User-Centered Design (UCD) is a framework of processes where usability goals, user characteristics, environment, tasks and workflow of a product, service or process are given attention at each stage of the design process.
The main concern is with what a given user wants to achieve with our system and the means by which they intend to achieve that.
UCD is a cyclic process. We don’t specify some requirement and carry on with development without thought or care. Instead, our aim is to constantly refine our designs and developments in relation to feedback from the users; including processes such as regular stakeholder meetings, testing and feedback.
There are a number of stages involved in User-Centered Design process. We may start by identifying a want or need that a user has. Once we’re happy with our ideas, we can begin designing through a range of fidelities from sketches to interactive prototypes.
What we’re really doing here is a series of iterative steps. Based on user feedback, we refine our design also considering the broader implications in terms of universal design and in terms of accessible design.
During this process, there are some common mistakes we want to avoid:
Wrong Assumptions – we can’t make assumptions about what our users want, need or what their experience might be. Empirical methods will help guide the work and provide quality metrics for measuring success. Test early and test often.
Planning too far into the future – we are unable to consider everything from the start.
Instead, we can follow a process that allows us to adapt to changes in our ecosystem. We should try to begin with robust requirements:
For each of our design choices, we should consider its impact in terms of:
Projects may fail and we should remain conscious of project pitfalls:
Is participatory design is the same as user-centred design?
No. Participatory design tends to focus the emphasis of design on the user and allows users to lead and guide the design in a particular direction. With user-centred design we explore the needs and wants of all of our users and try to mitigate these against one another.