Focus software development on users

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Imagine a world in which your development team is able to deploy an application that is immediately loved by users and adopted without questions or complaints. By using a user-centric design, the needs and preferences of your users are as important as the features and functionality.

What is user-centered design?

Accessibility and usability are important, but these two design concepts just make good sense and be responsible. They ensure that your products work for humans. User-Centered Design goes one step further, understanding that your specific users are special and unique, and insists that their experience with your product is personalized and idyllic. User-centered design complements existing product development efforts.

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Five stages of user-centered design

To research

Following requirements gathering, user-centered design requires your team to identify who will be using your product. As you search for answers, high-level queries (such as the average age of your target group or their expected level of education) should lead to increasingly granular details. The answers to these questions allow your team to create detailed personas. These archetypes become representative of your users, allowing grouping by behaviors, demographics, needs, goals, skills, etc.

Avoid making assumptions. Just because your product has nothing to do with physical activity, learning that your users all share a common interest in competitive sports may indicate a desire to learn. Users who are passionate about travel may be more open to new experiences.

Depending on the complexity of your project and the number of users you identify, several search strategies can be used. Interviews are common, but focus groups and surveys can also be helpful.

Design concept

Start creating scenarios, describing how users will interact with your product. Start with brief descriptions, and as you walk each of your characters through these situations, look for ways in which their knowledge, expectations, abilities, and limitations may require your empathy and attention.

Scenarios lead to the development of use cases, defining unique tasks that a user must complete to achieve the desired goal. Don’t be discouraged when you have to adjust and rethink your initial scenarios, that’s the whole point. Take this opportunity to find places where users may be confused, misdirected, or wasting their time.

User tests and prototypes

While it’s tempting to jump right into development, prototyping provides the opportunity to see what real users think about your design. Prototypes can take a variety of forms, but whether you’re using flowcharts, wireframes, or something else, the goal is to provide insight into the solutions you come up with.

Don’t take it personally if things aren’t quite right the first time (or the second or third). Ask more questions, add more details, implement comments, and update your prototypes. It can be frustrating to spend a lot of time going around in circles in this design phase, but the investment will pay off with more detailed specs being provided to your developers.

Remember to create separate prototypes for each platform your project will be deployed on.

Development

No matter how detailed your scenarios are, how specific your use cases are, or how comprehensive your prototypes are, it’s critical that you engage users throughout the development phase as well.

In some cases, well-designed prototypes fall victim to external forces, such as bandwidth constraints, that sabotage the user experience.

Preparation for launch

Before launching, it’s important to make sure that your project passes all of its tests. Involve real users in usability testing, compare your prototypes to the finished product, and make sure your business requirements have been met as well.

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Key Benefits of User-Centered Design

  • Security: When applications are designed to fit specific tasks and situations, the possibility of human error is reduced. This increased security can also extend to data security.
  • Ethics and diversity: Having a deep understanding of your users enables ethical designs that respect privacy, cultural diversity, and provide a better quality of life.
  • Boost competitiveness: When users feel invested in your product, they are less likely to view your competition.
  • Improve credibility: Increased user satisfaction has a directly proportional effect on their confidence in your organization and their likelihood of return and referral.

Key User-Centered Design Mistakes

The friction of decision-making

Nothing is more frustrating than having to create an account on an ecommerce site before you have to go through most of the checkout process just to find out the shipping rates. While your intentions may be good, this methodology serves businesses rather than users. In the end, most of the users won’t complete the purchase if they feel the shipping price is too high, and now you’ve wasted their time as well.

Consider the following alternative: you provide detailed shipping information to users without the need to create an account or pay, you examine your website logs and learn that a large number of visitors to your site are visiting the page. shipping information, then leave without making a purchase. These details give you the information you need to make changes.

Personal bias

You are already on board this project. You don’t need to be engaged. Design decisions should be made as a direct result of the information learned during your research activities.

One interface to rule them all

Don’t overlook the fact that different users need different prototypes, different user journeys, and different languages. Make sure that your project design takes into account that different roles or categories of users may have their own needs.

Keep in mind that sometimes users can switch roles, so consistency is key. The tasks may change, but the look and feel should remain the same for all elements of the design interface.

Replacement of existing systems without a smooth transition plan

If your project is tasked with replacing an existing system, remember to factor the transition into your design plan. While retraining and migration may be inevitable, make sure you empathize with users who are anxious or uncomfortable with the change.

If it goes without saying, don’t say it

If the text is not needed, delete it. If a feature does not add value, remove it. If the options add confusion, remove them.

Good usable design is possible

There is an old saying that you shouldn’t practice until you get it right, you should practice until you can’t go wrong. This same concept applies to user-centered design. Delivering a better experience for your users is an iterative, ongoing process that requires companies to set aside assumptions and egos in exchange for empathy and consideration.

The differences between satisfying a user and frustrating them can be subtle. By involving end users throughout the design and development process, your end product will be highly usable and accessible.

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