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What is User Centred Design?

What is User Centred Design?

User-centred design or UCD is a design concept where the focus is always on the needs and limitations of the end-user through all the stages. In this methodology the goal is to adapt to the needs and wants of the end users rather than them having to change their behaviour for or adapt to the product. It is a commonly used methodology in software development with the process having 4 main stages – Analysis, Designing, Implementation and Deployment.

 Principles of UCD

Some of the UCD principles that I commonly use are:

  • Clearer understanding of the users and requirements for the task
  • User involvement in evaluation of designs
  • Getting user feedback for refining design and requirements
  • Integration of user-centred design and other activities

It is important that there should be an integration of UCD activities and other development activities. The activities must be planned and properly managed. One of the main goals behind this methodology is to put the activities into common practice. The projects will need usability skills and you will have to train a few members in your team with these skills.

UCD Methods
The standard methods used in user centred design methodology include:

Focus groups
Focus group will involve encouraging participants to sharing their opinions, viewpoints, thoughts, feelings and ideas on the subject.

Usability testing
Usability testing will involve evaluation of collected data. The participants will be attending a session where they complete a series of tasks. You will observe and study any challenges faced during the test. The users will be required to speak out their user experience.

Card sorting
This is a methodology for suggesting intuitive categories and structures. The participants are provided with unsorted pack of index cards, with each one having a statement printed/written on them. For example, if you are evaluating a website, the cards will have something related to each web page. The participants will be required to categorize the cards and provide a name to each category. The results will then be analysed to determine if there is a trend in the categorization.

Participatory design
This method will involve asking user opinions related to design issues and involving them in the designing and decision-making procedures.

Questionnaires
Questionnaires will have pre-set questions which are to be asked to the users. They provide an effective way for building statistical data.

Interviews
Interviews are conducted on a one-to-one basis. The best thing about this method in UCD is that it allows you to get a detailed explanation of the participants’ view point, opinions and ideas. Interviews also help in eliminating any misunderstandings and provide clearer and error-free information. Because the results of interviews are almost entirely non-statistical, the reports need to be analysed in detail. Besides, it requires experienced professionals to be able to evaluate these reports.

It is not important for User Centred Design to be too extensive. Once it becomes a part of the system, it will require just few standard activities in the early part of the development process, helping minimize the cost of development.

Conclusion
User Centred Design can make you stand out of the crowd. Undergoing the proper UX research will make your website speak your customers’ language, will satisfy their needs, and make your business more profitable in a seamless way. UX research is unique to your company’s business model, not to your niche nor field of expertise. You may sell books, but your’re not Amazon; you may be in the freight business, but you’re not Fedex. Be unique and communicate to your customers the way they are expecting you to. UX research is an investment that it will save you tons of cash in the long run.

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