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Introducing the User-Centered Design Canvas — Post Scriptum

Last week UX Magazine published my story introducing the creation process of a UX design tool: the User-Centered Design Canvas. Those last days were absolutely amazing. We (I mean the authors — Alina Prelicz-Zawadzka and myself) received lots of great and inspiring feedback on the article and the tool itself. If you were among those who commented — THANK YOU! It all means the world to us.

I guess, it’s a normal thing that when you introduce a new tool or methodology to people, then as a natural consequence, some of the early adopters of it would ask questions. And the same happened after introducing the UCD Canvas. Hence, this post — I’d love the conversation about the tool to continue (or to start for serious!). Please feel free to comment and ask questions if you’d like to learn more about the use of our canvas.

First Things First, UCDC, WTF?

User-Centered Design Canvas is a simple UX tool/methodology allowing to combine user research and the business value in one place. And this place is a A4 sized template.

I designed it with Alina a year ago when I was preparing to start a new UX design course at The University of Wrocław. My goal at that time was to find a simple method to facilitate the students’ user-focused approach and to tune their mindsets to think about users and their problems and needs. Actually, the tool may help in any activity involving designing for humans (especially those who seek for a particular service or product). I was inspired by the similar ideas, like Business Model Canvas or Lean Model Canvas, but my goal was to design a tool that would place users in the center of the process and to surround them with the research on how to serve their needs. You can only imagine how happy I was seeing tweets like those a few days ago:

I don’t want to repeat myself (or should I say, duplicate content) so to learn more about UCD Canvas, see behind the scenes of the designing process or take the tool for a spin — visit UX Magazine on UCDC website.

Recently Asked Questions

For the past months I’ve been using (testing) UCDC for all of my commercial UX design projects, but not only. According to my root intention, I received (and I mean a lot!) help from a group of more than 100 students I worked with during the ‘User Experience Design’ course. They were using UCDC for their university projects and provided me with a priceless amount of feedback and observations. Some of them also told me they used the canvas in their professional work which made me super proud and happy. It also lit a bulb with a sing ‘go ahead, make the tool public, let other people use it!’. And so I did. :-)

In the opening paragraph I mentioned questions I received from people who used the canvas. Below I’d like to address the most common, plus I’ll try to explain those matters which were the most problematic for most recent users.

OK, so let’s go.

Q: Is the User-Centered Design Canvas a for-students only type of tool?

Of course not! Feel free to use it if you are a pro designer, business owner (go ahead, try for yourself, and you’ll see how many new things you can learn about your users or clients), VC, UX designer, UX researcher…

Q: Is there a simple method to decide whether something is a Problem, or rather a Motive for a user?

Yes. Imagine you’re filling in a canvas for an online shoe shop. The most important action a user can perform in such store would be to purchase a new pair of shoes. OK, so ‘needs a new pair of sneakers’ will be a problem, but ‘wants to look more fashionable to his/her colleagues’ will be a motive. I always tell my students that a motive would be something you wouldn’t probably say aloud when reasoning a particular action. Another example: a freelance UI designer looking for a web development company ‘needs web development company’ — a Problem; ‘is lazy’ or ‘doesn’t know how to write code’ — real Motive.

Q: Is it OK to use UCDC commercially?

Yup! You can (and I believe you should!) use it as an element of your professional UX design/research inventory.

I’ll tell you what I do— I very often aks my clients to fill the UCDC in and send it back to me (a picture made with a phone is completely enough). Before looking at it, I’m filling my version in and then I compare them. If there are things both me and the client mentioned in the canvas, I highlight them, as it means this is something both sides find important. By this simple trick, you can not only engage your client into UX design process (making her or him more responsible for it too!) but also take a look at the project from a different perspective. (Which for me is the essence of good research).

Q: UVP field is the most difficult for me. Any ideas how to make it easier to complete?

Sure. Don’t worry, coining a neat UVP can take some time. I suggest you practice it as often as you can. This will teach you how to see the essence of every business or product you’re working at. And to avoid bullshit marketing gibberish.

So here’s what I do when I’m lazy and want to cut corners from time to time. Come on, everybody does it sometimes. Instead of racking my brains on a UVP (which, to be honest, is not that hard if you highlight the most important parts of a completed UCDC), I use the Elevator pitch with the following sentence as a template:

For [primary user group] who [has a key need], [product name] is a [description of product] that is [brand quality]. Unlike [primary competitor], the product is [unique selling point].

That should make the UVP part a bit easier. :-)

Q: …

That’s right. The last Q is for your question. I’d love to know what you think about the UCDC, if you like or dislike the idea of combining users’ and business’ needs in one place and finally, what I’m hoping the most for, whether the User-Centered Design Canvas helped you in your professional or academic field.


Thank you, thank you, thank you: Alina Prelicz, Anna Kulawik and Filip Błaszczyk. I love you guys!



Insights into UX design and research. Run by The Rectangles, UX design agency.

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