Keeping it Real – User-Centered Design in Your Daily Lives
Unit 2, Section 1, Overview
Before moving on to the rest of the content head over to the Unit 2, Section 1, assessment page to answer a few quiz questions.
In this section, we will explore products in our daily lives that appear to be user-centered or designed to specifically meet our needs and to help make our lives easier. In many ways, the strength of this relationship between what we need and what is provided naturally helps inform and breed long-term success or not.
Let’s begin. User-centered design or UCD is all around you. It lives in your technology, your clothes, your furniture, and the places you spend your hard-earned money on. Technology in particular has highlighted the importance of user-centered design, as people who design and develop the technology are often not representative of the people who will be using this technology.
The positive user experience, or UX for short, is become a priority, especially in the technology-enriched world. Intuitively, in order to ensure positive experience, you must understand who our users are, what they need and want, and how and in what context they will be using our product and services. This is where user-centered design comes in.
Let’s take a look at your daily consumer behavior. How about the car you drive? What does it say about you? Fuel efficient, environmentally friendly, cargo or towing capacity, safety, prestige, affordability? You better believe the auto industry has data on this and has designed specific vehicles to meet the needs of specific consumers who desire such qualities.
What about where you shop for groceries? Is it quality, price, location, a particular chain you grew up with, one that is hip, cool, trendy?
Finally how about the technology that you use? Is your smart phone or cell phone selected for prestige, functionality, reliability, feature set, price, et cetera?
Anyway, you get the picture. If you’re going to be successful in supplying what consumers want, you must understand what they need and, well, provide it for them. This is user-centered design, and it is pervasive all around us in the things we use and care about because they are relevant in our lives.
Let’s take a look at some examples. I love shopping at Publix. Their promise seems to be a use-centered experience that’s personified throughout my shopping experience with them. Although I can no longer shop there because I’m now in North Carolina, it is still the best grocery store I have ever shopped at.
What are my user requirements when going grocery shopping? Well, I want polite service. I want things to be clean, starting with the parking lot and throughout the store. I want things to be efficient, wide aisles so that two carts can actually comfortably pass each other in the aisle, good signage, and well-organized shelves. I want to find what I’m looking for and have high quality items. The Publix Bakery is legendary. In essence I want a hassle-free, satisfying experience that I’m willing to pay extra for. Publix is known for slightly higher prices. But I find that it is well worth it.
Another of my favorites is Chick-fil-A. It remains one of my top fast food services and again checks off all of my user requirements for getting food for me and my family quickly. What do I require? Well, first off, I want high quality food. I also want polite customer service that is efficient, quick, and easy. In terms of effectiveness, I still rave about their indoor, soundproof, glass-enclosed play area where all of my children spent many an hour playing in when growing up. Their steamed chicken sandwiches are amazing.
All in all every user requirement is consistently checked off every time my family and I visit them. Again while more expensive than some other fast foods, the return on investment, or ROI, is well worth it, given my UX or user experience. Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting everyone has the same experience as my family and I. But they certainly have satisfied us over the years.
Let’s shift gears and talk about Microsoft Office. This productivity suite allows me as a professor to quickly produce an amazing array of work right at my finger tips and offers interoperability that allows me to teach and do research with incredible ease and effectiveness.
What are my user requirements for productivity software? Well, first, I want to be effective with the features that I need to be productive quickly and easily. I want it to be efficient, easy to use with little mental effort required to accomplish what I need to get done. I need it to be interoperable, so that I can seamlessly work between Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and share my work with others. All in all, then, my experience with Microsoft Office Suite has extremely high return on investment, or ROI, for me. I get done what I need to do quickly, efficiently, and effectively.
Finally, let me conclude by raving about the Google Suite. As an early adopter of a lot of software throughout my career, the continuously improving Google Suites of services continues to impress and revolve around very relevant and useful day-to-day needs. The suite of Google applications represents a self-contained social communications and productivity suite that allows me to be both productive and most importantly be collaborative with others.
What are my user requirements? Again, I need it to be effective so that I can get my job done with little effort and high ROI. Check. I need to be efficient. Google again has gone down the list of things a working professional needs. Email, instant messenger, file storage, video conferencing, file sharing, calendar, et cetera. The features are very easy to use and easy to learn. They are highly interoperable. Our entire School of Education, in fact, has removed our landline phones in favor of Google Hangout because so few of us use our office phones as opposed to Google Messenger, Hangout, email, and our personal cell phones. The Google suite is an integral part of my workday because their features are clearly centered on what I need to be a productive professional.
User-centered design, however, is subjective. It represents an interaction between a user, their individual goals, and a product and/or service. Some of you may not agree with all four of my examples, which is perfectly fine. There really is no right or wrong, but rather the meeting of individual user preferences and requirements. What is right for me and my family may not be right for you, and vice versa. Then again all four examples are highly successful in their respective spaces, so obviously others agree with me too.
According to Gibbons, user-centered design and the user experience or UX movement has taken place across four waves. Wave 1 focuses on external support through documentation, training, and customer assistance. Wave 2 emphasizes usability and usefulness, focusing on ease of use, ease of learning, and user segmentation. Wave 3 emphasizes the entire experience, which emphasizes a deeper understanding of discrete and real differences among the user population, including accessibility and cross-cultural requirements. Wave 4, which is what we’re in right now, emphasizes the intersection of UCD, UX, and innovation.
The focus is on unmet human needs, and the interaction effect between what users need and what businesses provide can serve as a genesis for innovation of new products and services. In other words, it cannot just be about user needs, but rather a continuing dialogue between users and the professionals who creatively innovate to meets these needs. This reflects the very heart and soul of user-centered design and its role in helping define the relationship between consumer and business.
All right. Thanks for joining me. Remember to check out the readings for this section and answer the five review questions for a deeper understanding of user-centered design and its role in your daily lives. Also participate in the section discussion area to see what others are saying about their own experiences. Finally, don’t just read and talk about it, but do a hands-on activity about UCD. I hope to see you soon in another module. Cheers.