What is user centred design?
User centred design is a development method that guarantees your product, software or web site will be easy to use. The International Usability Standard, ISO 13407, specifies the principles and activities that underlie user centred design:
- The design is based upon an explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments.
- Users are involved throughout design and development.
- The design is driven and refined by user-centred evaluation.
- The process is iterative.
- The design addresses the whole user experience.
- The design team includes multidisciplinary skills and perspectives.
Take a look at our infographic explaining user centred design.
“Our web site is one of the UK’s highest revenue e-commerce stores and small improvements in usability can have a large impact on sales. The usability research paid for itself many times over.”
e-Commerce Manager, High Street brand.
Why do user centred design?
User centred design is the only design methodology that puts users at the heart of the design process. It is therefore ideally suited to developing products or web sites that must be simple and straightforward to use.
When should I do user centred design?
Because user centred design is a development process, you need to consider and apply it throughout development: from requirements capture through to acceptance testing.
Our approach to user centred design
We follow three core principles in all our user centred design projects:
- Early and continual focus on users and their tasks
- You must understand your users and what they want to do with the system. This understanding is arrived at by directly studying their behaviour and attitudes, and by studying the nature of the goals you expect them to accomplish.
- Empirical measurement of user behaviour
- Early in the development process, intended users should actually use simulations and prototypes to carry out real tasks, and their performance and reactions should be observed, recorded and analysed.
- Iterative design
- When problems are found in user testing (as they will be) they must be fixed. This means design must be iterative: there must be a cycle of design, test and measure, and redesign, repeated until the usability objectives are met.
There are a variety of specific activities you can choose from to deliver user centred design. On a typical project, we will:
- Develop personas to characterise the users and their tasks.
- Derive the information architecture with a card sort.
- Paper prototype early design concepts.
- Usability test the system with representative customers.
Our Customer-Centred Design Methodology (published in Travis, 2001) is a mature user-centred design process based on the International Usability Standard, ISO 13407. It combines systematic, controlled field research with measurable usability goals. This means our recommendations are based on replicable, objective data gathering techniques and focussed on improving your key business metrics. Ethnographic research, persona creation, scenario design, and card sorting are just a few of the tried and tested processes we use to answer tough questions like, "What do customers really want and how can we help them find it?"