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Why do we need User-Centred Design?

user-centred design

Kelvin Sakoane
17 February 2022

User-Centred Design (UCD) is an optimistic approach to inventing innovative solutions. It begins with human beings and ends with answers that meet their individual needs. When you understand the people you are trying to reach, and design from their perspective, you produce answers based on their experience. UCD is both how you are thinking and what you are doing. Therefore, UCD is all about building a deep empathy with the individuals you are designing for, generating heaps of ideas, and building a bunch of prototypes.

When we design a new product, it is always essential to understand who we are designing for and how people will use it. However, without this understanding, there is almost no chance of creating a product people will love.

People ignore design that ignores people

– Frank Chimero

What is user-centred design?

UCD is a collection of processes that focus on putting users at the centre of product design and development. When a product team develops digital products, it considers the user’s requirements, objectives, and feedback. Satisfying users’ needs and wants becomes a priority. The objective of every design decision is to deliver value to the users. Additionally, user-centred design gives you a way of adding emotional value to the users.

User-centred design principles

UCD is based on a few fundamental principles that can be applied to the product design process:

  • Iterative design process. The product team constantly works on improving user experience, it introduces changes gradually as it gains more understanding about their target audience.
  • Users are involved in the design process from the very beginning. For instance, critical design decisions are evaluated based on how they work for end-users.
  • Importance of requirement clarification. The product team always tries to align business requirements with user’s needs.
  • Introducing user feedback loop in the product life cycle. The product team collects and analyzes feedback from users regularly. This information helps the team to make more user-focused decisions.

Dr Donald Norman, a cognitive science researcher was the first to explain the importance of user-centred design. He stated that design decisions should be based on the needs and wants of users. For example, the value system of user-centred design contains:

  • Empathy
  • Optimism
  • Iteration
  • Creative Confidence
  • Belief in making
  • Embracing ambiguity
  • Learning from failure

User-centred design creates a unique chance to design together with communities. It gives designers the opportunity to deeply understand the users they are trying to serve. Similarly, designers create many ideas and make innovative new products rooted in people’s actual needs.

To design in a user-centric way, one needs to identify the people who will use the product, what they will use it for, and the conditions under which they will use it. Moreover, it is necessary to observe people’s lives, hear their hopes and needs based on product usage. In other words, user-centred design is about designing and developing a product from the perspective of how it will be understood and used by users, rather than making users adapt their behaviours to use a product.

user-centred design

UCD Principles

  1. A clear understanding of user and task requirements.
  2. Incorporating user feedback to define requirements and design.
  3. Early and active involvement of the user to evaluate the design of the product.
  4. Integrating user-centered design with other development activities.
  5. Iterative design process

Designing a product from the beginning with the user in mind ensures that the client gets the product exactly as they want it. There is no doubt that to continue to provide value for our customers, we must apply the principles of the agile development philosophy. However, for our software to be hugely successful, we must endeavour to adopt a more user-centred approach.

Why do we need user-centred design?

There are several benefits that arise when advocating a user-centred philosophy, namely:

  • User-based research can provide a mechanism for validating and testing design decisions.
  • Evidence-based decisions mean that guesswork is minimized.
  • By keeping a product’s end-users at the heart of its design and development process, the result is far more likely to be useful, usable, and meaningful.
  • UCD provides a way to engineer quality experiences.
  • Additionally, it empowers development teams to create products and solutions that are competitive in today’s discerning market.

Commonalities between UCD and Agile?

Both philosophies are iterative, incorporating testing with users and refinement. But in practice, they often conflict with one another. An agile approach such as Scrum tries to minimize up-front planning in favour of producing working code quickly. Plus, agile prefers in-situ workshops for gathering requirements, while UCD largely favours up-front user research.

Agile also uses working software as its primary measure of progress, while UCD focuses on whether users can easily achieve their goals with or without software. But, despite the potential conflicts, it really is worthwhile to merge these approaches on many projects because the combined impact of agile and UCD can be extremely powerful. When this combination works, quickly delivering tangible software that offers a great user experience is the outcome.

How Integrove can help you

At Integrove, we have a team of dedicated and experienced professionals who represent the end-user in the planning and development of our products. The primary objective is to ensure that the relationship between the gears and the drivers of our applications are purposely engineered for success. We aim to deliver maximum usability, minimum friction and overall user fulfilment.

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