User-centered design is important for a number of additional reasons. Of all first impressions people have of your online presence, 94 percent relate to the design of your website. Even more importantly, 89 percent of people are going to turn to a competitor and shop from them if they have a poor experience with your website, app, or software product.
So, how do you make key design decisions to appeal to actual users and accomplish your business goals? How do you choose design solutions bound to correspond to the needs of your target audience? The answer is hidden in the user-centered design concept.
What Is User-Centered Design?
User-centered design or UCD, as the name suggests, prioritizes the needs and experiences of actual users. A deep understanding of their preferences and online behavior is fundamental to employing visual design elements to ensure a friendly experience and a high level of engagement.
So, why is it difficult to make design user-centered?
The main problem for many brands is that they think they know exactly what prospects want. As a result, some biases may affect design decisions and these biases aren’t based on actual feedback from customers. The customer focus gets shifted, resulting in a design that seems functional but isn’t quite ticking all the boxes.
The Principles of User-Centered Design
There are several important principles contributing to the creation of user-centered design solutions.
User Involvement During the Design Process
Having the actual user involved and providing feedback throughout design activities will result in design patterns that are reflective of realistic wants and needs. The website development model should never be based on assumptions. Usability testing is another crucial aspect that requires the involvement of the target user.
Good design ensures consistency throughout all elements. All elements within the user interface have to be uniform and aligned with each other. Consistency creates a sense of familiarity and control. It also improves the learning curve and ensures a satisfactory experience for users.
Alignment of the Requirements
Everyone who is involved in the design process, from the development to the marketing team, should be aligned with user goals in their contributions.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the business represented through the particular design solution will have its own needs and goals, as well. Making sure that both the business requirements and its prospects are taken into consideration during the user-centered design process isn’t always going to be a straightforward task.
Validation and Improvement
Usability testing provides the validation needed to make sure an idea translates well in practice. Validation needs to be an ongoing process that occurs regularly while design work is taking place.
Based on the validation and testing stage, you can introduce improvements as a part of enhancing user-centered design. Design decisions by this point have to be based on the data you’ve collected. Primary users should have provided sufficient feedback to help polish the original concept and maximize its strengths.
The Elements of User-Centered Design
Now that we’ve discussed the principles, let’s check out the most important elements contributing to user-centered design solutions:
- Clear visibility of opportunities
- Accessibility: an accessible product ensures the visibility of key information – it should be offered in a couple of distinctive ways to meet audience needs
- Legibility to reduce eye strain whenever text is used
User-Centric Design Process
Achieving UCD depends on being meticulous and following through consistently with the following development steps:
- Do your research to understand the wants, needs, and preferences of your target audience. Coming up with a user persona will be a great first step.
- Determine how the audience goals align with the business goals for design development. Before moving on to conceptualization and realization of the project, you have to come up with a cohesive idea bound to unite both.
- Start building and designing the solutions that correspond to the requirements determined in the previous two steps.
- Test the development and get some additional feedback on the work you’ve done so far.
- Refine the concept and integrate the additional feedback in the design.
The Benefits and Importance of User-Centered Design
An explicit understanding of user requirements for design development can produce amazing benefits for your business. These advantages stem beyond the design phase and product design. In fact, UCD can lead to better relationships, higher engagement, and customer loyalty.
- Enhanced credibility and more meaningful interactions as a result of website or software development
- Maximized competitiveness
- Positive user experiences that enhance your reputation and increase loyalty
- More convenient and cost-efficient design processes
- A higher return on investment
- Improved long-term sales
- Lower project risks
- Lower costs of support and product maintenance
- The accumulation of valuable customer insight that can impact numerous aspects of running a business
Making decisions about product features shouldn’t be based on a hunch or luck. This methodology is going to cost you a lot. Rather, focus on the incorporation of user feedback. You’ll shorten the amount of time required to design a product and increase the likelihood of a successful launch. Gathering data and getting ready will require more time but being more focused on the preliminary stage can actually save you both time and money in the future.
Finding the ideal user for your product is easier today than it has ever been in the past. Your product team can rely on tools and capabilities that are readily accessible and rather affordable.
That ideal user, however, is a picky creature. Digital products abound and audiences have tons of options. If you miss the mark in any way, your perfect prospect will immediately turn to the competition and forget about you.
The user-centered approach shows that you care. It’s a participatory design concept that aligns design goals with continuous feedback from users. This way, prospects feel heard and understood.
Focusing on the customer pays off in the form of higher engagement and increased loyalty. You will find it much easier to engage prospects this way, turn them into actual customers and enjoy their long-term loyalty. Obviously, that will happen if the user-centric way is incorporated in your long-term brand mission.