What is user-centred design and how could it benefit your business?
Here at Den, we practice user-centred design. What is it and how can businesses benefit from it?
You might have seen the terms UX design or UI design popping up all over the internet in the last few years and wondered what they both mean. ‘UX’ stands for user experience and ‘UI’ stands for user interface and both are part of an approach to design called ‘user-centred design’ (UCD).
UCD is growing beyond design studios and start-ups. Now, many of the world’s top universities and business schools are including UCD modules in their programmes.
What is User-Centred Design?
UCD is an empathetic approach to design that puts the user and their wants and needs at the heart of every decision when building a new product.
A user-centred approach incorporates validation from the user at every stage of the design process, as opposed to showing a user a finished product and hoping, with fingers tightly crossed, they like it.
UX, UI and UCD defined
Put simply, UCD improves the user’s experience of a product. If a product has been designed in a user-centric way the chances of a user liking it go up. This increases the likelihood of adoption, conversion, or whatever your business goal is. Where does UI design come into this? UI design is a part of the user experience and is concerned with how the product looks (vs. how the product works) i.e. what the user actually sees when they look at the product – think colours, fonts and shapes. In short, the better the UI design, the better the user’s experience is and the more successful your product is likely to be.
What is the user-centred process?
The first step in the process is establishing who your user is and answering the following key questions: Who will be using the product? Why will they be using it? What are they like as people? What are their daily habits? Do they have any fears or concerns that might be relevant to the product we’re creating? What problem/s are they trying to solve with the product? When and in which contexts will they be using it?
The second stage requires defining all the user requirements that need to be met in order for the product to be successful. This is also the time to define the business requirements too, for example, opportunity for upsell, data capture or others. While the users’ requirements should be at the centre of this process it is important not to disregard the business’ goals.
Now we begin designing! This stage requires problem-solving and designing different solutions to meet the users’ needs and requirements. This is best done in stages so as to make sure the product really is what the user wants without getting too far ahead and having to backtrack (backtracking can be costly!).
4. Evaluate & Iterate
Once we have a minimum viable product of a solution we think might work, we put it in front of a user; we watch them use it and we ask them what they like and don’t like. It’s also at this stage of the process that we often uncover unrecognised needs and desires, ones that even they didn’t realise they had. Through observing them and using tools like biometric testing we gain invaluable insights into subconscious habits and actions. Taking all this feedback with us we go away, make changes and then put the amended version back in front of them for a new round of feedback. This iteration process continues until we have a successful product, and beyond.
The user-centred process is a collaborative one between product creators and product users and in our experience it radically increases the chances of success of a new product.
How does it differ from other design approaches?
The opposite approach to user-centred design could be called ‘organisation-centred design’. This approach to design prioritises the business’ needs when creating a product and is the approach still taken by many companies. Businesses that take this approach first design a product and then find users that might like to use it. Unsurprisingly, approaching design this way often results in products that users don’t like or need, and of course, wasted time and money.
How a user-centred approach can benefit your company
A user-centred approach to design is a flexible way of working and that has a few advantages.
Faster to market
Minimising the specification means you get your product, albeit a simple version, in front of your user in a relatively short time frame and thus beating your competitors to market.
Keeps development costs down
With this approach, there is no wasted money on building features that the user doesn’t want or need. Getting the users’ validation at each stage means you only build what people will use. It also removes the margin for error so saves money that would otherwise have been spent on going backwards.
More desirable product
As a user-centred approach is guided by the user, the product is almost always exactly what they want. As we mentioned earlier, the user doesn’t always know what they want but through an iterative approach, we can uncover these needs and design a product that works for them.
Increased customer satisfaction
If a product satisfies all the users’ needs, you’ll have happy customers, which in turn means increased conversion rates, higher product adoption and realised business goals!
If you’re interested in our approach to design and would like to hear more, we’d love to speak with you, so get in touch.