User Centered Design: Web Design With The User In Mind

Mojo | Nov 28

Anyone involved in marketing or business solutions for their company might be familiar with user centered design (UCD).

It could come up in conversation with coworkers and peers, or maybe you’ve heard user centered design come up as a talking point at a conference or seminar. Its nothing new--UCD was coined by scientist and engineer; Donald A. Norman, at the University of California, San Diego, in 1986. But if you’ve never heard of UCD before, that could be due to the lack of praise that UCD receives in the world of marketing--as UCD is nowhere near as celebrated as the rise of social media or the growing precision of SEO.

What is User Centered Design?

In web design, UCD is the framework that enables the processes of putting the user at the forefront of development. It requires a deeper analysis of your target audience, transcending the general characteristics of a specific demographic, by discovering the users’ particular habits and preferences—eventually coming up with the right solutions to their problems.

The UCD approach works in a cycle of six phases that involves everyone from the web designer (or web/graphic design team), to other members beyond the development team, while fully engaging the user in each phase of the process. By applying the UCD philosophy, your site design becomes more usable and sensitive to the users' needs, behaviors, and goals. It is up to you to identify your business goals and to make sure they align with the kind of value you want to deliver to both the user, and your business.

Start at the research phase, where you hold interviews, conduct surveys and any other field-test to come up with metrics. After the metrics are analyzed, you decide on a concept based on your findings—the design concept is illustrated through creating flowcharts, content maps, and user stories. Once you’ve come up with a concept, apply your ideas to wireframes, prototypes, and usability tests. After you apply your design to your concept, begin the development phase. During development, test the website’s usability, test for bugs, and create the site’s content. Finally, once the site is usable, has content, and runs bug-free, begin the implementation phase. During implementation, test the site’s usability even further, take post-launch surveys, and analyze new metrics that determine the site’s success, and necessary points of improvement. The research keeps going until you’re finally left with a site where the user experience is centered around their needs.

Why is User Centered Design important?

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to the user experience—what might be critical for some users, could be irrelevant for others. Using the UCD philosophy, we base the UX design around everything we’ve learned about who will be using your site. UCD covers everything from the users’ age, gender, and social status, to their educational and professional background, their product usage expectations, demands, and any other influential factors that could best represent your audience—ultimately enhancing their user experience.

Too often, web designers add too many bells and whistles to a site to show off all the new and trendy (but often unnecessary) features that commonly distract the user, or leave the site bloated. When a website is designed to accommodate every user’s experience, solid UCD is necessary. The last thing you’d want your site to do is to force extra time and effort on your users when they’re trying to navigate—if the site takes too long to navigate through, they might end up looking elsewhere. From the executive’s perspective, they come to us because they need their site designed to save time, cut cost, improve user-satisfaction, and save money.

UX Through User Centered Design

At MOJO, when we build our websites, we are always aiming to evolve, optimize, and innovate the user experience—because for us, the user comes first. We strongly believe that proper research is the most important part of implementing a successful user experience to the sites that we design. UCD allows us to better understand who your site is meant to speak to and then figure out the best way to speak to them.

If your company needs their website to target a certain demographic or community, UCD lends insight on all the specifics needed in order to provide the best possible UX we can design for any specific community. UCD lets us communicate with real users to make sure our web design is completely comprehensive with those who will be using the site.

Why We Believe in UCD

It isn’t about the deliverables, its about the user experience. By applying UCD to our web designs, we elevate customer relationships to a higher level. Everything feels more personal when in-depth user-analysis, is applied.

Through the multi-stage problem-solving process, UCD encourages us to envision different ways that users consume (or will consume) the products you want to sell. Thanks to UCD, it's possible for us at MOJO to provide each client with a site that we personally set up be a UX success.

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