A nanocomposite porous electrode structure consisting of hierarchical iodine-doped zinc oxide (I-ZnO) aggregates combined with the two simple solution-processed interfacial modifications i.e. a ZnO compact layer (CL) and a TiO2 protective layer (PL) has been developed in order to understand electron transport and recombination in the photoanode matrix, together with boosting the conversion efficiency of I-ZnO based dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs). Electrochemical impedance spectra demonstrate that ZnO CL pre-treatment and TiO2 PL post-treatment synergistically reduce charge-transfer resistance and suppress electron recombination. Furthermore, the electron lifetime in two combined modifications of IZnO + CL + PL photoelectrode is the longest in comparison with the other three photoelectrodes. As a consequence, the overall conversion efficiency of I-ZnO + CL + PL DSC is significantly enhanced to 6.79%, with a 36% enhancement compared with unmodified I-ZnO DSC. Moreover, the stability of I-ZnO + CL + PL cell is improved as compared to I-ZnO one. The mechanism of electron transfer and recombination upon the introduction of ZnO CL and TiO2 PL is also proposed in this work.