The Tao of UX, Book I

A great mystery awaits, restless yet rooted. Playful and serious all at once. Just beyond thought, just outside of compilers, it is the source of ...

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The art tells you that this is a very serious post.

A great mystery awaits, restless yet rooted. Playful and serious all at once. Just beyond thought, just outside of compilers, it is the source of all UX. I do not know its name, so I will call it the Tao of UX.

The interface that can be seen is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The screen that can be touched is not the enduring and unchanging Tao.

Called by the different names of design and development, it is really the same. Together we call it UX. Where the UX is the greatest is the path to subtlety and wonder.


The Tao gave birth to punch cards. Punch cards gave birth to keyboards. Keyboards gave birth to mice. Now voices, gestures, and cameras all input data into computers.

Each input device has its purpose, however humble. Each input device expresses the Yin and Yang of UX. Each has its place within the Tao.

But do not use a trackball if you can avoid it.


Two novice developers sat at tea, debating the greatness of their achievements.

The first said, “Look at my application! Its logic is powerful and elegant. A user may enter a piece of text, a picture, speak into their computer, or draw on the screen. All these various inputs become structured, harmonious data. Truly, this is a deep expression of the Tao.”

The second said, “This is not the Tao. Look instead at my application! The colors on the screen have been carefully selected, the size and alignment of all fields have been laid pixel perfect, and the user has full control of all elements which he sees. Truly, this is a deep expression of the Tao.”

The Master, overhearing their debate, interjected thus: “I have spoken to the user of your applications. Upon discovering her true needs, I produced a simple script which executes nightly and tabulates all her figures. In a week, she will forget that I have even written this program.”

At once, the novices were enlightened.


When the user becomes frustrated, screens are ignored.
When the computer groans with effort, the user waits.
When the application proceeds in fits and starts, its purpose is occluded.

Truly, this is not the Tao of UX.

When the user dances through the interface, applications create harmony.
When the computer glides through code as on a gentle zephyr, users experience joy.
When the application runs fearlessly through its assigned flow, it finds its purpose.

Truly, this is the Tao of UX.


The Master, knowing her talents languished unappreciated, navigated to Mindset’s careers page. Like storm-scattered scrolls, opportunities swirled around her. She rejoiced, not noticing that she’d been used as a rhetorical device in a year-end goof-off blog post.


Inspired by The Tao of Programming

Paul J. Modderman

Paul J. Modderman

Paul Modderman loves creating things and sharing them. He has spoken at SAP TechEd, multiple ASUG regional events, ASUG Fall Focus, Google DevFest MN, Google ISV Days, and several webinars and SAP community gatherings. Paul's writing has been featured in SAP Professional Journal, on the SAPinsider blog, and the popular Mindset blog. He believes clear communication is just as important as code, but also has serious developer chops. His tech career has spanned web applications with technologies like .NET, Java, Python, and React to SAP soutions in ABAP, OData and SAPUI5. His work integrating Google, Fiori, and Android was featured at SAP SAPPHIRE. Paul was principal technical architect on Mindset's certified solutions CloudSimple and Analytics for BW. He's an SAP Developer Hero, honored in 2017. Paul is the author of two books: Mindset Perspectives: SAP Development Tips, Tricks, and Projects, and SAPUI5 and SAP Fiori: The Psychology of UX Design. His passion for innovative application architecture and tech evangelism shines through in everything he does.

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