User-Centered Design Defined
Unit 2, Section 2, Overview
Before moving on to the rest of the content head over to the Unit 2, Section 2, assessment page to answer a few quiz questions.
In Section 1, we’ve identified a number of applied examples. In this module, we will go into the formal definitions of user centered design and the specific processes involved in implementing it.
Are you ready? Let’s begin. Let’s start with the U.S. Government’s definition of user-centered design. They define in, in three parts. First, it represents a structured approach to employing usability. Second, it represents a methodology that involves users throughout all stages of the website development cycle so that will be well aligned with user needs. Third, it also prioritizes the needs of the organization and business objectives within the context of user needs, limitations and preferences.
Rubin in 1994 simply defined UCD as a process where all development proceeds with the user as the center of focus. He saw UCD as an interrelated set of two concentric circles involving eight factors. The first circle involved four factors: context, objectives, environment and goals, and the second circle involve the remaining four factors: task- detail, content, organization, and flow. These two circles meet and are developed around the user and his or her needs. In other words, what are the user needs, what context will this take place and. . . and how can their needs best be met?
In 1999, user-centered design was also formally defined by the International Organization for Standardization. ISO Standard 13407 refers to UCD as actually human-centered design and defines it as “Human-centered design is an approach to interactive system development that focuses specifically on making systems usable. It is also a multidisciplinary activity.” The last part of the definition, a multidisciplinary activity, really helps illuminate that like most things, true quality is not achieved in isolation but is rather an iterative generative process that involves multiple perspectives and opinions. Human-centered design indeed!
There are four core principles and four activities of a UCD process. The four core principles are:
- active involvement of users
- appropriate allocation of function
- the system and the user
- iteration of design solutions and multidisciplinary design
Using these principles are guidelines.
The four activities are:
- First, understand and specify the context of use.
- Second, specify user and organizational requirements.
- Third, produce more than one candidate design solution.
- Fourth, evaluate designs against requirements.
The key is clear requirements, iteration and alignment between the eventual designs, and original user-centered and organization-centered requirements.
The Worldwide Web Consortium, or W3C, recommends a five-step UCD process.
First is analysis. Conduct an analysis involving users, organization needs, and performance context. We’ll cover this more specifically in just a second.
Second is design. From the analysis, both user and organizational requirements will have been identified. Design preliminary versions based on this.
Third is evaluation. Before going too far down to design and development of process, existing paper or alpha versions need to be tested and undergo iterative design based on user feedback. Remember, UCD is multidisciplinary, involving a number of different people and their perspectives.
Fourth is implementation. Implement or have a soft rollout before fully deploying. Again, evaluate and iteratively design before full release.
Fifth and lastly is deployment. Deploy the fully vetted and user-centered design product or service to the masses. Continue evaluating, though, and repeat the process continuously.
For Step 1 analysis, there are five sub-steps:
First, you need to determine the overall strategic goals and objectives of your site, product, or service within the context of the organization and its goals. For example, what is the emotional and effective design and look and feel of your organization? Happy, professional, dower, friendly, etc? What images and colors would best reflect this? What are some of your challenges and constraints?
Second, what are your users and target audiences? Are you able to create a KES profile, or your user’s knowledge, experience, and skills? For testing purposes, create a persona or a typical user profile that can be used to test feature iterations against.
Third is doing a task-purpose analysis, which involves a creation of a user task matrix that represents a featured checklist of high priority items for users. This is the seminal requirement checklist that will be used [to] compare future design against.
Fourth is an information architecture analysis, which involves the creation of an information architecture map and wireframe and then comparing and testing against user requirements.
Lastly is actual workflow analysis or scenario of testing that will test your preliminary design to ensure both utility and easy use. The design phase should begin with an initial articulation of look, feel, and conceptual requirements. This is referred to as a classic 10%/30%/60% principle, where you want to spend 10% of your time on look, 30% on feel, and 60% on the specific conceptual requirements.
An operational term of 60% can be identified by creating a featured checklist and information architecture map. The 30% feel deals with interaction with specific attention to navigation and how users will move around site. This is where storyboards and wireframes or page level specifications are designed. The 10% look brings together the other 90% in the form of a paper or online proto-type. Once this markup is completed, we’re ready to evaluate it against your identified requirements by user type.
The evaluation phase helps vet your preliminary designs. This involves both nonempirical without users and empirical testing with users. Designer cognitive walkthroughs is one of the most common ways to test a preliminary design. This involves taking common tasks and walking through the initial design to see if they can be successfully accomplished. Heuristic evaluation involves evaluating the design against the established usability design standards. These will be discussed in detail in future sections.
Usability testing preliminary designs can either be done on paper or using preliminary online prototypes. These tests can test any of 10/30/60 areas of look, feel, or conceptual requirements, depending on the time and funding available. We’ll discuss usability in much greater detail in the next section.
Steps 4 and 5 really are rapid iterations of Steps 2 and 3. Soft implementation means it is rolled live where actual users can interact with it, but it’s not widely disseminated. Preliminary feedback and issues found may lead to iterative designs based on user feedback with emphasis on continuous improvement.
Once these have been fixed, it’s time for widespread dissemination and deployment. Continuous collection of feedback will lead to continued iterations and small-scale improvement that will lead to essentially a repeat of the process.
In summary, UCD in a nutshell involves:
- users as a center of design focus
- identifying primary context of usage
- identify primary functions and information users need and want
- involving users at every stage from design to deployment, and finally
- testing, redesigning, retesting in a continuous set of iterative cycles
While designing for users, again, [is] easy to understand conceptually, as you can see actually making it happen is very detailed and involves quite a bit of work. Designing with users in mind and with their actual feedback in the front end will pay large dividends on the backend as users will more likely find your site useful and with overall higher usability, which involves principally clear value and ease of use.
Thanks for joining me and that’s it for this module. Please remember to look over the readings, answer the five review questions, participate on the discussion board, and do the hands-on activities. Use your designs so not only read and listen to how it’s done but also get some hands-on experience, which will greatly enhance the learning process. Take care for now.