Plain and simple, software and services are used by people. And the user’s experience with those services will decide the success or failure of the enterprise that creates and owns them. And as software becomes software -as-service, it is becoming increasingly more important that companies prioritize the needs and wants of their users. Ultimately, it is the user’s experience and satisfaction that should be the benchmark for successful development of an IT solution; this is the essence of User Centered design.
Donald Norman coined the term “user-centered design” in his 1986 book The Design of Everyday Things, which was originally titled The Psychology of Everyday Things. He later went on to co-found the Nielsen Norman Group in 1998 with Jakob Nielson. Photo credit: happy.apple
In broad strokes, User Centered design (UCD) can be described in 6 statements:
There’s a few things we should note about this chart.
Many large businesses don’t take advantage of user centered design despite the benefits from implementing the process.
A designer at Thinking Big, Paul Lopes, described some great examples on how UCD methods can help large enterprises. “We’ve used usability tests involving end users for their online account system. It’s really changed how we developed the system.”
Aside from Usability Testing, other UCD processes include:
Often though, user centered design can be a hard sell to enterprise clients. Clients can be wary of the process or might think it's unnecessary, but the results of user centered design speak for themselves.
UCD isn't the costly process it might be seen as, and the smallest amount of attention given to user experience can make a tremendous difference. Steve Krug, the author of Don't Make Me Think, has given a great lecture on the subject.
He talks about the cost benefits and the enormous help early usability tests give to development teams. It's a great lecture and, despite his objections, it will make you think.
This is only a brief overview of user centered design. Future articles will provide more depth, but it's important to get the discussion of this topic started. If you would like to know more, you can talk to someone at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at @thinkingbiginc.
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