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Don’t Forget the User

User satisfaction is the benchmark for the successful development of an IT solution.

by Brian Ansems, Principal Solutions Architect

Hand holding a sticky note with the words 'Don't forget the user' written on it.

Plain and simple, software and services are used by people. The user’s experience with those services and products will decide the success or failure of the enterprise that creates and owns them. As software becomes software-as-­service, it’s becoming increasingly more important that companies prioritize the needs and wants of their users. Ultimately, the user’s experience and satisfaction is the benchmark for the successful development of an IT solution; this is the essence of user-centred design.

Donald Norman coined the term user-centred 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, a UX research and consulting firm trusted by leading organizations worldwide to provide reliable guidance on user experience.

What is User­ Centered Design?

In broad strokes, user-centred design can be described in 6 statements:

  1. The design is based on an understanding of a user’s tasks and environments.
  2. Users are continuously a part of the design and development.
  3. The design is affected by user evaluation.
  4. The process is iterative.
  5. The design thinks about the whole user experience.
  6. The design team is composed of many skill sets and views.

Diagram illustrating the User-Centered Design (UCD) process, highlighting the 5 stages.

There are a few things we should note about the above chart:

  • It begins with two steps — Plan and Research. Here, teams should be getting to know their user. Find out what they like, the environment they will be using the product, and anything that might affect how a user responds to the product.
  • The chart is a big circle. Why? Because it’s iterative — it’s important to do this to stay agile. You never know what the user might have for you that will change the design of your product.
  • Adapting and measuring your product will let you know how close you are to meeting your user’s needs. These steps give you have a chance to quickly change your design before building something no one will like or use.

It may sound involved, but it’s all about making something users will enjoy and businesses will profit from.

Convincing The Resistant

Aside from Usability Testing, other user-centred design processes include:

Often though, user-centred design can be a hard sell to enterprise clients. Clients can be wary of the process or may think it’s unnecessary, but the results of user-centred design speak for themselves.

User-centred design 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, author of Don’t Make Me Think, gave 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.

In the end