The Key Principles of User-Centered Design (UCD)

If you’re in the process of developing new products, like a business website, it’s important to keep your customers front and center. What do users need or want? How will they use your product? That’s where the user-centered design process (UCD) comes in—allowing you to create something that can meet user expectations and increase customer satisfaction.

We’ll explore what you need to know about how this process works and how it can help you improve your design approach and reach your business goals. Here’s an in-depth look at what you need to know about user-centered design:

  • What is user-centered design?
  • User-centered design principles
  • User-centered design phases
  • Benefits of user-centered design

What is user-centered design?

User centered design Ndiwano

A user-centered design is a set of processes that work toward giving the end-user an optimal experience with a product or service. UX design professionals achieve this goal by placing the user at the forefront of each stage of the design process.

This design strategy examines how users may interact with a product like a website, including how they might achieve certain tasks like adding a product to their shopping cart. You can also examine the digital environment at each stage and how easy it is for users to intuitively accomplish what they set out to do, such as using the navigation bar to find a certain product.

User-centered design principles

As a part of creating a user-friendly environment online, user experience designers should keep a few key principles in mind. Focusing on these key areas can make it easier to create a great user experience.

Design for the user’s experience and tasks

Designers should keep in mind the types of tasks that users want to accomplish. This means optimizing systems together rather than designing different areas in isolation from each other.

For example, an e-commerce site should offer a seamless transition between the homepage, searching for products, and checking out. Customers should never have to search hard for the links or areas of the site that allow them to complete the next step.

Empathetic design

Incorporating empathy into your visual and system design process can help you identify with your target customers and their emotions and experiences with your products or services. Consider the emotions that your designs elicit.

For example, consider if having too many options on a webpage leads to confusion in your audience. You don’t want to encourage these types of negative emotions in people interacting with your website because they might decide to go elsewhere to make a purchase.

Essentially, user-centered design is putting yourself in the shoes of your customers. It’s important to put aside assumptions of what your target audience needs and instead try to understand their motivations and problems.

Keep it consistent

Once a customer understands how to use your product, it’s important to provide them with a consistent experience no matter where they are in the process. If you have a business website, the system should be easy to grasp and learn. For example, if you have particular menus and link options along your navigation bar on the homepage, make sure those options remain in the same place even when a customer navigates to a new part of the site.

Importance of requirement clarification

Interacting with your product and achieving a particular objective should also not come with too many barriers. In other words, your system shouldn’t create too much friction during the sales process.

Consider a business that offers a form for customers to request inclusion on the business’s newsletter email list. Asking customers for excessive or unnecessary information can hinder customer satisfaction and willingness to register. Instead, minimize business requirements to encourage customers to move forward with you.

You also want to clarify the parts of the product experience that matter the most to customers based on their goals. Identifying these requirements can help you ensure that your product meets those expectations.

Use simple language

To help your target audience move forward with your product, engage them by mirroring the language they use. Using terms that might confuse them, such as technical language, can make it harder for the customer to finish their tasks and accomplish their goals using your product.

For example, a company offering a business intelligence system as a software as a service (SaaS) will want to make sure they use the full term “business intelligence systems” in their menus when describing their services and only use the acronym “BIS” after they’ve introduced the reader to the concept to avoid creating confusion.

Simplify the language by focusing on only including information and text that matters to the user. Adding additional information or options that customers don’t use or won’t understand can make the product, such as a website, more cluttered and confusing.

Involve adequate feedback loops

When customers complete actions using your product, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter on your website, they want to know their actions have been completed successfully. If their request is still processing, they also want to know that the website is working to accomplish their desired goal.

If you have a customer who registers to get a free trial of a service you offer, for example, make sure they see a visual change on the page indicating you have received their request. A thank-you page that pops up once their sign-up has been registered makes it clear that they’ve been successful with their endeavor.

Adequate navigation mechanisms

The ability to move around to different areas of your website and get back to the previous page is an important part of the user experience. Make sure that customers understand where they are within your site and how to exit pages they don’t actually want to visit.

For example, providing customers with features like a navigation map can help them see how to move around your page. If you sell clothing and a customer makes it to the checkout page only to realize they need a different size, make it easy for them to adjust their order without leaving that page.

Reduce user effort

Customers who land on your website don’t want to spend enormous amounts of energy trying to learn how to navigate and accomplish their goals. Customers prefer to focus on the pain point that brought them to the page, such as a purchase, rather than scratching their heads trying to see how they can make that purchase.

Consider a plumber who operates a website to attract local business. That plumber wants to make sure customers interested in contacting them for an estimate or to schedule a job can do so at the click of a button. If people land on the page and can’t clearly see how to call or email the plumber, they won’t want to waste time trying to find the information they need.

Iterative design process

With an iterative design process, your design team creates a design, employs user testing, and then evaluates their success with it. With this evaluation, you can gain greater insight into how customers interact with your website, how well they can intuitively understand your navigation, and how to achieve their objectives.

You can test your website with user groups, inviting people to navigate your site and provide you with feedback. This usability testing can help you see how customers use the site. Just make sure to solicit user feedback from different targeted personas to give you the most thorough picture of your success.

You might also use A/B testing to test the language and appeal of certain pages to see how well they resonate with customers and encourage conversions. Finally, you can dig into the analytics behind your site to see how people navigate through the pages. This can provide insight if there are certain pages that encourage bounces, as well as uncover the patterns people have in their website movement.

Error-free system

Customers should find it simple to move to the different pages of your website and achieve their objectives. If they make a mistake, be there to guide them through correcting the process so they can reach their goal.

For example, let’s say you have someone filling out a form to request an estimate for the installation of a new HVAC system. An error-free design provides customers with feedback through each step of the request process and lets them know immediately if they made a mistake so it can be corrected. The form might require specific, key fields, such as the square footage, along with a gentle prompt or one that appears if they accidentally leave a space empty that’s required.

Asking questions one at a time and providing automated responses for each answer can help customers feel as though they’re having a conversation and responding to your prompts correctly.

Are you looking for someone with knowledge of UCD who can help make your product successful? Look to Ndiwano.com to connect you with the right design professionals for the job.

User-centered design phases

To build a user-centered product, use a product design process that focuses on the customer each stage of the way. Your web design and web development teams will need to work together through each stage to understand the goals of your website and how it’s progressing.

To achieve this objective, follow these key steps:

User centered design phases Ndiwani

1. Research

Begin the design process with research. User research allows you to identify specific customer needs you can address with your product design. Know precisely what customers want to see when they land on a website in your industry, looking for products like those you sell.

2. Specify the context of use

Next, outline the context of use. In other words, take your understanding of what the customer wants to see from your business and define the precise context in which they’ll use your website. Know the type of workflows they’ll go through as they engage your website.

3. Define requirements

Once you know how the website needs to behave and the situations in which customers will use it, define the user requirements and business requirements that will guide the design solutions. These requirements outline precisely what you want to include in the site design and what site architecture and development you need to make those ideas come to life.

4. Design solutions

Once you’ve outlined the requirements, design a website that incorporates these ideas. At this point, the web development team and UI team will come together to bring these plans to fruition.

5. Evaluate feedback

Once the new site has been designed, your team will need to solicit feedback from typical customers and conduct user interviews to see how well the new design meets the predefined goals and expectations. Look at how customers move around the site, ask for direct feedback, and see how the site design impacts sales and engagement. Then, you can begin to identify areas that might still need improvement.

6. Iterate

Repeat the above steps. As you identify areas that still need improvement, bring those steps back to the first part of the iterative design process and begin to look for solutions to those problems. Repeating this process empowers you to continuously look for ways to improve your design.

Benefits of user-centered design

Using the user-centered design model can help businesses achieve a number of benefits. Here are four key benefits that you can experience as you incorporate this into your web development.

Avoid project failures

With a continual feedback process that evaluates how customers respond to your product, such as a website, your business may find it easier to incorporate improvements and ensure that your product aligns with actual user needs. Customers see their needs better reflected in the final product, which can boost engagement and improve the relationship.

Enhance ROI

Products designed through this process do a better job of reflecting user expectations. The process also helps reduce errors, for example, when customers navigate a website. Combined, this encourages users to move forward from leads to paying customers, increasing return on investment.

Improve development process

With user-centered design, different team members share common goals. This can help clarify the next course of action for those involved. The regular evaluation process can also encourage a more focused, goal-oriented development process.

Additionally, having an iterative life cycle during product development can help businesses engage stakeholders and explain how their efforts and methodologies will improve customer interactions.

Increase competitiveness

With a product designed with customer needs and expectations in mind, customers will better appreciate what you have to offer, improve their engagement with your product, and be more inclined to buy from you. This can, therefore, boost your competitiveness within your industry.

Grow your business with user-centered design

Incorporating the UCD process into your product design can help you create a stronger website that is better prepared to adapt to customer needs and expectations. However, it’s important to work with a professional who can employ these strategies and create the product you envision.

Working with independent talent can help you tap into a pool of highly experienced professionals. With Ndiwano.com, you can find a user-centered designer who can use this process to create the site you need. Whether you need a mobile app designer or web designer, you can find the professionals you need right here.

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