User-centred design is an essential method for producing user-friendly technologies, services and processes.
The design process has 4 phases:
1. Understand context of use
2. Specify user requirements
3. Design solutions
4. Evaluate against requirements
The evaluation phase is essential to user-centred design and can lead to further iterations of the other phases. As such the phases fit into the Deming Cycle of Plan > Do > Check > Act
UCD is also known as User Experience (UX). Broadly, methods of planning and evaluation for UCD/UX can include:
Gathering information about target markets. This is useful for background context but is insufficient on its own. It can be combined with other methods to fully understand the user experience.
Useful at the start of a project for identifying common customer wants and needs, this type of evaluation can use new or existing feedback to build a set of priorities and hierarchy of needs. Click here for more information on feedback at MQ and how it is evaluated.
Structured evaluation in which users test the product against usage scenarios. Information on how they use the product can be gathered through methods such as: observation and note-taking, questionnaires, eye-tracking, or users describing what comes into their mind as they use the product (the think-aloud protocol).
Studying users in their normal environment, rather than in a lab. This can be via passive observation (a user is observed or shadowed as they go about their tasks) or via contextual interviews (the user is asked structured questions as they go about their tasks).
There are also many specific methodologies for gathering and analysing evaluation data, e.g. personas and scenarios, storyboards, affinity diagramming, SWOT analysis. Click here for more information on these.
UCD – things you should consider
Because users are directly involved in the UCD process, there are some important things to be considered when you use UCD methods. For example, what information will you give users? How do you get their consent? What will you do with their data? Do you need ethics approval? Read 8 Essential Questions to help you understand and plan for these.