The Challenges of User-Centered Design

Anna Kulawik
May 13, 2016 · 5 min read

The most crucial aspect of designing a truly positive experience of using a website is understanding the user. It may seem a pretty easy task, after all we all browse websites: we know which solutions are useful and which features irritate us. Continually popping banners — no, legible font — yes. Seems quite universal, doesn’t it? Well, some things may be, but if the website is to be really suited to particular target users’ group, no assumptions should be made. Research and analysis that lead to a complete understanding of the users’ needs and expectations are the key to good UX design. Let me show what I mean on the example.

Who Are the Users and What are Their Needs

One of the last projects our studio worked on was a promotional website for SaaS dedicated to investment funds. How do they think? What is important for them? What information and in which form appeal to them? Placing the users at the very center of the design demands asking such questions. Since investment funds are a very specific group, answers weren’t obvious until careful research was done. The first conclusions drawn from work with the user-centered design canvas complicated the matters even more. It turned out that there are actually two groups of users to whom the website should be directed: investment funds themselves and their subordinates researching the market and looking for solutions to be presented to their employers. Below a short summary of our research and personas that help to visualise the users.

Investment funds are busy professionals, paying attention to detail and looking for flexible, dynamic and easy-to-use solutions which can save their limited time. They think in numbers which appeal to them more than words.

Subordinates are sound employees, paying special attention to reliability of the companies, reading testimonials and looking for extensive information depicted in a clear, comprehensible way.

How to Address the Users’ Needs

Knowing who the users are and what are their needs we already knew it will be a hell of a challenge the fulfil them. Since challenges are what we love most, we quickly gathered the most important aspects that should be taken into account in the design process.

Investment funds:

  • because numbers appeal to them, statistics should be one of the first things that catches their attention
  • because they value simplicity, complex pricing information should be visualized in the easiest way possible
  • because they are busy, features of SaaS should be summarized and signing up for demo should be possible right away
  • because they can’t spend much time on reading, verbal communication should be heavily supported by visuals in the form of icons
  • because they value professionalism and dynamic solutions, the colors of the site should be associated with them: black, gold, red

Subordinates:

  • because reliability of the product plays an important role to them, testimonials should be emphasized on the website
  • because they research thoroughly, comprehensive information about the features should be described in detail, despite the limited space
  • because they will have to discuss their findings to their employees, the features should be available also in the form of printable document
  • because they need comprehensive pricing information for comparison with competition, the prices should be presented in detail

How to Combine Conflicting Needs of Different Users

The main challenge of the project turned out to be the ability to combine, sometimes conflicting, needs of both groups.

Challenge 1: Demo
Taking into account the investment funds’ needs it would be best to present them with demo right away, the subordinates on the other hand would expect to read a comprehensive description of the features first. The best solution to great user experience of both groups? Spilt screen: the users who are busy can sign up for demo right away, while those who can devote more time to research can access it easily.

Challenge 2: Features
One group of our users expects the detailed description of the features, the other doesn’t have time to read. What’s more the space is limited while the features extensive. A hard nut to crack but we found a solution. Limited space to cover this section was divided into two pages: (1) features present the most important information in the form of a summary and (2) resources cover the details, allowing to download PDF file with all the information.

Challenge 3: Pricing
On one side, we have the investment funds who expect transparent and easy to comprehend pricing details; on the other, there are the subordinates who need to have insight into all details so that it will be possible to compare the pricing with competition. Mission impossible? Not for us! Complicated pricing details, with different totals for the chosen variant of the service were represented on easy-to-use but at the same time very precise calculators. These enable each group of users to calculate the exact price by choosing an appropriate tab.

Good UX Doesn’t Take Shortcuts

User-centered design is always a challenge: understanding the users, uncovering their needs and fulfilling them with the design demands a lot of time and effort. It becomes even harder when there’s more than one group of users to satisfy. Though it’s sometimes tempting to compromise something, a true UX design takes no short cuts: all users’ needs have to remain in the center. This is the only way to design a product that ensures a positive experience to its users. I believe this case study shows a perfect example of such.

The Rectangles

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

Anna Kulawik

Written by

previously at @therectangles

The Rectangles

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

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