What is user centred design?
User Centred Design can underpin any form of innovation. It can personalise products, processes, printed materials and digital entities by putting the user right at the heart of everything. But what is UCD in website terms?
User Centred Design involves weaving end-users into the entire lifecycle of website planning and development. In fact, UCD is an ongoing process to measure websites against user perceptions, preferences, and behaviours.
How is UCD different from Human-Centred design for websites? Sometimes those terms are used in an interchangeable way. However, they don’t mean the same thing and there is a highly significant difference!
Getting human input in moulding and evaluating your website design is valuable. Rather than basing it on ideals, intangibles, or non-evidential design principles.
However, are those people the ones who will ultimately use your specific website?
User Centred Design harnesses the input of your actual target audience; the people who you want to influence, inform and inspire, in order to create strong lead conversion.
The aim of UCD
In its simplest form, UCD involves clarifying who your website user would be, what they expect and need from it, how the design can meet those goals, and whether your website continues to satisfy user expectations and needs. Adobe have provided a great example on how to create user personas when in the first stages of UCD research
It is the only way of ensuring that a new website – or an existing one for that matter – is user-centric and likely to achieve strong interaction. For this reason, UCD and User Experience (UX) are closely entwined website principles.
By involving the user at every stage of the design process there is little or no opportunity for the website to be influenced by corporate goals and ideas, that are not shared by the site’s users.
It’s an interactive design process that captures and harnesses user ‘buy-in’, making it far more likely it will be well received, relevant and therefore successful.
It’s important to note that UCD can be used to add value to physical marketing tools – such as printed brochures – as well as your digital marketing platforms.
Is there a set framework for?
User Centred Design does not involve a pre-agreed set of steps and principles, though it does generally follow the same pattern.
The phases of UCD for websites would be:
Uncover the context of use – who is going to engage with this website, under what conditions and with what aims?
Specify requirements – to be successful in meeting user expectations and preferences, what would the website need to include?
Create website design solutions – from rough concepts to a Live website, there needs to be a step process to optimise user input in shaping and informing the result. The design would be driven and then amended according to insightful user-centred evaluation.
Evaluation – this would be the ongoing phase of User Centred Design. It involves regularly assessing the website against what users want and expect; regular usability testing and analysis of user feedback.
UCD would be an iterative process, which means the repetition of tasks to achieve results that can be compared over time, to ascertain progression.
How can you achieve User-Centred Design?
Various research techniques would be employed, to involve users from initial concepts through to a fully functioning digital marketing platform or printed item.
Methods of collecting results data:
Investigative – surveys, interviews and so forth to get important insights from users.
Generative – forums and other tools to ‘brainstorm’ and capture ideas and suggestions from users.
Activities must create both qualitative and quantitative data. So, for example, knowing that 75% of users responded well to a design feature is not enough. You must dig down on why they liked it, and even more importantly why the 25% didn’t!
First step for UCD
In a nutshell, User Centred Design – for digital or physical marketing tools – involves uncovering context of use, looking at user requirements, formulating design solutions, then evaluating to check you have fully satisfied user context and requirements.
No task is divorced from actual user involvement, and the client, web design team, web developers and other stakeholders would integrate users in all considerations.
Not least as making users central to the design experience is a superb way of building the best UX into your finished result.