Creating user-centric design: Strategies for developing user-friendly products.

Aug 7, 2023 |
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Consider downloading an app. Do you need to read a lengthy manual to learn how to use it? Or, can you easily navigate through it and understand its functions?

When developing products like a website, a mobile app, or software, it is essential to put the customer at the front, center, and end of the design process. After all, it is their experience that matters. This is why user-centric design has become so popular in recent years.

User-centric design is an approach that puts the user at the heart of the product and focuses on meeting users’ expectations. By fulfilling users’ expectations, designers can increase customer satisfaction.

In the days of yore, companies didn’t pay any attention to solving customer problems or meeting
user expectations. It was all profit. Most products didn’t meet users’ needs, and in some cases, customers had to figure out how to use their products. Sometimes, companies even launched products without any customer demand.

Things have changed. Nowadays, products must be usable, accessible, and easy to understand. Companies are now using research to develop products that are easy to use and appeal to our natural instincts.

In this article, we will explore user-centric design and discuss strategies to create user-friendly products.

What is user-centric design?

User-centric design is a process that involves the customer in every step of the design and development phases with an emphasis on user experience. UX design teams rely on various investigative and research methods to understand user needs, and based on their findings, they create user-friendly products that meet customers’ expectations.

The process involves extensive customer research and continuously developing ideas, prototypes, and testing. The product design and development process should also be aligned with the company’s business goals.

For example, when designing an e-commerce website, designers should ensure customers can find a specific product easily and add it to their cart with a few clicks. Designers should also ensure visitors can quickly find the shopping cart and payment processing page. This aligns with the company’s goal of increasing revenue.

User-centric design Vs. human-centered design

User-centric design (UCD) and human-centered design (HCD) are often used interchangeably, but a significant difference separates the two.

UCD requires a thorough understanding of the users who will be using your product. You need to investigate and research your target audience’s attitudes and behaviors to develop the right solutions for specific problems. UCD is all about creating delightful experiences for customers to create value.

On the other hand, human-centered design prioritizes human needs and critical social issues affecting communities. It aims to solve problems that impact people’s daily lives to improve their quality of life.

A great example of a human-centered design is a fitness tracker like Fitbit. The inventors of this product acknowledged people have difficulties tracking and achieving their fitness goals. Hence they designed a helpful and sustainable solution. The product caters to the user’s needs by providing information on the number of calories burnt and motivating them to exercise more.

Another excellent example of a user-centric design is Netflix. Netflix is the most preferred streaming service for most people. Its success lies in its remarkable user-friendly user interface and personalized recommendations. It delivers content based on the user’s watch history.

Netflix does this exceptionally well with their algorithm-based recommendations, such as “you might like this” lists and a simple user interface and seamless user experience across the web, mobile phone, and TV apps.

The user-centric design process

Creating user-friendly products starts with an in-depth understanding of the customer. The design process focuses on users’ needs, expectations, and behavior. Design teams must conduct user research to understand their target audience’s problems and identify solutions.

The UCD process is composed of several steps:

Context of use

Define the product’s intended users and the context or situation they will use the product. Find out the underlying conditions in which they will use it. Also, mention the purpose they will use it.

Specify user requirements

To create a successful product, you must understand the design process, user requirements, and how it aligns with your company’s goals.

Ideate solutions

Use the collected data to develop design solutions. This process can be done incrementally, starting with drafting, developing a prototype, and progressing toward the final version.

Test and validate

Conduct usability tests to determine what functions properly and where improvements are necessary.

Monitor and update

The user-centric design is an iterative process. In the iterative design process, the design team creates a prototype, conducts user testing and then assesses the success of their design based on customer feedback. Based on that, adjustments are made to improve the product.

The idea is to use the insights accumulated from the testing stages to enhance the product and make further improvements.

For example, if you’re designing a website, you need to understand how users interact with your website, how easy it is for them to navigate, and how to help the visitors get what they want from the website. Using website analytics, you can understand how visitors move around the pages and whether particular pages are driving them away. These insights can be used to make adjustments and improvements.

Multi-disciplinary teams

Forming multi-disciplinary teams is recommended to ensure a clear understanding of the context of use and user expectations. Combining different perspectives helps to analyze the problem from various angles and ultimately develop the most appropriate solution.

Individuals with varying backgrounds and expertise in the design process of user-centric design projects lead to more innovative design decisions. It is advisable to involve designers, stakeholders, developers, as well as marketing, business, and sales departments.

Additionally, team members can improve their abilities by collaborating with other departments, enhancing their overall capabilities.

User interviews

As part of the UX research process, conducting user interviews is about collecting information about users’ habits, needs, and behaviors. This information is utilized during the initial development stage of a project. Interviews are useful for gathering information such as user demographics, how users interact with technology, their intended usage of the product, their needs, objectives, expectations, and any pain points they may have.

Buyer personas

Personas represent the target audience by gathering data from real users. With the help of personas, we can design products that meet customer expectations. Personas are essential in user-centric design, but using research data from real users to create accurate personas rather than making assumptions is important.

User journey

This is a tool for the early stages of a buyer’s journey, where the user determines to use a specific product that will solve his problem. This tool helps us track every user interaction with the product, giving us insight into their story and the context in which they will use it. Additionally, journey mapping can help us learn about users’ emotions throughout the different stages of interaction with the product.

Field research

In UCD, research is critical for understanding user habits and behaviors and collecting relevant information to develop a product without biases. When implementing user-centric design principles in developing a product, conducting research involves observing and collecting user data in their real-life environment. The objective is to understand how users naturally interact with a product and how designers can improve this engagement.

Conclusion

user-centric design is an iterative, user-focused UX design process that involves understanding customer needs and expectations to create products and services that provide the best possible experiences. It’s crucial to keep the user at the core of every stage of the design process, or else people will ignore your product. With a great design process that is based on user research, you can create products people will love. By deploying UCD methodologies, companies can develop products with the highest enhanced conversions and customer loyalty.
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