Designing Middle Out

Published 3 Comments on Designing Middle Out

I believe that you shouldn’t design in the chronological order the user will use the product. In other words, you don’t need to design the login screen first. You can pick a point in the middle. I call it an “anchor point”. This point serves as one of the important foundation interfaces. It shows a specific interaction that represents a wider set of areas. These are often a single screen, but they give a gist to how the rest of the product will work.

At Marketo, that screen was the Smart List editor. This is a newer screenshot from the product.

Marketo Smart List

The original looked more like this.


Look at it in PowerPoint to see details.

This one single screen was the foundation of the rest of the product built over the past 8 years. It was modeled after seeing the movie Minority Report.

Now at Engagio, I am designing the same anchor points. How does one do Account Based Marketing specifically? I am starting in the middle and working my way out. It’s a good process for me, but I am unsure if it works for other people. I want to show a screenshot of what I have, but I think I need to wait until we build it. Don’t worry, I am keeping all my old copies.



  1. UX complaint. I want to login into my quickbooks online account. I google quickbooks login. I see a link that says Awesome, so I go there, but I can’t log in on that page, it wants to sell me something. I small up on the upper corner says Log In, so I click. On the next page, I still can’t log in, it wants to sell me something again. Now I have to click “continue to log in, which brings me to the right page. Overall, I find the experience of quickbooks online to be average (at best), but every time I had to log in, I start my work with a bad feeling. That’s it. Happy almost Solstice

    1. Thank you for your complaint. I will give it 3x the time it deserves. Tip: Tweet your complaint with the @QuickBooks handle and they will likely respond.

  2. Starting from the middle out isn’t too far fetched of an approach. I bet a lot of us subconsciously think or do this already. Some people start at the end/goal first; however you have to realize with any service there are multiple goals and that the user will spend a majority of their time interacting with the “middle”.

Whatya think?