t get a grip on what they can DO in an environment until they understand the objects that can be DONE TO.

For the record, when I say “objects” I am talking about the real-deal valuable things. I am NOT talking about UI components, which are just means to an end.

  • Users come for the EVENTS (the objects), not the calendar picker (the UI component).
  • Users come for the PRODUCTS (the objects), not the shopping cart (the UI component).
  • Users come for the RECIPES (the you-know-whats), not the cool star-rating slider UI.

The Research

What backs up this theory that people need to understand objects first? I go over a ton of…



Sophia V Prater

UX designer, OOUX Instructor, and Chief Evangelist for Object-Oriented UX | Download the OOUX Launch Guide! OOUX.com/resources/launchguide