User-centered design (UCD)

Synonyms: User-driven development

UСD is an iterative design process focused on the user’s needs. Each iteration of the process is based on user’s feedback throughout research, interviews and testing. This approach helps to create highly usable and accessible products.


User-centered design example
Help Experience — USM App by Horia Veselin


Here is an example of the UCD approach. Users ask similar questions, but might prefer different ways to search for answers. Solution of this problem in the design above is good. The designer gives all the possibilities to find the answer, and a user can choose the most сonvenient one. He can write an email, ask his question in the chat or check the FAQ.

4 Key Phases Of The UCD Process

  1. Specify the users’ needs: identify the people who are going to use your product and their context

  2. Specify requirements: align business requirements with users’ goals

  3. Create design solutions

  4. Evaluate designs against requirements

UCD vs Activity-Centered Design

Junior designers may confuse the user-centered design for the activity-centered design because they may seem similar. But they aren’t.

The user-centered design focuses on users, their needs, preferences, and experience with similar tasks. The activity-centered design doesn’t focus on users but on tasks and the activity that user needs to perform. The UCD makes the product accessible while ACD waits for users to adapt to accomplish their tasks.

For some products ACD approach might work. Especially, when there are no alternatives — when your product is complex, unique and highly demanded. But in most cases UCD is better as it allows to attract and retain more users.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Find all the possible information about users — all kinds of research can help you here. Make sure that you understand users’ needs

  2. Involve users in the design process. Focus groups, interviews, testing — try them to find better design solutions

  3. Make the design process iterative. You can start with research on users’ needs, then go to design solutions and testing

  4. Get users’ feedback and reevaluate your design constantly

  5. Use site maps, user flows, and personas to make the process more simple

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