How to Design in a User Centric Way? - EZT 13 | frontendhouse.com
User-Centered Design

November 12, 2021

How to Design in a User Centric Way? Experts Zone Talks 13

Olga Vasylenko

Marketing Specialist
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User-Centered Design is an approach in which the design process is fully based on users and their needs. Are you looking for user-centered UI/UX Designers for your project? Contact us via frontendhouse.com.

In the "How to Design in a User-Centric Way? " episode with Pawel - our Head of Design - you will find:

  • 00:50 - What is the user-centered design?
  • 02:26 - How does differ user-centered design from UX design?
  • 05:01 - We still ask our users for their opinion in other approaches, don’t we?
  • 06:52 - What are the principles in user-centered design?
  • 10:59 - Do you agree with those principles? Would you add something?
  • 15:37 - What is the difference between good and bad design?

Do you like the episode about the user-centered design? Do not forget to subscribe to the channel and leave comments!

Transcription

Olga
Hi. This is Experts Zone Talks. My name is Olga, and this is Pawel. You wanted to say something?
Pawel
No, I didn’t know if you are going to introduce me or I'm going to introduce myself.
Olga
You can introduce yourself.
Pawel
Okay. So I am Pawel. I'm Head of Design at Liki Mobile Solutions, and I'm here today to talk with Olga about some user experience problems and principles.
Olga
So let's watch the Intro.

What is the user-centered design?


Olga
Let's start to talk about the user-centered design process. So what is user-centered design and what are the main principles of that?
Pawel
Well, basically user-centered design UCD is an approach that you have where you involve users from the very beginning stages of the design development. So the users are present from the very beginning to the very end. And one of the principles there is to get familiar with the context of use your application because every application basically must satisfy certain needs that we have. It's about understanding users, tasks, and environments. For example, like a smartphone. Smartphones actually satisfy a lot of needs that you have in everyday life, basically. On the other hand, for example, when you have a mobile banking app that allows you to transfer money, it satisfies your needs to transfer money.

So it is very important in the early stages when you, for example, have an idea for the application and you want to do it in a user-centered way, you must get to know what users will actually want from your application, which is the context in which they will use this application. So basically, with that context, personas, and empathy, and all of that you can start trying to get what users want and how to make it in an application. And then you gather this user feedback.
Pawel
Is this what you want? Is this how you think it would be worth for you or your time?
Olga
I have a question, can I?
Pawel
Yeah, sure.

How does differ user-centered design from UX design?


Olga
How does it differ from just UX? The user experience?
Pawel
Well, basically, user experience is the experience that a user has while he's working with your application. Like, he's working your application in some sort of way, or he's just using your application, and user experience is the experience that the user has with this application. So this is probably when the application is already being used. However, if you don't do it in a user-centered way, you're not exactly sure whether this user will use it. Because his first user experience will be that - I don't need this, because you failed to hit those needs that the user has. Or he will use it in a completely different way.

For example, there was this young guy, I think he was 16 at the moment, in Poland. He created an app for hip hop users, hip hop listeners, that would recognize all the signs that hip-hoppers used for some time and stuff like that. And he used it for this purpose. But what turned out, actually, is that people who are using sign language started to use it. So like somebody found it and appropriated it in his own way. He didn't make it for those people. He made it for an entirely different group of people.

But there's another group of people that found this application and said that, okay, this is great. I can use it for my own needs. He didn't use it in a user-centered way, he just thought it would be cool. But a user-centered way would be like when you actually go and see what is the need of those users and talk with them throughout the process, then design this application, talk with them again, see what works, what doesn't.

It's like an iterative process - you talk with the users, you clarify all the needs, everything. You design this. And then after you design this, you show this to the user to get the feedback, usability testing, user testing all of that. And then you go back again to talk in-depth interviews
Olga
It's like an endless flow.
Pawel
Yeah. Well, not endless because it ends when all the user needs are actually satisfied. And around that, of course, you have business needs that also must be in some way satisfied. So we need to work closely with business people who are responsible for the success of this operation - of this application. More like financial aspects - this app actually has to sell something.
Olga
If we don't use this approach, we will not ask our users what they want to see? How does it work?
Pawel
You mean like if you don't use it at all, do you still ask users?

We still ask our users for their opinion in other approaches, don’t we?


Olga
No, if I'm not using a user-centered approach, but any other. But I will ask my users, right?
Pawel
Then you'll be using a user-centered design approach :) Basically, you can, of course, ask the user and use may be quite a different approach. For example, Apple doesn't ask its users anything. They do something called genius design. They just design and give it to people, so they don't use user-centered design and they don't ask people their opinion about it.

On the other hand, when you are actually asking users what they want, you are making user research, personas, you create all this holistic approach to your design development. You are simply using the UCD process. Of course, if you are talking to users, but you ignore their opinion because you think that the business team must be satisfied and users don't, then of course it wouldn’t be a user-centred design.
Olga
User-ignoring design?
Pawel
Yeah, UID, so user-ignoring design. Basically, that's it. If I would have to put user-centered design in one sentence, it would be like having users involved in the design process throughout - from the very beginning to the very end. They are involved in the process.

There are many people who write their own principles. Some have, like, five principles. Others have ten. Some of them will have three. But basically what it means is to involve the user in the entire design process. That would be the user-centered design. User centered design in one sentence.
Olga
Okay. So coming back to basics, let's talk about principles. It could be five or three?
Pawel
Well, it depends. It depends on what side you will go, like usability...
Olga
Dark side? On which side are you?
Pawel
I don't know. I have an Imperial Tattoo and a Store Trooper :) But when it comes to principles - well a lot of people can write, of course, their own principles and their own approach to it because different people may have different opinions and approaches to user-centered design. So one of those principles at the early stages is when you involve a user, you need to learn the context in which he will use this application and understand his requirements for this application. His needs, his requirements, the context in which he uses this application - these are basic matters on the early stage.

In the very early beginning, you ask this question to find out the answers. But after that, you must actually get this feedback that the user had told you or you just found out. And then by this feedback that users have given you, you must define the requirements and the design that will actually be later implemented. So what are the requirements that we must fulfill and then what the design would eventually look like within these requirements?

However, when you do this and you incorporate those feedback, we also keep close up with the users, as you ask them those requirements. Are they clear to you? What do you need? And everything like that. You do this all the time. This is one of the other principles, which means take the user and have him by your side all the time. Probably not all the time, but throughout the process, so you take him to get his feedback on what is needed and what is not. And thanks to that, if you do this in an iterative way when you're designing something, not a waterfall (which means that you give everything at once).

But you give some small parts of the application, and the user gives his feedback, you are mostly sure that what you are designing will actually fit the user's needs. And you basically don't waste your time. And later on, even when you are developing things, like development stages, users can be present during that time, can use the application, see if everything is really like they thought it would be like when you're using the actual product through those stages. This is actually a part of that when people can use this application in real life, not through the prototype or something because most of the time the prototype will be slightly different from the actual application in some sort.

And the other thing is it's actually the iterative approach to design, not waterfall. It’s the iterative design process, so you take a small chunk of the application and get feedback, do it again or not, maybe everything was perfect. So most of the time, like, I made this to get feedback, you will do this again, you take this different approach to things we design.

What are the principles in user-centered design?


Olga
So principles are just about listening to your users and that's it?
Pawel
Well, yeah basically. Of course, you could find some principles that are well written and could be like some street rules to design a user-centered approach. Probably some people have them. Some websites have them, I think Adobe Experience Design even listed those things. However, I think it's always important to just listen. Basically, listen. So you have users that you listen to and you can sometimes take different approaches to those things, but basically keep the user all the time by your side, and test it, research, and get feedback from the users as many times as you actually can.

Do you agree with those principles? Would you add something?


Olga
Do you agree with those user-centered design principles, or would you maybe add something to those principles?
Pawel
I definitely agree with them because it’s the best way to make sure that the application will be successful in terms of usability and user experience. Because we aren't always sure if the application will have, for example, financial or commercial success. However, if we involve users in the process, we can be sure that we are making it as user-friendly as possible. In fact, I don't think I could actually add something. I think if maybe we would separate it into very small steps, like, for example, personas, and empathy map, and everything, then I would maybe add something.

However, in general, those are the best principles actually you can get to know. And I believe at this very moment it’s the most holistic, the best approach that you could have for designing user-friendly interfaces.
Olga
So according to user-centered design let's listen to our users and build user-friendly interfaces.
Pawel
Yeah. Exactly. Whatever you are designing, you should always take users and talk with them, find them. They might be closer than you think. Like when I'm designing something, I found out that people in my family or my friends can be, for example, users of this application. So I can ask them, what do they want? What is irritating for them in other applications like that? I do my research. So basically you can always ask out and keep users very close to you. So then you know that what you're designing for those users is basically what they want.
Olga
So you're using the user-centered design approach on your daily basis.
Pawel
Yeah, of course. Even right now we are designing an app and we are talking daily with the users that will be using this application, and we get feedback. We ask them questions about whether or not something should be possible or maybe something is unnecessary for them. We talk daily, we ask them questions, we send them some chunks of the designs that we made. Sometimes even you don't have to send the whole mockup or whole view, you can just send, for example, a view containing a calendar menu and some kind of task. But you can also only send the calendar and ask them if this calendar is right for them.

So yeah, ask them about anything you doubt. You can ask the users and they, of course, might not know because they aren't sure if they will need it or not. So then it will be best to put it in perspective, in the context of some process, and then show them the prototype and ask them within the context of this process. This would be beneficial to you. And if yes, then implement it.
Olga
I will show you a picture from the Internet. Just say what you think.

user experience vs design source: medium.com

Pawel
Yeah. This is basically like appropriation and adoption of the users. Users may adapt your application in a different way than you didn't actually expect them to. You designed it in a certain way and then the users adopted it in their own way, sort of. And this is actually not bad, not bad at all if the user's expectations are still met. You simply cannot always predict what will happen. There's even this joke where the developer is making an app, which is like a bar, a pub app.

And then he tests it- he orders one beer. He orders two beers, everything works. He orders 1000 beers, works. And then the quality assurance engineer comes in and he tests this app, this application, and he - ok, I want to order a beer with juice. Everything works, okay. So then I want to order, for example, a Dragon beer. And everything works great. And then we can get this application out to production. And then a user comes in and he asks - where's the toilet? and the app crashes.

So basically you can't always predict how the users will use their application, but if they adopt it in their own way, everything's fine. No problem there.

What is the difference between good and bad design?


Olga
What is the difference between good and bad design then?
Pawel
Very tricky question. Well, the bad design would be when the application doesn't meet any user requirements and user needs. If this application actually doesn't do anything, then it's a bad design. Of course, it’s when we are talking about user experience design, because there are other things like user interface maybe or any graphic design. However, when it comes to user experience design, if the application doesn't meet any of the user needs or requirements, and is actually also hard to use, it's basically a bad design. On the other hand, you can have an application that actually does everything extremely great.

It's very user-friendly, it's very quick, it works perfectly, and it's very intuitive. However, it doesn't meet any users' needs, any requirements. You must remember that people pay for it in two ways. One thing is, they pay for our app - maybe it's a one-time deal like they pay and they get it, or maybe it's a subscription. This is one thing they are paying. The other thing they are actually paying us is their time. When they are using this app, they spend time on it. And nobody will spend time on an app that doesn't actually meet any of their needs or requirements.
Olga
How many hours are spent on Candy Crush?
Pawel
Candy Crush or Instagram for example. What kind of needs actually Instagram satisfy, in your opinion?
Olga
People want to show themselves and watch others.
Pawel
At some point maybe. But also this is just the idea of scrolling in boredom. It's not really a need that you actually have. This need is when you are bored, you just scroll through this Instagram or you watch the stories. This may be one of those needs, but basically, you always must meet certain needs. For example, when Instagram added the stories, they found out that almost nobody posts photos on the normal wall anymore. They stopped doing that. A lot of people just post on stories and not many people anymore post their photos. Those people that post their photos right now are either influencers or photographers. Those are the people that post photos.
Olga
And talking about scrolling. Look at my phone. Do you see that? There is a place and I'm a professional scroller I think.
Pawel
So you know all this.
Olga
Yeah, I know how it works.
Pawel
Facebook has this problem because Facebook doesn't satisfy any needs anymore. Like Messenger does for Facebook, but Facebook itself stopped doing that because Instagram is for photos and there are other applications that satisfy other needs. And people decide that they may not want to use Facebook anymore.

Why research is so important in the user-centered design process?


Olga
And that is why we have to invest in those investigations and UX design, right?
Pawel
Just do a lot of user research, because every product... We're going away a little bit from user-centered design however, every product has its life cycle. There's something called the product life cycle. And in the beginning, the line is quite small, but marketing, sales teams, they are selling your products. And at some point, you have this moment where a lot of people find out about your applications. And there's something like, I tell you about this application, after someone else, they install it, and stuff like that. And then it goes up, and then there will not be so many people anymore, because now in time this will be a more flat line.

However, there will always be a decline because other applications will appear. People will stop using it maybe just for Facebook because Facebook stopped satisfying their needs. And then you have this decline. So this is why we use this user-centered design process. Maybe you were right. Maybe it doesn't actually end because at some point, you still have to do user research. Research, design, and development are combined. Then again, see what we can do again for those users, how the application might simply change in some ways, what else we can do. Of course, if you're making an application like a calculator there isn't much you can actually do with it.

But, for example, a few years ago, I bought an application called Sleep Cycle, which helps you sleep. Basically what it did back then was it made a window of 30 minutes before your actual alarm clock will wake you up - when you are not so asleep, so to speak. Like when you are not that sleep - it wakes you up at this very moment. Right now, they are providing you with multiple other things, they simply have to evolve.

But not all applications must do that, because, at some point, we must ask ourselves if those needs that we were satisfying a few years back, are we still satisfying them? Or maybe something changed? Maybe people don't do it anymore. It's always better to prevent than to cure, so always do your research to see if your application is actually still satisfying and fulfilling the needs and requirements of the users.
Olga
It's very nice to sit and talk, but unfortunately, we have to finish our talk.
Pawel
Oh, that's a bummer. I had a really great time.
Olga
Thank you so much and see you next time in the next Experts Zone Talks. You can also check other videos on our YouTube channel and, of course, visit our website frontandhouse.com. See you next time!
Pawel
Thank you very much and keep in mind user-centered design. Have a nice day. Bye.

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Olga
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Olga Vasylenko

Marketing Specialist

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