How Does User-Centred Design Work?

Contrary to popular belief, companies are no longer focused on bringing products to the market. Their priority instead is to tailor products to user preferences at a high enough volume and margin to deliver at least the minimum of what the user expects. This is often referred to as PoLA; which is the Principle of Least Astonishment. Businesses are now incorporating User-Centred Design into their business strategies, which includes their decision making around web development.

What Is User-Centred Design?

User-Centred Design

User-Centred Design is an iterative process that places users at the centre of product design and development. Design teams involve users throughout the design process via a variety of research and design techniques, to create highly usable and accessible products for them. You create your digital product while keeping your users' needs, goals, and feedback in mind.

“ People ignore design that ignores people.“
- Frank Chimero

 

User-Centred Design can sometimes be mistaken for Human-Centred Design. They may seem like they are the same thing, as all products' users are humans. However, not all humans are users. User-Centered Design looks into problems that are specifically relevant to a given niche or target audience.

When your team incorporates users at every stage of the design process, you invest time, money, and other resources into a powerful method of discovering what works well, what doesn't, and why. Users provide an early warning system that you can use to fine-tune your design. They can reveal many aspects, both positive and negative, that your team may have overlooked in critical areas such as usability and accessibility. That is why it is critical to comprehend the potency of a user-centered design approach.

What Are The Principles Of User-Centred Design Work?

Understanding your Users

It's crucial to know the current or potential audience. That will allow you to put them at the center of everything. We want to know what users expect from the site, what their values and motivations are, how long they might spend on the site on average, etc. To find this information out, user testing is the port of call here.

Accessibility and Usability

Users should have no problems accessing your website and the journey they need to take and use it to achieve specific goals. The site should be easy to navigate through the various pages as well as the menus, information should be easy to find and all of the features should be easy to use by anyone.

Consistency and Reliability

A consistent look, feel and function of the site makes it easily recognisable in the future. The feeling of familiarity and knowing the outcome of each action empowers your users to use the site confidently, making them buy more.

Iteration

Regular testing and refinement are key. That allows you to stay in line with your users' needs and create the best product you can.

What Is The User-Centred Design Lifecycle?

Research Users

As mentioned before, it all starts with a user. The best way to start a process of designing a user-centred product is by studying the target audience.

One way to do that is via surveys. By sending those to your current customers you can get genuine and valuable input from them and they will surely appreciate their voice being heard.

If you'd like to go even further, the most in-depth way of learning about your customers is by creating Customer Personas. These are representations of your ideal and/or most common customer types with a name and face attached to their characteristics.

User Testing Persona

Simple User Persona we created for Weatherbeeta using usertesting.com.

Many companies should have personas to represent their customers and target audience. How else would you sell something to someone?

Structure the Information

Usability, functionality, and satisfaction levels are all affected by how information is displayed on websites. Before you start the design phase, think about the best approach to introduce content for the user's benefit.

The best way to start is to list all the features that might be relevant to the previously made personas. With that in place, we need to create a sitemap and the navigation structure in a way that best caters to our audience. This is a place to really think about the User Journey and how it flows.

Damn Filters Site Map

A sitemap of Damn Filters, one of our clients, that we created when building their website.

In order to define the site even more, the next natural step is wireframes. Wireframes help outline information and all the functionalities that the final product will have.

Design the Interface

Sitemap and Wireframes act as a floor plan for your store. Once we know the layout, it is time for dressing up. Whilst designing the Interface it is crucial to remember the importance of accessibility and consistency.

WCAG 2.0 is the accessibility guide used as the standard all over the world. Not meeting this criteria can become a huge pain point in the future and potentially a lawsuit. Being fully compliant is what everyone is after, however you can never be fully compliant as rules and regulations change all the time and you’re unable to please all without impacting on something else.

Typography

A part of the Style Sheet for one of our clients - Grams(28).

Consistency in your Interface will help your users learn your site quicker and the overall experience will have less friction. It is worth developing a style guide that includes Typography, Colours, Icons, Buttons, Text fields, and anything that your site will be using.

Test and Iterate

Testing is essential for obtaining feedback on whether your design is achieving the desired results and satisfying the users' anticipated needs. Don't underestimate the importance of reviewing and evaluating.

Hotjar Heatmaps

Hotjar Heatmaps are a great source of User Data. 

By using the feedback provided by your "test subjects" you can go back to the design, wireframe, or even sitemap and change what isn't working. It's important to remember that your design is not perfect and never will be, but by using feedback to our advantage we can continuously improve the experience and grow sales.

Why Is User-Centred Design Important?

People think that a great website can be built in one go, but that's simply not the case. Seasoned designers can use their experience and best practice to create great products. However, predicting exactly how users will interact with a given site or product is beyond the parameters of any designers control. This is why User-Centred Design is important, and why it should be a continual process.

Want to learn more about User Experience, check out our previous blog on Responsive Design.

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