3 reasons why Sticky Notes are a UX'ers best friend

by Yeevon Ooi on 22 July 2013

Following a recent comment from a friend on how I'm always working with sticky notes (or more widely known as post-it notes), I started reflecting on why I always reach automatically for my closest stack of sticky notes when working. After a few days of conscious observation (of myself), I realised that there are certain tasks that I might struggle to do efficiently without these versatile, sticky little things. Here are three reasons why I think sticky notes boost my productivity as a user experience consultant:

They help focus on key ideas and messages

  • They are (on average) quite small pieces of paper, which means you have to really summarise your point when putting thoughts onto paper. This helps me focus on key points when analysing research findings or describing actions or tasks in a user journey (kind of like the 140 characters when composing tweets)

They facilitate collaboration

  • This is especially true during workshops where (if instructions are given correctly) thoughts from individuals are reflected through their sticky notes which the group can then share and compare or build upon. The fact that these thoughts are short and concise means that people end up describing them the same way, which makes it easy to identify similarities – and in turn helps with reaching a consensus
  • Makes it easy for sharing - They represent thoughts, ideas, and information in a concise and transportable manner. This means ideas can be easily transferred from one theme or category to another

They are versatile

  • Because they come in different shapes, sizes, and colours, they’re useful for categorising ideas and indicating hierarchies/priorities/relationships
  • Sticky notes are also great for paper prototyping – you can use different sticky notes to indicate changing states of a screen
  • Useful memory aid – because they are sticky, they can be very contextual
  • Because a sticky note doesn’t take up much space (and can pretty much go on most surfaces) – it can stick around for quite a while and can be easily replicated when it loses its stickiness


On the down side, the life of a sticky note depends on whether it actually ‘sticks’ – if you have an idea on a sticky-note which is not captured elsewhere, losing the note might mean losing an idea – quite a scary thought, huh? Also, in the context of analysing research findings, as ideas on sticky notes are usually a summary of the key points – details are sometimes left out (unless more sticky notes are produced to capture them). I think there’s an art to sticky-note mastery, and it’ll be great to hear what you have to say about these wonderfully useful things.

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