A User Centered Design process (UCD) is an important part of any strategy to develop innovative, usable, compelling, and ultimately successful products. UCD is an iterative process of enhancement, refinement, and simplification. Usable products are easy to use, engaging, efficient, effective, and satisfying.
User centered design requires planning and thorough knowledge about the customer, intended users, goals, tasks, and the context of use. The best way to obtain this knowledge is through direct user contact via interviews, surveys, observations, task analysis and usability testing.
“Involving users throughout the project is a critical software project survival skill… In 1994, the Standish Group conducted a review of 8,000 software projects. Their review concluded that end-user involvement was the most significant project success factor. Among failed projects, lack of user input was the most significant failure factor.” Steve McConnell. (1998) Software Project Survival Guide.
The 4 key characteristics of the UCD process are:
– Early and continued focus on users and the users’ goals and tasks.
– Appropriate allocation of function between user and system.
– Early and frequent usability testing and evaluation.
– Iterative design process.
To maximize the benefits of UCD, it must be incorporated early and in all phases of the software development cycle (not just the user interface design or testing). Early incorporation is important, as it is easier and cheaper to make changes early in the software development cycle.