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Is it really all about the user?

nic-nosworthy-admarula

Perhaps it’s all about empathy – any time someone creates or designs something for someone else to use they should be mindful of how it feels using that system or creation for the very first time. People inherently hate change and are fearful of anything new – that’s human nature and understanding those concepts will garner system and web designers a more empathetic view of how user’s think and react to changes and potential new features, apps or web pages. As site developers and business owners in this fast-paced ever-expanding landscape that is System Design, it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and go full scale implementation using the latest technological breakthrough or “next big thing” that’s set to disrupt the market and forget to ask the most important questions:  Will it be appreciated by my loyal end-users and how do we ensure the highest level of usability is achieved?

This is where User-Centred Design (UCD) can help by allowing you to get a measure of usability for your next creation. By applying UCD to an implementation of some new features or application you intend to implement you can improve on this design until it becomes second-nature for user interaction because it’s been designed to be satisfying and engaging to use. A user-friendly interface should be easy-to-learn for new users and should always support user tasks or objectives as effectively as possible. It’s also very important to understand what Usability really is. Usability is the quality of a system that makes it easy to learn, easy to use, input error tolerant, easy to remember and subjectively pleasing to its intended audience.

Determining usability is dependent on a few important factors such as how well the functionality fits user’s requirements, how well the flow through the web feature or app fits user objectives and goals, and how well the response of the web feature or app fits user expectations through solid navigation best practices and understanding your target audience. Learning to be better user interface designers all starts by learning design principles and design guidelines through understanding the target audience.

User Experience Design (UXD) entails conducting research with intended users of a system. This research should reveal user requirements and expectations through user acceptance surveys, one-on-one interviews with intended users or online forums that encourage users to express their ideas and beliefs about the features or options available for your new feature, application or web page. Through UXD you get a user’s perspective and its perceived usability – for the user it can be the difference between performing a task accurately and completely or not at all, and enjoying the process or being frustrated.

Unfortunately, there are still many designers that are forced to prioritize their business goals over those of their users because that’s company policy. They first design a feature or app and only then search for people who would be interested in using it and get their input. User-centered design advocates the exact opposite process. Before developing your idea, you should find and speak with the end-user. User Experience Design (UXD) entails conducting research with intended users of a system. This research should reveal user requirements and expectations through user acceptance surveys, one-on-one interviews with intended users or online forums that encourage users to express their ideas and beliefs about the features or options available for your new feature, application or web page. Through UXD you get a user’s perspective and its perceived usability – for the user it can be the difference between performing a task accurately and completely or not at all, and enjoying the process or being frustrated.

Even if your new page or app has cool features, breathtaking technological capabilities and other awesome touch points, if you do not know your target audience and how they will be able to interact with your new creation you have a major problem. You’d likely end up in a situation where, post-launch, you will need to spend a lot of money on redesigning your features or maybe end up in a situation where you do not have enough interest in your idea to break even and all the hard work you’ve put in had been for nothing.

You need to think about the end user right from the beginning. In other words, user-centred design is about designing and developing a product from the perspective of how it will be interpreted and navigated by your user rather than making users adapt their behaviours to use a product or new feature. The idea is to offer a product or feature which would support its users’ existing expectations and habits rather than trying to ‘re-invent the wheel’.

As you may guess, the result of employing User-Centred Design (UCD) and User Experience Design (UXD) to your next implementation should offer a more efficient, satisfying, and user-friendly experience for the user, which leads to increased sales and customer loyalty for your business or product.

Nic Nosworthy – Developer & Technical Support

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