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How User-Centered Design makes better UX

Here are the 4 stages of User-Centred Design (UCD). An approach that puts the user at the middle of the design process

Here are the 4 stages of User-Centred Design (UCD). An approach that puts the user at the middle of the design process


UCD is an iterative design process, involving multiple methods that ensures that your product will be easy to use and (delivers a positive experience for the user as well. This design process generally consists of four stages:

1. Planning

Defining a project plan will usually be undertaken by a project manager and involves defining the project scope, assembling a project team and allocating project resources ie team members, tasks and timings. Project scope is important as this will outline what activities the project will include and in particular, what UCD activities are planned (depending upon time, budget and personnel resources).

2. Analyse

This is the discovery stage where you learn about your users, their tasks and environments. Tasks in this phase can include user testing the existing site (to find out what works and what doesn’t), contextual interviews (usually conducted if designing an enterprise or business-to-business product), surveys (a series of questions designed to elicit feedback from site users) and card sorting (a method where users group and categorise a site’s information).

One aspect to consider is the recruitment of participants. Unless you can be sure your client can recruit representative users to serve as research participants, outsourcing the recruitment to a specialist recruitment company will save you time and money in the long run. This is because the time spent by staff on recruiting participants ranges from one and a half to two hours of staff time for each participant recruited.

Also worth mentioning is doing a content audit (on the existing site). This is useful in identifying duplicate and obsolete content, and ascertaining whether content needs to be rewritten or moved to a different section.

Outputs from this stage will include a list of usability issues of the current site, existing pain points and future requirements, qualitative persona user data, and label categories and navigation information for structuring the information architecture of the site.

Using the data collected in this stage will enable you to develop personas, determine requirements (both user and technical), develop user journeys and define the information architecture.

3. Design

Using the data collected in the analysis phase, you can now start designing your site. Typically design outputs include user journeys (the user flow through the site for the main tasks), sketching the site’s templates and converting your sketches into wireframes, paper prototypes or an interactive prototype.

Do you need to do wireframes, paper prototypes and an interactive prototype? No, do as much as your budget and/or client needs. Wireframes are a good tool for communicating the actual design without any visual design. Paper prototypes (sketches of the design) can be good for collecting feedback on an initial concept while an interactive prototype will be able to show just how the design works digitally (though this will take you some more time to prepare).
This stage typically depends upon the client and what they are comfortable with. Some clients are fine with static wireframes whereas others can only really understand and make sense of the design if it is delivered as an interactive, clickable prototype.

4. Test and refine

In addition to involving the user at all stages, UCD emphasises an iterative approach to design. In theory, this means frequent evaluation of design solutions with typical users (we’ll discuss what invariably happens in practice later on). Types of evaluation can include chalkmark/first-click testing (to test the site’s navigation), evaluating paper prototypes to ascertain the degree to which the design solution meets user needs and lab-based usability testing – if an interactive prototype has been developed – to measure task effectiveness, and efficiency and user satisfaction with the design