User-centered design is a method where users are involved in the design process of a product. The users are involved from early on in the design process in order to create a product that is exactly what the user needs and expects. Products need more than just a good design, products need to be usable and understandable for the user. Therefore the products need to be designed from the perspective of the user rather than forcing users to adapt and learn a new system. Conducting user research will give you good insights of your users and how your product can be a contribution. The result of user-centered design will be an easy to use, satisfying product with a good user experience.
There are four principles of user-centered design
- The active involvement of users during the design process and a clear understanding of the requirements of the user
- Iterative design process
- User centered design focusses on developing products that are easy to use
- Multidisciplinary teams
User-centered design method has four steps and is an iterative process. The cycle will be repeated until the requirements of the product are met.
The first step of the user-centered design method is the analysis. It is important to determine the purpose of the product and who your target audience will be. Also take a look at the products that are already out there and which functions do they offer. This will give you a better idea of how your product can be a contribution to the products that already exists.
In order to design a product that will meet the user’s expectation you will have to get to know your user. There are several methods to conduct user research. One of the most common used methods is interviewing. During the interview users are asked what their needs and requirements are regarding the new product. Surveys can be used to ask existing users what they think of the product and what their attitude is towards a new system. A focus group brings together a group of users that is going to discuss the product. Each participant can say their ideas about the product and the group can discuss this idea. The observer of the focus group can take notes of the discussion. A field-study can be very insightful. Users will simulate or walk you through situations in order for you to see how they handle these situations and where users have struggles during these situations. You will get to see where your product can be helpful for your users during these situations.
Based on the data you have gained during the user research you can make personas, user scenarios and use cases. This will give you a clear view of the users and how and when users will use your product. Personas are a representation of your users. A persona is given a name, a picture and some personal information. A design solution can be evaluated against the needs of a persona. User scenarios give a detailed description of a period of time in which the user will use your product. This will give you an understanding of how and when your product is going to be used and which requirements are needed. The use case will describe a task that a user performs step-by-step. This will give a detailed view of what the system does when the user performs an action. With this information in mind it is time to go to start the design process.
The design of your products should be based on the research you have conducted. The design should meet the requirements that are formulated in the previous step. The design process is an iterative process, each step of the design process will be evaluated. After the evaluation the product can be further developed based on the outcome of the evaluation. The first few steps in the design process are conceptual, moodboards and wireframes can be created for example. After these concepts are further developed and evaluated, a high-fidelity prototype can be created. Users can test with the high-fidelity prototype.
There are several methods that can be used to evaluate your product, for example, the think aloud method, eye tracking, observation and a survey. During the think aloud method and the observation, users are given a few tasks they need to perform. The difference between these two methods is that during the think aloud method, users are asked to say everything that comes to mind during the performance of the tasks. During the observation the user does not need to talk, the observer checks how many mistakes the user makes and how long it takes to complete a task. The eye tracking method works differently. With eye tracking you can see where the user is looking during the performance of a task. Therefore you can see where your user is struggling to complete their task. The last method that can be used is a survey. Users will test your product and afterwards they will fill out a survey with questions about the product and how their experience was using the product.
The last step in the design process is finalizing the high-fidelity prototype based on the evaluation. After the product is finished it is time for the last step of user-centered design: the implementation. And even after the implementation of the product it is wise to evaluate your product.
Advantages of user-centered design
The advantage of the user-centered design method is that the user is involved in the development process of a product. You will get a deeper understanding of the user and their needs and expectations. The product that is created is therefore more easy to use and will give users a better user experience. Users are likely to make less errors and can work more effectively with your product.