User-centered design (UCD) is exactly what it sounds like, but instead of just some processes focusing on the user, every part of the development process considers the user. Even from the very first, initial phases of design, the user is at the center of the process. The designer considers a user’s needs even above the needs of the business.
There are many benefits of user-centered design, including cheaper production costs and increasing user satisfaction. Researchers found programmers spend half of their time on projects reworking different elements. Imagine a world where you plan designs in a user-centered framework and only have to change a few things because you know where to go from day one.
User-centered design has an impact on the design world in a variety of ways. Here are eight ways UCD impacts design:
1. Focusing Designers
Anyone who has ever started a web design project understands the initial grueling phases of the process. Ideas are bounced back and forth between designer and client until an overall concept is hashed out. Even then, a designer may not fully develop design choices
With UCD, the focus is on the consumer and what he or she wants out of a website. Research and solid statistics back up this game plan. Suddenly, it is much easier for the client and the designer to agree on the best way to move forward.
2. Saving Time
The process for UCD is very straightforward. At the center is the user persona — a made up person who resembles the target audience. In a circle around that user is the process, which includes strategy, research, analysis, design and production. Getting to market fast impacts businesses with a product to sell. The UCD framework allows the user to come up with solid design concepts and move ahead without the delays of traditional design.
3. Making Redesign Easier
Over time, you may want to add functions or features to your website. When you take a user-first approach, you should already know what works well for your users and what is familiar to them that needs to be kept in the redesign. Instead of starting from scratch, you can start from where you are and build on it, which saves time, effort and money.
A user views your feature and your brand as the same the more often a customer uses a certain feature on your website. If you suddenly get rid of that feature, you risk losing those customers.
4. Understanding Problems Better
When you encounter a problem on your site that you need to fix, it helps to use a human-first approach, because you will see more easily what needs to be corrected to make the site more usable for the consumer.
Measure the success or failure of your product by how usable it is to people and whether it satisfies a need they have without complex processes they don’t want to be bothered with. UCD forces you to focus on solving problems for your site visitors.
5. Creating Effective Designs
Any good designer can come up with a beautiful web design, but considering user experience creates a design that works for the end user and allows you to turn site visitors into interested leads. Customers will say you have more “effective and satisfying” designs if you center those designs on humans.
As mentioned above, the process of creating a UCD involves putting the user at the center of every single step in the process. By doing this, the overall design functions in a way that works best for the user. The user experience and UCD don’t live separate from one another. UCD is like UX on steroids.
6. Thinking Outside the Box
When you put the user at the core of everything you do, you are also forced to think outside the box. Instead of the same old design principles that most companies adhere to, you suddenly begin to look into the future of your company and what needs your customers will have.
One example is integrating or planning integration in the future of virtual reality and augmented reality because you see from your polling that your average customer is open to both of these concepts. Perhaps your headquarters are in a smart city. So you figure out how to integrate your website and your building, so everything runs seamlessly.
7. Retaining Customers
When you put the focus on the customer, the entire experience becomes more personalized. Eighty percent of consumers state they are more likely to do business with companies that offer a more personalized experience. When you consistently center that experience on customers, they are more likely to stick with your brand. If you knew you could expect the same great experience over and over, wouldn’t you do business with that company again?
8. Staying Ahead of the Times
UCD and UX are now buzzwords in design circles. The effectiveness of human-first design indicates that this will continue to be a trend in coming years. People today expect to have a fantastic experience both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Putting people at the center of your designs allows you to anticipate their needs as shoppers.
What the Future Holds for User-Centered Design
What will the future hold for user-centered design? Designers will continue their focus on what consumers want from businesses and online shopping experiences. As predictions of consumer habits and needs grow more refined, designers who previously didn’t focus on UCD will likely turn to a more user-centered approach. Expect to see even more personalization in the future.
Whether you already use a user-centered approach, or you simply want to add UX elements to your end product, focusing on what your target audience wants benefits your business in a number of ways. Consider the user at the core of everything you do, and you’re certain to find success.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.