User-Centered Design Best Practices
What is User-Centered Design?
User-centered design, or UCD, is a holistic and iterative design process aimed at creating the most memorable products and experiences by putting the customer at the center of all design decisions. The process involves extensive customer research and the careful alignment of business decisions through periods of frequent iteration and prototyping to build on and ensure each strategy step aligns with the end-users needs.
This user-centered design process is an intensive yet necessary element to gaining customer loyalty and helping users feel heard by making product and design decisions as precise and data-driven as possible. At the core, it's a dedication to understanding users and giving them what they need. At O8, we value and incorporate these principles in our work, helping you understand and reap the benefits of this customer-centric approach.
Difference Between User-Centered Design and Human-Centered Design
While user-centered and human-centered design are closely tied concepts driven by actionable data, UCD concentrates more on individual users and their experience (on an app or virtual platform). It's about designing and producing delightful experiences for customers that create value. On the other hand, Human-centered design focuses on humans and the more significant social issues that plague communities. It's about solving problems that significantly impact people's day-to-day lives worldwide to improve their standard of living.
Both design processes can be beneficial, but choosing the right one for your business depends on your growth stage and business goals. For example, developing a mission statement and go-to-market strategy for a tech startup focused on changing the world of sustainable and eco-friendly products would require more emotional, human-centered insights. On the other hand, designing and developing a mobile app for commerce would concentrate more on proven user insights that drive revenue. These decisions depend on your company's goals and the product or service you provide.
Why is User-Centered Design Important?
The value of user-centered design comes from a step-by-step process that draws the product's or service's essential elements back to the customer journey. This iterative and repeatable process requires a deep understanding of the customer experience and how to make vital improvements to the process. When design teams pay attention to every detail of the user journey, from pain points to usability testing to feedback about their experience, products begin to take on a new meaning. They transform from assumption-based to data-driven design decisions rooted in facts.
How is User-Centered Design Used in Marketing?
If UCD is well suited for your business, it can be as beneficial as a marketing strategy. Not only does user research help you better design products for the future, but it also helps create messaging around what matters most to your customers. Because having a good product is one thing, getting it into the hands of the right people is another. From there, your business can continue building a reputation for being authentic and well-informed.
Apply user-centered design principles to your marketing strategy
User Centered-Design Key Principles
As a step-by-step development process, it's essential to take note of some standard user-centered design principles that facilitate the process and make it more effective in action:
Creating buyer personas is a key factor in understanding your target audience and can prepare you for interaction with actual users. A Typical buyer persona includes information about a target audience and factors that influence their decision marking.
-Gary, age 65, citizen, retiree, married, has a Ph.D., uses a wheelchair, and enjoys video games.
-Becky, age 20, single, foreign exchange student pursuing a Bachelor‘s degree, lives close by and goes bar-hopping often.
-Alex, age 40, immigrant, single, history teacher, speaks three languages, and has a gym membership.
When creating the personas, take note of a user's needs profession, location, interests, age, and what makes them tick. Determine what these groups of people value and how to reach them more effectively based on what makes sense in their world. Are they likely to use this product? If so, how will they use it, and how often? Does this person require special accommodations on design, use, packaging, or handling? Understanding how behavior, interests, and attitudes shape their view of the world helps surface learnings to create stronger relationships with actual users and expand the influence of your business.
This factor is an important thing to consider in all types of marketing and businesses. The Americans With Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, is used to federally protect disabled people in the United States from ableist discrimination. When creating buyer personas, make sure to be inclusive. Some of your users will be disabled, so make sure to abide by the ADA policies to accommodate these customers and treat them kindly. This will boost your company’s reputation, improve business, and foster inclusivity in a safe community environment.
Growth-Driven Design is another iterative approach to User-Centered Design involving updates made to a company’s website frequently and incrementally to optimize the experience in real-time. This agile and reliable optimization approach ensures all design adjustments are based on accurate data and user feedback rather than opinions, retaining budget flexibility and promise of results. GDD is also compatible with analytics tools that various forms of data you can use to make the necessary changes for the website on the fly.
In this day and age, there are a plethora of available tools that help pinpoint how and why users are interacting with your website. For example, Hotjar is a heat mapping tool commonly used along with others like Google Analytics that help you focus on visual and content elements that draw the user's in and push them through the funnel. Hotjar.com measures your traffic through a digital heat map and user interface that follows mouse clicks and scrolls across the website. This data helps pinpoint areas of importance and how users access and search for the vital information they need to convert. Then you can analyze high and low-performing website elements to make improvements and guide the optimization efforts that help you stand out from the crowd and make the user experience as easy as possible.
User-Centered Design Process
Context of Use
The first step in a user-centered design approach is understanding the use context and business goals. What is the purpose of this product, and why does the customer need it? Who is the user? What are the user goals? What will they use the product for? What are the conditions in which they will use it? Using contextual data helps you align your product with a customer's journey, providing the empathetic resources they need to feel valued and heard when they need it the most.
Knowing what relief a customer seeks from the product and what elements make it an essential purchase is fundamental in positioning products and services as a solution. Conducting user interviews can help guide the need to answer their pain points, not create a flashy bandaid. As a result, all design decisions should have a specific goal and requirement in mind. Defining every detail ensures nothing is swept under the rug or forgotten throughout the entire lifecycle.
Designing the Product
Now, for the design and creation phases. Creating valuable prototypes follows a continuous ideation process where concepts and customer insights merge to develop functional prototypes. These prototypes work to channel what matters most to customers, creating functional designs to test and gather more information. You may have several ideas about designing the product based on user needs, so creating multiple variations with different points of emphasis is important.
Some vital questions to consider in developing a prototype include:
How will the user find the business and learn about your product or service?
How do they interact with it?
What value are they getting out of it?
This interactive and continuous approach to design doesn’t just apply to physical products. It informs digital marketing channels and strategies like website landing and services pages, email automation, and social media. To create the best possible user experience, be sure to create multiple wireframes and conduct human-computer interaction tests, or case studies to gather as much valuable data as possible to aid you in guiding the phases that follow this process.
Next comes testing your prototypes repeatedly to understand the extent of their functionality and usefulness. Usability testing ensures that the models meet the business requirements and goals you discussed with the customer and your design team. Verify every detail of the product design and visual design matches the user intent. Aligning visual elements with content and user intent provides a baseline understanding of efficacy moving forward into the final stages of iteration and testing.
In a nutshell, the last step is to rinse and repeat. Apply what you've learned from the initial stages to update the product to continue to make improvements. While the user-centered design process is an agile approach, put the time into the development stages so that when you arrive at a finished product, there are no assumptions or decisions without backing. There's no predicting how often you will have to re-design your product or what you will learn from each round of user testing. Generally, the more design cycles, the better results you get. This works to provide the best user experience and boost your business's range of knowledge, reputation, and monetary success, not to mention your clients.
To summarize, user-centered design is an iterative, step-by-step UX-design process that, though intensive and rigorous, continues to prove a practical and necessary application in creating the best possible customer experiences. Relying on UCD methodologies helps improve conversions and customer loyalty, offering a new way and perspective to approach your marketing efforts as a whole. From social channels to website design and content, improving customer relationships and the standing of your business starts and ends with the user.
Applying these user-centric best practices and optimization tools at your disposal puts you in the driver's seat and allows you to view the world as a customer would. In addition, it makes your role in the design process much more rewarding. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. Every business faces unique challenges with customer feedback to improve the experience and contribute to fulfilling said company's mission.
At O8, we help you pinpoint and solve what matters to you, the stakeholders, and the customers with the proper skill sets and strategy to accomplish organizational goals most efficiently. Get in touch for more information or any questions about how User-centered design and growth-driven design can benefit your business today.