What is user centred design?
User centred design (UCD) is a promising method to invent new solutions. It begins with human beings and ends with the results that are tailored to their personal needs. When you understand the people, you are trying to reach, and then design from their viewpoint, you come up with the best designs for your solution. User centred design is about understanding how a user thinks and acting accordingly. It is about developing a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for.
User centred designing generates loads of ideas creating a collection of varying prototypes. Sharing what you have created with the people you’re designing for and getting their feedback. Finally, the end result is your innovative solution portrayed to the world. The nucleus of user centred design includes empathy, optimism, iteration, creative confidence, belief in making, embracing ambiguity and learning in the whole process.
Why user centred design?
A user centred design can bring many advantages to your business. For example, by involving the customers in the design process, user centred design could help:
- increase your sales – customers are more likely to buy a product or service that satisfies their needs
- increase competitiveness – customers are likely to choose you over other brands if your product meets their requirements more effectively
- create positive user experiences – increase loyalty and a good reputation for your business or brand
- gain original insights – this, in turn, could lead to innovative, unique products or services making you the trendsetters in the market
- protect your business by saving time and money – you may test your solutions with end-users when it is still cost effective to make changes. Eliminate the need to modify the design in the advanced stages of the process, avoiding high costs and time delays
- efficient design– help you design more efficient and reliable products
- ownership to users – grant your customers the feeling of ownership in your product or service
Adapting to UCD at an early stage
It’s essential to adapt to a user-centred approach at the earliest opportunity. This gives everyone who needs to be involved – such as researchers, engineers or marketing teams – a clear view of how you will utilise their expertise to benefit the project. A good strategy will reduce the risk of opposing initiatives, wasting your business’ time and money. Begin any design project with a precise outline of your new product or service’s end-user in mind. If you proactively involve your end-users in the design process, usually, you will have a much higher possibility of success.
User centred innovation help executives and innovators ready to take the lead in establishing a unique design-driven process. It helps to propose and build new scenarios and solutions that are meaningful for people, good for the environment, and profitable for businesses.
User centred design process
User centred design process is considered to involve the following steps in brief:
1. The design is based on an explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments.
2. Users are involved throughout the design and development.
3. It is design driven and refined through user centred evaluation.
4. It is an iterative process, details of which will be dealt with in details in a later article.
5. Design addresses the whole user experience.
6. Design team includes multidisciplinary skills and perspectives.
Mutual shaping of technology and society
When we try to comprehend the user centred design process we must be aware of how technology and society mutually influence each other. All innovation is social innovation. Users are a critical part of innovation. Innovation reveals itself in new social user practices. Technology is the site for social and cultural production and not only technical innovation. Users are an integral part of the solution. Understand your users to fit innovations in everyday practices. Mutual shaping is thus a result of the dependency of technology and society.
Theoretical considerations of how technology and users shape each other
Studies have suggested there are 3 theoretical considerations that can be observed when trying to determine this mutual shaping of technology and users in society. The first theory states a direct impact concept. A product or service in the market implements new technology. Hence this, in turn, may generate a given set of social responses on which should be the focus of analysis. Different effects are seen with the adoption of the same technologies by diverse social groups. Particular technological features cannot have the same social consequences on everybody in society. Hence this is how we explain unintended, unanticipated, and differential results everytime a new product is launched in the market.
The second set of theories have proposed that the impact of technology on society is not direct but mediated. This is to mean that often the introduction of new technology motivates people on an individual level or society level to adopt the product or service. But this can yield outcomes very different than those initially planned. Therefore such mediation processes can recursively trigger changes in the adoption of technology among users. For example, when new products are introduced in the market, a group of users may affect the “coevolution” of the products and the user’s practices by assisting other users to deal with these products. Thus, that group can shape both user’s understandings of the technology and the technology itself. Thus making the product more effective and relevant.
The third consideration states that such user influences can often cause constraints in the technological evolution. Sometimes users adapt to the constraints that technology imposes. On other occasions, they react to them by attempting to alter inadequate and unsuitable technological configurations. Thus, technologies’ features and user’s practices inevitably shape one another mutually in ways more than one.
Users and their needs
Users shape a product to cater to their needs sometimes reinventing the product itself as it is and sometimes modifying it instead. But businesses need to be aware of the fact that users sometimes may not be aware of what they need. Their needs may not always be technologically feasible. Thus analysing the needs accurately and educating users on aspects that cannot be practically implemented is also an important step in the whole solution design process. In the end, we must not forget that it is users who eventually give meaning to your solution. Hence understanding their mindset and motivation and guiding them in the right direction is the key to driving a successful product design.
The 20th-century media history has produced highly enlightening instances of user-generated technological shifts. Douglas in 1988, showed how amateurs shaped the radio as the mass communication device as of how we have come to know today. This came with the outcome that “the radio trust had to reorient its manufacturing priorities, its corporate strategies, indeed, its entire way of thinking about the technology under its control”.
Early telephone callers, planted the idea of “sociability” in the lines. Thus driving the telephone industry to introduce technical changes to what was originally conceptualised as a business medium, and was now being used for social communication as well. Finally, a more contemporary example can be found in the French Télétel videotex system, which is better known as the Minitel. Users turned Télétel which was initially designed as a one-to-many information medium into a many-to-many communication space during the evolution and maturity of its popular messaging systems. “In its final configuration, Télétel was largely shaped by the users’ preferences” noted Feenberg.
Ability to change according to user’s demands was a fundamental reason behind the success of the French videotex initiative when compared to the British and German failures in the same field. With this insight, the economic value of user-driven sociotechnical alterations should not be undervalued because, as Rosenberg stated in 1982, “it is probably no accident that the industries that rely heavily on learning by using—aircraft, electric power generation, telephones and, more recently, computers—have had some of the most impressive productivity growth in the twentieth century”
At graphility, we help you build your product or service by understanding your users and creating a sense of deep empathy which we strongly believe is the foundation to formulating any great solution.
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Also published on Medium.