Evidence-Based Design

Derick Carss
Aug 29, 2015 · 2 min read

The evolving role of design
Originally published on the Bureau Blank Blog, 25 September 2014

In our recent blog post, UX Design for Government and Public Services, we discussed some great examples of evidence-based design. As a designer at Bureau Blank, I have to understand users in order to produce digital products that meet their needs. User research is a relatively new challenge for many designers but is essential for gathering the evidence we need to inform our decisions.

Jesse James Garrett said, “Traditionally [people] thought of design as the mastery of a medium … but as we look at the world of user experience this point of view starts to seem outdated.” He went on to explain that if your medium is experience, a subjective and intangible subject, it can be a hard thing to master. Experiences are very real to your users, however, and we must design with that in mind.

The concept of User Experience (UX) Design is appreciated more than ever as we engage with digital products in every aspect of our lives. As a designer, I must consider every aspect of a website from the user’s perspective to remove stumbling blocks, promote confidence and focus the task in hand. Steve Krug summed this idea up in the title of his book Don’t Make Me Think, but reaching that point is impossible without user research to inform my choices.

Tom Tullis, a usability expert, recently presented The Evolution of User Research and Usability Testing: A Forty-Year Perspective to NYC UXPA. Using his own comparable experience testing physical products, including a dangerous voltage detector that revealed a potentially fatal problem, he demonstrated that user testing is a well-established and valuable practice. This may not sound like the classic role of a designer, but that role is constantly evolving and making digital products more usable is definitely our responsibility.

As we endeavor to create more effective designs we must produce better experiences. User research is essential for collecting the evidence required to make the right choices and as designers we must, therefore, engage deeply with our audience.

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