A wise man once said, “If you are not thinking customers, you are not thinking.” So in this age of heightened competition and savvy customers it pays to predicate your website designs on user needs. This is true for your website more than anything else. So what exactly is user centered design, and how do you go about achieving it, and what are the benefits of it; are some of the pressing questions that we are going to address.
User centered design is about giving end-users what they require; that’s what every organization strives to achieve. Start with the users, segment them in the right bracket, know about their tastes, needs and build meaningful personas to help you come up with better designs. At the end of the day any business’s goal is to convert as many customers as possible and user centered design has precisely that as its ultimate goal.
This is part art and part science. The art is coming up with the design, graphics, visuals and content. The science is in analyzing and measuring the impact of all that. It is noteworthy to realize that user centered design is a framework in general that is not tied to technology or User Interface design. It has a much broader scope and influence.
If the blitzkrieg rise of the ecommerce players in a world that was for long been dominated by brick and mortar storefronts is any indication then website designs and user experiences are getting better by the day. Some of the ways in which user-centricity can be infused into your website is by clearly highlighting the important messages like call-to-action, making navigation simple and swift, creating a sense of urgency and/or scarcity, keeping the site clutter-free, clever use of colors to create predictable responses and so on.
User centered design is a way of understanding the user needs, expectations, limitations and so on. This is in relation to a particular product or service that you are offering which in this case is your website. It can also be viewed as a step-by-step method of solving a problem that needs the web designers to analyze and predict how a certain experience will be accepted by the users. It also is associated with validating the assumptions about users by using the real world scenarios. It needs to be tested at each stage viz. need assessment, postulating, pre- mid- and post- designing so as to come up with world-class website designs. Testing is of vital importance since web designers cannot immediately grasp at the outset what user experience would be like, as it is a steep learning curve.
Some of the ways in which you can make your website user centered is by understanding the following steps. Keep the user need at the center of all tasks and processes. The users have to scrutinize the work at every step of the process and validate it. This process will repeat itself until the final product is at par with the user expectations. This way the whole user experience angle is addressed and taken care of.
Steps to creating user centered designs:
- The planning phase
- The requirement analysis phase
- The design phase
- The evaluation phase
In the planning phase enough care has to be taken in order to create a blueprint of the whole project. Staying on top of things at this phase will save a lot of time and money and hence this phase cannot be emphasized enough.
In the next phase it is important to analyze the user needs and highlighting those needs which can make the most difference in the user experience. These needs have to be clearly prioritized and have to be allocated the maximum time and resource so that there are no potential shortcomings whatsoever.
In the design phase the prototyping of everything regardless of whether they are related to graphics, architecture, information or interaction has to be meticulously done. This helps to visualize how the actual final website will look and feel like. It is a good practice to ensure the final website touchpoints are in keeping with the user needs. This ensures that there are no big changes to be made later thus saving scare resources.
The final phase is evaluation wherein the website design is evaluated by actual users who will elaborate and provide valuable opinion regarding the pros and cons of the whole design. The feedback that they provide is very vital assisting the designers to make any changes. The recommendations provided by the users helps to fine-tune the website design and make it even better.