The user centred design process is a project approach that puts the user of a site at the centre of its design and development. This guarantees that the site will be easy to use and focuses the designer on providing a better experience for real customer needs. There are 4 stages that include many different tools and techniques to help you along the way.
With every business solving a problem at it’s core, the main idea of UCD is to achieve a greater understanding of the problem by including the customer in the design process early and empowering you with various research techniques. Using this information you can propose a solution that is simple to use, understand and have the security that any problems with the design are fixed along the way through constant testing.
This is an iterative process meaning that once the process is completed a new cycle can begin using the new data to kick start the process again.
The first phase of the UCD is the Research & Analysis section, this is where we try to really understand who we are designing for. I would argue that this is the most important piece of the whole design process because there are various activities here that can really help you during the rest of the project.
Creating Personas can bring to life your users and help you understand their tasks better. You can really include some detailed descriptions here using any data that you have gathered on your customers. I really like the website YouGov profiles at today.yougov.com/profileslite here you can type in any brand, person or thing and the system compiles a profile from their stored data on over 150,000 accounts to give you a great description of your user. It’s worth a try as the free data is really good.
Asking users questions through surveys can gather some useful information. It’s really useful when customers just tell your their expectations. Survey Monkey is my go-to tool for surveys as they have a great feature where you can select certain demographics and the system will send out your survey and get results for your desired number of participants. This comes at a fee but is well worth it if you work in a company and don’t have any current customers to send the survey to.
Another important task during the research phase is to perform interviews with colleagues and stakeholders on the project. This really makes sure that you are meeting all the business requirements and everyone really feels like they are part of the design process from the beginning. I found this a great thing to do at the start of the project to integrate myself into the team and make everyone else feel valued.
Once we have a deeper insight into the problems our users are facing we can get going on the ideation phase of the project. This is where we can really have some fun and get creative. But before we actually start sketching page designs it’s really important that we take a look holistically at the entire journey that the customer will go on when using our product or service. Most of the time we are designing within a system and it’s essential to have an understanding of how everything fits together. When we understand the machine we can then design the individual parts with greater precision.
Stories have defined our world, they have been with us since early human history and can convey a message that touches our soul. To tell our user’s story we are going to use a process called customer journey mapping. This is a technique where we illustrate the entire process we are designing for. How you illustrate this is up to you, it could be simple text or it could be a wonderful colour illustration. I found that the bigger the better. When I was working in a global company we had a large industrial printer and I had the customer journey map printed off about 10 foot long and stuck up on the wall of the office. This really is a great way to get the whole team involved, just watch the printing bill!