What is user-centered design?
Let’s not labour over this point. It’s a design process led by users.
Why ‘user-centered design’ might be a stupid term:
1. Isn’t all design user-centered? Surely all websites are built for users – do we really need to make up a new Proper Industry Phrase?
2. It sounds like one of those phrases that usually leads to us having to put a pound in the Thompson ‘Bullshit Business Speak’ penalty pot on the shelf (along with ‘Let’s action that’, ‘By close of play’ and ‘Ping me an email’. In fact, this reminds me that Ian owes about £5 for his flagrant abuse of ‘Low-hanging fruit’ last week).
Why, actually, it’s not that stupid:
Everyone knows that designing a website around its users is essential, and I can happily report that clients are increasingly including user engagement in their briefs, and sometimes even allow for it in their budgets and timeplans… Although not foolproof, there’s an increased understanding that it’s the best way to protect investment in a design project.
Agencies also know the benefit. We’re here to represent the public – those real, live people who will be interacting with the brand/website. And that’s much, much easier to do when we have real, live people to tell us what they really think. There’s really nothing like hearing it from the horse’s mouth, and it’s much easier (and potentially less expensive) to change things that aren’t working before it’s rolled out to said horses.
Despite the best of intentions, though, user-centered design doesn’t always happen. Whether it’s because time runs out, budgets won’t allow, or because user-engagement was only included in the first place to keep stakeholders happy; sometimes it really is nothing more than Bullshit Business Speak. In these cases a project will rely on mere assumptions about how users think.
Now, we don’t mean to brag but we’re pretty good at knowing what works here at Thompson Towers – but no one can really know what an audience will think until it’s out there in the real world, and that can be a risky business.