User-Centered Design: Where It’s At!

Are you enthusiastic about Interactive Design like I am?  User-Centered Design is the process I use to help achieve the best results possible in a Web design project.  But, what is it?

User-centered design (UCD) is a design philosophy that puts the user of a product, application, or experience, at the center of the design process.

planThe three basic principles behind UCD are:

  1. Early focus on users and their tasks.
  2. Evaluation and measurement of product usage.
  3. Iterated design.

Articulated in an overview piece by Patrick McNeil, the UCD process/flow starts with the (1) Definition of a project where one assesses project scale, generates documentation like site maps, determine content inventory, and the like.  Once the site is defined, it’s then possible to develop  a (2)  Concept.  This is where we interpret the documentation to develop solutions.  A shift occurs from listening to problem solving including building wireframes and user testing.

Once the concept is in place, the project moves next to (3) Design. A design deliverable consists of fonts, colors and interface elements that together communicate the essence of a visual brand for the Web.

With design approvals in place, the next step is to (4) Develop or code the project according to the plan with the final step being  (5) Deployment.  This process is always applied (sometimes easier/sometimes harder to achieve depending on variables) to successful conclusion.

As a result of asking the right questions and some quite serious listening/note-taking, here’s some expected take aways:

  • Having a clear description of the project
  • A plan for what’s to be built
  • A detailed understanding of the intended user
  • A vision for how the product/site will be used
  • Tangible assets a team can share!

As McNeil says, “UCD boils down to seeking meaningful design insights over random acts of design.