User-Centered Design - History
The concept of designing products or services based on users needs was introduced in 1986 in the book "User-Centered System Design: New Perspectives on Human-Computer Interaction" by Donald A. Norman and Stephen W. Draper. In this approach, the user perspective should be in the main focus of the whole development process. Why is it so important? Are “UCD,” “UX,” “Design Thinking” just buzzwords? Research and examples of many success and failure stories prove that they are not only popular keywords used to attract customers and investors. This is a way of working on a product that can bring real benefits.
The theory behind the User-Centered Design (UCD) says that people will use just two kinds of things: painkillers and that which give them pleasure. It means that they will be more motivated to pay for the product if:
- it helps them solve a problem (kill a pain) or
- will make them feel good.
Of course, painkillers are more critical than gain creators so clients will reach for them first. Now, let’s do some exercise. Look at all things you have in your home and try to recall how often you use them. You can do the same task on your mobile phone and look at the applications downloaded to the phone. You will find apps that you use very often and that you have even forgotten about. As a product or business owner, you don’t want your product to be fallen between the cracks. The most used and downloaded mobile apps are those which help us in daily tasks such as communication (Messenger, Gmail), transportation (Uber) or searching for information (Google search), etc. All of them can be classified as painkillers. Among popular apps, there are also gain creators such as apps created for entertainment (games, youtube) or support of self-complacency (ex. social media). If you want to create a product that will be successful, you need to address the right need. Do the research and find how you can help people and make money on this. If you do this right, they will pay for it.
Best Examples of Products With Great User-Centered Design
Let’s look at Apple products as an example. Steve Jobs had a vision where everyone could be beneficent of the technological revolution. He wanted to make computers that could be used by everyone, not only geeks and programmers. That was the origin of personal computers we all use these days. He understood that most people are not tech-savvy and they won’t use computers unless the technology is more easy to use. In 1984 the Macintosh computer was the very first one that used a graphical user interface and a mouse. It was a real innovation in the world where to operate on a computer you should use textual commands. This was a huge advantage. Another big change was in 1998 when Apple introduced iMacs, fresh, colorful versions of personal computers. Since then the look and feel of technological objects matters. The success of Apple products was possible because of Jobs understanding of users pains (using a computer was too complicated) and gains (people like to express themselves by the look and possessed artifacts).
Design Thinking: A Structured Method to Boost Creativity/ to Think Outside the Box
Fundamental in the Product Design Process is criticism and looking at the problems and solutions from different perspectives. To achieve this, the right team is needed. IDEO, well-known product development firm, hired people from different disciplines such as design, education, anthropology, engineering, business strategy, psychology, marketing or healthcare. Creation of multidisciplinary teams and introducing Human-Centered Design as well as Design Thinking methodology was their key become the most influential company in the design area.
Design Thinking mentioned above is a creative way of working with projects. It is an approach which focuses on users needs and a collection of workshop tools and methods used to discover solutions. The term was mentioned in 1992 by Richard Buchanan in the book “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking.”
User Experience: When Good Design Pays Off
There is another popular term The User Experience. It used to be more and more popular after the publication of “The Design of Everyday Things” by Donald A. Norman. It suggests that design is something more than just creating a form. Designers decisions have an impact on user satisfaction or frustration. This means that the way the product is designed is one of the product success factors.
The study conducted by the Design Management Institute revealed that “Design-driven companies outperform the S&P 500 by 219%”. Another research, conducted by McKinsey a global management consulting firm proves “a strong correlation between high MDI scores* (*McKinsey Design Index, which rates companies by how strong they are at design) and superior business performance. Top-quartile MDI scorers increased their revenues and total returns to shareholders (TRS) substantially faster than their industry counterparts did over a five-year period—32 percentage points higher revenue growth and 56 percentage points higher TRS growth for the period as a whole.”
The impact of the design on the business goals is a fact and the more and more companies that specialized in research, and User Experience design appeared. For many years the importance of hiring agencies or UX specialists was well known, and big companies started to create their UX (Design) Departments or even acquire Design Agencies. According to NEA Future of Design Survey 2017, over 80% of companies reported that they plan to grow their design teams. Eventually, designers are engaged in strategic planning which proves their significant role in the business.
New Trends in User-Centered Design: Cooperation First
Recently, there has been a trend of close cooperation between designers and engineers. Why is it so important for project success? When these two are separated, the project and the final result might be very different, and the core solutions might be changed. In the outcome, the product does not comply with expectations.
Formerly, the problem occurred when one company was responsible for the research and design and the other for the development. What we can observe now is the increasing number of product designers in the software houses and even mergers between UX agencies and software houses. This is good news for entrepreneurs because of the lower cost of the whole development from the initial stage of the project — the better communication between the designers and developers the fewer changes and misunderstandings in the entire process.
User-centered Design Helps You Win The Battle
Twenty years ago it was easier to gain users attention — most solutions on the internet where new. If you are the only one who sells water on the desert, people can forgive you the bad taste of it, but when you need to compete with other water sellers, it is essential to create service that will have a competitive advantage that fulfills users needs. To imagine the scale let’s look at the numbers. According to Statista.com, there are 2.6 million apps available in the Google Play Store. That is why launching your new online business, app or just webpage you shouldn't forget about a User-Centred Design because users will choose the winner of that battle.