What is User-Centered Design methodology? (UCD)

User Centered Design is a methodology that goes beyond the user and their environment. We look into UCD methodologies in detail

UCD is a philosophy and a design process. The stages are analysis, design, and evaluation. Depending on the project, the methodologies and tools used are different. The key here is to select the best combination of them.

User-Centered Design is a methodology that goes beyond the user and their environment, focusing on what is behind them; feelings, behaviour, context or requirements, for instance.

Therefore, we are going to start defining this trending concept by the benefits of incorporating this into your design process:

  • Improved products, less cost and fewer risks: If the design process is close to the user, you will end up designing an expected product
  • Opportunity identification: deeper understanding and empathy when working with users means ethical design and design for everyone.
  • Identifies and addresses problems at early stages: by applying the UCD at any stage: research, design and evaluate.

User-Centered Design is to focus on the  user at any stage of the design process in which each successive iteration is better than the previous one. To be able to understand this statement, you have to bear in mind the fundamental points of this design philosophy:

  1. The design is based on the explicit understanding of the user.
  2. The user is the main character throughout the whole process of the design.
  3. The design is led by the user.
  4. It is an iterative design process.
  5. The design is a complete answer to the whole user experience.
  6. Multidisciplinary teams are key.

At the heart of UCD lies the idea of ​​consulting the user about the product as many times as possible. There are many techniques that will help you do this without consuming too much time and energy.

This is best described as this is an iterative process; designing changes over time to reflect the knowledge gained throughout the investigation. 

The UCD process

Generally, the design process is iterative, each interaction involves the virtuous circle of user research, design, investigation and designing again. However, there are variations of the UCD process which can be incorporated into agile sprints from Google or ISO 9241 – 210 for instance.

The fundamental and most basic concept in UCD processes consist of two elements: research and design. Although the fundamental rules do not vary and are fundamentally based in the six detailed principles of UCD that are collected in the ISO standard, they do vary the steps in which this activity is divided. This next section details some of the the most relevant:

  • Research
  • Design
  • Evaluate

Methodologies and Techniques

Depending on your needs, the User-Centered Design process is composed of several methods and tasks.

User-Centered Design methodologies and techniques.

There are a wide range of techniques as well as tools to be used in each of the main stages previously mentioned. Here we are going to give a brief overview of the most important ones. 

The usage of any of those techniques would be related to the kind of projects you are involved in. Furthermore, the nature of the data you want to collect is important too.

1. Research

Know your user, specify the context of use: Identify people who will use the product, what they will use it for, and under what conditions they will use it.

Interview technique.

This is an exploration phase, an early stage of the project. From here, you would be willing to discover unknown spaces, hence, you need to fully understand your users. The most common outputs from this exploratory research are new features or new product definitions. We aim for behaviour and understanding of what users need.

Who are the user?Interview
Which use the do of the product?Diary Studies
Who are our competitors?Benchmark

2. Design

In this stage, we look to shape the insights from the discovery phase. We should be able to identify problems and solutions, building from concept to complete design.

Prototyping process.

This is a really creative phase, imagination, working in a group, and creativity are the key.

What do we want our users to feel?Affinity Map
How can we use design to make them feel in a particular way?Prototyping
What is their vision about us?Customer Journey
Which are the characteristics of our users?Personas & Scenarios

3. Evaluation

At this point in the design process, we want to measure the impact of the design on the user experience. Usually, it comes through a comparison with either previous designs or with the competitors to identify the improvements.

What is the perception of the user?Split test
What could we keep improving and developing?Web Analysis
Have we accomplished the main objective? PURE – Usability Rating


Which is the best technique?

It depends among many other things, on the stage of the product as well as the nature of the answer you are looking for. For example, if you come up with a client who needs new software to keep the track of the product, the methodologies would be a contextual investigation for analysis, prototyping for design and user testing for evaluation.

How many tools are there? Which is the best?

There are quite a few and they are improving every day. Some of the most popular tools are Figma, Adobe XD, Sketch and Wireflow. To help you decide which is the best for your particular need, we highly recommend using the UX tools comparison.

One tool is not intrinsically better than another: it’s a matter of personal choice. The most important thing is to feel comfortable and knows beforehand the type of job you need to accomplish.

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