What Is User-Centred Design and How Do You Implement It?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 2, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A major focus of the design industry is on users. User-centred design (UCD) focuses on the needs of users, learns how they interact with their products, and then incorporates that knowledge into the design process. Understanding UCD principles can help you improve your chances of meeting customer expectations and releasing profitable, user-friendly products. In this article, we discuss what UCD is, review its differences with human-centred design, explore the similarities between UCD and design thinking, discover its benefits, and identify the steps you can take to create a UCD process.

What is user-centred design?

User-centred design is a method that prioritizes users' needs at every stage of the design process. Each design phase get evaluated based on the value it provides to users and how efficiently it assists them in achieving their goals. Here are the five fundamental principles of UCD:

  • Engage users from the start. A company can better understand its users' requirements if they involve them in the development process from the beginning. Attempting to involve users in product development at a later stage may result in errors and oversights.

  • Be empathetic. UCD requires assessing the product from the perspective of the user. This can help determine the problems or challenges they experience.

  • Use an iterative creative process. Companies can expect to have several iterations of a product during development. They may discover new information that might require revising a fundamental element of the product's design.

  • Involve multiple feedback loops. Assessment of different types of data is necessary when determining the effectiveness of a product. At various points of development, a company can collect feedback from internal teams and external users to assess its effectiveness.

  • Adhere to the design fundamentals. It's important to follow best practices for design when creating a product. This involves the fundamentals of UCD.

Human-centred vs. UCD

While many professionals use UCD synonymously with human-centred design, there's a distinction between the two terms. UCD requires a more thorough examination of an intended audience. This involves an assessment of their characteristics, specific habits, and preferences to develop appropriate solutions for their challenges and needs. Comparatively, human-centred design is the process of developing products and services that focus on the natural characteristics and peculiarities of human psychology and perception.

You can make any object of design more human-centred by applying principles from psychology, physiology, sociology, and other sciences that study human life and interaction with the environment. This means that human-centred products may not just be more attractive but also more functional, as they account for characteristics shared by large groups of users.

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What are the similarities between user-centred design and design thinking?

Design thinking (DT) is a unique approach to problem solving and innovation. It applies design perspectives and procedures to challenges not commonly experienced by designers. Here's a list of similarities between these approaches:

  • Empathy: The ability to empathize with your users and understand their behaviours and challenges is a critical component of any design process. Whether you're using UCD to create an outstanding mobile application or design thinking to improve employee training, you may need a strong understanding of the users you're designing for and their needs.

  • Problem-solving: Both UCD and DT may view obstacles to their processes as opportunities to grow. Each method takes an optimistic approach to problem-solving and leverages structure, action, and design to transform the issue into a positive experience for both the business and its users.

  • Iteration: Both UCD and DT are iterative processes that rely on learning from mistakes and incorporating user feedback into designs. At the conclusion of each cycle, designers evaluate what went well, what they can improve, and how to utilize previous failures to create new and improved solutions.

  • Collaboration: Each design method works best when several employees from different parts of the organization collaborate. Both DT and UCD benefit from collaboration between designers, senior executives, developers, accountants, customer-facing employees, and researchers.

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Benefits of a UCD approach

Here's an overview of the benefits of a user-centred design process:

  • Minimized cost and risk. By collaborating closely with users, a company can help ensure that it's developing products they enjoy using and can interact with intuitively. As a result, businesses may spend less time and money redoing work or assisting customers in learning how to use their products.

  • Increased capacity for empathy. Empathy helps designers create products that significantly benefit people's quality of life. Through the UCD process, organizations can develop ethical, accessible, inclusive, and potentially life-changing products.

  • Increased client satisfaction. The UCD process helps businesses prioritize the needs and desires of users when designing products. Maintaining this user-centric mindset can result in increased customer satisfaction, increased user engagement, and increased overall sales.

  • Productivity gains. UCD involves the user throughout the design process. As a result, designers are less likely to make guesses about design choices or waste time.

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How to create a UCD process

Here's a list of steps you can take to establish a UCD process amongst a team:

1. Conduct research

Conduct research to gain a thorough understanding of users' needs and requirements. The insights gained from this research can significantly aid in developing an effective user-centric product. Companies can use a combination of research methods to develop a holistic idea of their users. Then, they can create detailed user personas to represent the different user types that may use the product. These can help guide the product development processes, from ideation to deployment. By prioritizing the user, they can determine which features to focus on, assess how to market to them, and learn which visual design elements to incorporate.

2. Specify business and user requirements

Companies may establish why the product benefits both users and the business, and define metrics for measuring success for both the company and the users. Defining a clear scope for the design process can help ensure that the company aligns the end product with its users' needs. Properly aligned goals may also help ensure that all parties involved perform their obligations in the design process to the best of their abilities.

3. Create solutions

Once a company has gathered all the necessary information, it can begin prototyping the designs. This can begin with a simple wireframe and gradually develop. Even if a business isn't yet in the testing phase, validating its decisions at each stage is critical. At this stage, many companies gather valuable data to help them create solutions to the current challenges of their target users.

A user journey map and storyboard can guide a company in the decision-making and design process. The map may assist in visualizing the users' journey as they interact with the product, while the storyboard can provide an emotional justification for each design decision made along the way. Once a company has created a rough draft of these two tools, it can evaluate them by asking pertinent questions, including:

  • Is the design easily accessible? Companies can create a design that considers the abilities of every potential user and ensure that it's easy for them to navigate and use.

  • Is the design simple to comprehend? Companies can try to ensure that users immediately understand the design.

  • What's its function, who's it intended for, and how does the company intend to use it? Companies need a detailed list of the target audience and how the product can help them fulfil their needs.

4. Provide feedback on evaluations

At this stage, the company can reintroduce the user to the process. Companies can conduct extensive user testing and feedback on their prototypes, observing how users interact with them. Consider asking these questions to gain insightful feedback:

  • Does the design resolve the primary concerns of the users?

  • What changes can the company make to this design?

  • How does this design incorporate user research?

  • What aspects of this process went well?

5. Iterate the process

Companies can repeat this process as necessary to create an impressive product. A company can replicate some of the design techniques used during the user research phase to gain additional insight into how close it came to meeting its goals. UCD is a method that requires patience but is likely to yield the best results. If a company receives a notification that some aspects of the design require immediate attention, they can begin with that feedback, create something superior to the current model, and iterate the process as needed.

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