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The best designers I know always start a project with a concept (or conceptual model). What’s your design concept for this project? How do you envision people interacting with your product? What model are you trying to emulate in your UI?
“A conceptual model is a representation of a system, made of the composition of concepts which are used to help people know, understand, or simulate a subject the model represents.” — Wikipedia
But other designers go straight into crafting what the interface will look like, before defining a solid vision on the conceptual model for that system.
Interfaces that are conceived and designed on autopilot — interaction patterns that aren’t strategically aligned, user paths that don’t follow a clear logic, screens that are inconsistent and do not ladder up to a consolidated metaphor or concept.