Sometimes questions are more important than answers
What is User-Centered Design?
User-centered design (UCD) is a process or set of tools used to design a service that focuses on what users need at the very beginning and continues throughout development until launch. Typically services are designed from a technical and business perspective, with consideration for users added in later. Instead, User-centered design ensures the service focuses on what users need before balancing this with the technical and business requirements.
UCD holds users at the centre of all decisions
User-centered design is an approach to designing which holds the user at the centre of all design decisions throughout the project lifecycle. It has been argued that user-centered design is more of a philosophy than a set of tools. Whilst this is true to some extent, there are a number of tools that make up the ‘toolkit’, which many refer to as user-centred design. These include: user profiling, user journey mapping and usability testing.
The aim of the user-centered design process is to ensure that the design of a product or service remains focused upon who will use it, in what context, and with what aim. Historically it was an approach used to combat design methods that were typically led by technology, where companies would find ways to use technology to solve a problem and then focus on features and functionality to create a product. Users were an afterthought, so when the product launched its users were expected, and needed, to adapt to the technology. The philosophy behind user-centered design proposes that the service should instead adapt to the user.
A user-centered design approach is typically used when a project’s success is dependent upon increased usage and improving conversion rates. Many high profile websites use the approach to ensure design and development teams remain focused upon the key users they must design for. Throughout the project, user-centered design tools, such as usability testing, are employed to ensure the project is delivering value to the end-users. When the service launches the project team and stakeholders are confident of its success as they have been in regular contact with users, and have refined their thinking to ensure users will benefit from the product.
There are many advantages for adopting a user-centered design approach: the project team unites behind a common goal (by really understanding why they are designing); the risk of project failure is mitigated as concepts and ideas are validated with users throughout the project; the project team narrows its focus onto a smaller number of key features that are specific to the user needs.
As mentioned earlier, user-centred design can be seen as a philosophy as well as a set of tools, and can be difficult to integrate into an existing process. Therefore, gaining buy-in from management to adopt a user-centred process can be a challenge. In order to work properly, the user-centered process requires buy-in and involvement from the entire project team, and requires a change agent to get it started. In our experience, once the ball is rolling, the project team is always appreciative of the new process.
In summary, a user-centered design process is an essential tool for projects reliant upon user adoption for success. When a project team is united in serving the needs of their users, they often find that they develop a far better solution as they are focused on a clear direction throughout the project life-cycle. The challenge with the approach is to get the whole project team to buy into the new process together.
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Our user centred research contains these core features
Tailored User Tests
Work closely with our team to design your test.
Natural User Journeys
We focus on natural user behaviour & journeys.
See how users react to your site vs. competitors.
UX insight into each of your core platforms.
More UX Methods Questions
Usability testing is a way to see how easy to use something is by testing it with real users. Users are asked to complete tasks, typically while they are being observed by a researcher, to see where they encounter problems and experience confusion. If more people encounter similar problems, recommendations will be made to overcome these usability issues.
User-centered design is a process or set of tools used to design a service which focuses on what users need at the very beginning and continues throughout development until launch. Typically services are designed from a technical and business perspective, with consideration for users added in later. Instead, User-centred design ensures the service focuses on what users need before balancing this with the technical and business requirements.
Wireframing is a way to design a website service at the structural level. A wireframe is commonly used to lay out content and functionality on a page which takes into account user needs and user journeys. Wireframes are used early in the development process to establish the basic structure of a page before visual design and content is added.
Website prototypes are interactive demos of a website. These are often used to gather feedback from project stakeholders early in the project lifecycle, before the project goes into final development
User requirements capture is a process used to understand what typical users will need from a service which is about to be designed. Users are observed using similar services and interviewed about the ways they go about planning and completing their goals. This information is used to identify a list of content, features and functionality the new service must have in order to satisfy the needs of its users.
Customer profiling is a way to create a portrait of your customers to help you make design decisions concerning your service. Your customers are broken down into groups of customers sharing similar goals and characteristics and each group is given a representative with a photo, a name, and a description.
Card sorting is a technique that involves asking users to organise information into logical groups. Users are given a series of labelled cards and asked to organise and sort them into groups that they think are appropriate. Card sorting helps you to design an information architecture, workflow, menu structure or website navigation paths.
A user journey is a path a user may take to reach their goal when using a particular website. User journeys are used in designing websites to identify the different ways to enable the user to achieve their goal as quickly and easily as possible.
Focus groups are a research method used to gather feedback and opinions from customers. Each person in the group is encouraged to participate in a discussion which is pre-planned by a researcher and is guided by a facilitator. Focus groups are typically used to gauge opinion and gather information from users about products, services, and features before they have been developed.
Remote usability testing is a way to test how easy to use a website is with users who are in a different geographical location. Traditional usability testing brings users and researchers together in one place to conduct the test, whereas remote usability testing allows the researcher and user to be in different locations while the test is completed.
An expert review is where a usability expert uses his/her knowledge and experience of testing websites with users to walk through a website in the shoes of a typical user. The expert will spot problems and recommend changes to improve usability when budgets and timescales don’t allow for user research.
Service design makes a service easier to use, more useful and more desirable for the customers who need to use it: the service user. Whether creating an entirely new service or improving an existing one, service design focuses on what customers really need at each stage of their interaction with an organisation.
Ethnography is a study through direct observation of users in their natural environment rather than in a lab. The objective of this type of research is to gain insights into how users interact with things in their natural environment.
Tree testing is a way of evaluating a proposed site structure by asking users to find items based on the sites organisation and terminology. This online test only displays the navigation links and removes any additional clutter.
Are you launching or planning a new digital product? Or do you want to test your website or app? Our expert team can help with user research, usability testing, and service design solutions.
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