Implementing best practices of user-centered design (UCD)

We believe that user-centered design (UCD) is one of our super powers and a cornerstone of our agile development approach. Agile is, in fact, based almost entirely on user-centered design because it relies on the iterative cycle of listening, building, and deploying.

In Scrum, for example, everything revolves around user stories and the fundamental component of the user story is WHO wants to do what and why. When we build and test per that user story, we have little choice but to put ourselves in the place of that user.  The user is at the center of what we do in Scrum.

The return on investment is obviously delivering a product that will be used and appreciated by the intended target audience because it was designed and built for them per their criteria and iterated based on their feedback. UCD avoids obsolescence upon delivery.

Regardless of whether we are building a mobile app or optimizing a website for search engines, the fundamental questions are always; 1) who do we intend to visit and 2) what would drive them to the product. The answers to these questions form the basis and priority of our execution.

For example, why would somebody visit our site on a mobile device? Under what circumstances would they use a mobile device to visit this site? The answers form the basis of the user stories. User stories are the basis of user centered design and human factors engineering.

When it comes to thinking Usability, this applies to every machine or system that requires user interaction. A good usability practice is to adhere to the proximity principle. Like things should be clumped together. Relevant things should be close together.

Consistency is also an important usability practice. When you are consistent with your placement, response, or behavior, then you begin to train your target audience. Regardless of whether your user interface is good or bad, if you are at least consistent, then people can get used to it and figure out how to operate it more efficiently.

Smart labels¬†and appropriate headings that don’t require a lot of thinking also goes a long way towards usability. Think about the name or text on a button or link and put yourself in the place of your target audience. If you were them and were looking for something specific, what button would they most likely click to find it? Now, us the proximity principle and ensure that you put stuff related to that button in that section on the other side of the click.

Don’t make people have to click around and then back click to find what they seek. A good principle of organization and cleanliness is, “a place for everything and every thing in its place.” The same is true of the organization of your information architecture and content strategy.

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