Updated on Saturday, August 12, 2023
For an interface, a method to document and understand the interface's target user, their task, the previous and next steps, and the content and functionality needed to support the user.
Picture this. You and your team are designing screens. You know what screens you want to design, but how do you make sure the screens are designed the right way?
When you sketch or design an interface, the image may look fantastic. Yet, it's tough to know how good the interface is because it's not clear who you designed it for, why, and how it fits into what the user is doing.
|Difficulty||Anyone can do this|
|Participants||Up to 6 with or without experience|
|Time||45 minutes (in-person), 1 hour (remote)|
|Materials||a way to collect ideas, a place to collect them, and some way to sketch|
4-corners is an easy way to explain to your team the why behind an interface. Whether you're sketching or delivering high fidelity visual comps, 4-corners helps people describe why they designed the things they designed.
4-corners is a simple way to tweak your process that anyone at any level can use to improve any sketch or comp. Use 4-corners to help when you collaborate on sketches at the whiteboard or to supplement a comp to preserve your rationale, so it's clear when someone looks at it later.
4-corners is an Interface method to make decisions about interface features and their priority. It uses brainstorming and prioritization to list users, tasks, content and functionality before sketching to design the interface.
The brainstorming and prioritization help you capture the thinking you need to design a good interface and the sketch documents all your decisions. You can even go straight from 4-corners sketching into development.
4-corners was developed for workshops with participants with no design skills, and it's been used by everyone from QA analysts to executives, developers to marketers. It's designed to be easy to teach, easy to set-up, and easy to do.
4-corners was developed to support collaborative sketching and works great adding just a few scribbles to whatever you're sketching. This speed and ease make it an ideal companion when you're rapidly sketching multiple variations of an interface.
The simplicity of 4-corners make it an easy way to annotate wireframes and comps with just enough information without requiring detailed annotations about everything on the interface.
Maybe 4-corners doesn't include enough information. If you need more or more detailed information, consider full annotation of your interface models.
If you're moving quickly and sketching lots of variations of the same interface, you can document the 4-corners once and reference it for each sketch. This is useful in activities like Crazy Eights or 6-8-5 sketching.
4-corners.pptx (269.12 kB). Last modified 06/27/20
The following resources provide more information about using this method.
Austin Govella provides detailed instructions and facilitation tips for 4-Corners in chapter 18 of his book, Collaborative Product Design. You can view chapter 18 online via O’Reilly’s Safari Books. Chapter 18 includes detail on variations and alternatives for using this method.
Daniel Furtado provides detailed instructions and facilitation tips in Portuguese for 4-Corners in a video for his YouTube channel, UXNow. His resources include a PDF canvas, presentation guide, and a canvas in Figma.
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Futures wheel (method)
A method that helps teams identify the direct and indirect effects of a decision, event, or trend.