User-Centered Design (UCD) is a design methodology that moves the design process outside the confines of a meeting room and into a space where assumptions are tested with a representative set of users. It is a process that focuses on the users during the planning, design and development stages of a product, helping teams generate better informed design decisions that put assumptions to the test. It requires more planning before development but also provides valuable insight, therefore easing the stress of having to get it right with just one shot post-launch.
Here are five ways to incorporate User-Centered Design into your projects:
1. Get to Know Your Users
Getting to know your users should not stop at gathering market research data. While that data provides insight into market trends, demographics and customers’ perceptions of the brand, we need to understand under what context users would use, and how they would use, your product. For specific products, we must define the user segments and determine how they differ in needs. This also helps the team identify areas for business opportunities. We should understand the users’ goals, motivations and frustrations. This helps define the requirements such as content, features, technology and the interaction design. Getting to know your users will help ensure you are creating a holistic view of your user segments through primary and secondary research.
2. Design the User Experience
When all the research has been synthesized the team should move towards creating a solution that meets the user, business and branding needs. All touch points should be considered for your project whether on a website, Facebook tab, mobile website/app or offline. Consider the technology, information architecture, interaction design, content strategy and usability that the product would afford the user. Consider how findable, useful, valuable, desireable, credible, usable and accessible your content is.
3. Include Users in the Design Process
There are several ways to use participants in research studies to help provide insights into how they would actually use your product. Would you like some insight on how users would find information on your website? You can conduct card sort sessions to understand how to create a navigation that makes sense to them. Do you have two different wireframe designs and not sure which one to pick? Conduct A/B usability testing with a representative set of users to see how participants interact with the designs. There are various research methods that can be used to gain insight on the user needs and choosing one or a few would depend on your project, timeline and budget.
4. Evaluate, Iterate, Adapt and Repeat
Iterate on the design solution to innovate. This will allow the team to test, refine and improve the user’s experience. You can evaluate by conducting usability testing sessions. Usability testing helps the team see first-hand how the participant is interacting with the product based on either a defined task or exploration of the design. The test can be very quick with paper prototypes or can be planned with interactive prototypes. It’s about taking an objective approach to the design solution you are creating and measuring it against how users are able to successfully use it with ease.
5. Measure Post-Launch
Evaluation does not stop after the project has launched. Once a project has launched, web analytics should be evaluated to understand how the real users are engaging with your website in real circumstances. Interactive projects are iterative and that information, along with any research conducted, should inform the next phase.
With new websites and mobile apps competing for users’ attention daily, we should pay closer attention to the experiences that we are creating for users. Every company wants consumers to adopt their product and have good experiences. Users need to feel that they can confidently engage with your product and that you are providing a valuable experience for them. People remember bad experiences and are not shy about voicing their opinions online or moving onto another service that provides a better user experience. When users are engaging with your product they are engaging with the brand. How are you creating positive brand experiences for your users?
Image credit: mollystevens