User-Centered Design as the basic method of determining user needs in the design process

The term User-Centered Design stands for user-centered design. In practice, it is an approach to interactive systems development that aims to make systems usable by focusing on users, their needs and requirements. The development process is iterative, i.e. one that needs verification and improvement of the steps and solutions taken. In each of the User-Centered Design methods, four basic phases can be distinguished in each iteration. They are analysis, design, evaluation and implementation. Such a four-component configuration is repeatable so as not to repeat the mistakes made in the next stages, until our product is improved and left without defects. This pattern can be repeated endlessly, as technology changes, and so does the user's needs.

Based on the User Centered Design definition, it should be noted that it largely focuses on the use of the system and the application of human factors as well as knowledge and usability techniques. User-centered design is a practical approach to problem solving that, when properly divided into stages, allows for the creation of innovative and creative solutions. The individual stages are divided into inspirations, ideations and implementations.

The phase of inspiration is the definition of the research problem and goal of the activity, interviews with users. At the ideation stage, for example, storyboards, customer journeys, business model canvas or preliminary sketches of prototypes, i.e. graphic representations of ideas for possible solutions to the problem, are prepared. Implementation is the time to put your ideas into practice. It consists in testing solutions, measuring their performance, and ends with the analysis and interpretation of evaluation results.

Definition of ISO usability

The basic concept that defines the features of a product with a good user experience is usability. According to the ISO definition (ISO Standard is the User-Centered Design methodology formalized by the International Organization for Standardization), it is a measure of the efficiency, effectiveness and user satisfaction with which a given product can be used to achieve given goals by given users in a given context. Systems and products that are useful have many benefits, such as improved productivity, increased user satisfaction with the use of the product and increased availability.

Usability is defined by 5 attributes that are worth mentioning here. They have been described by the Nielsen Norman Group - a company founded by the pioneers of User Experience, i.e. Don Norman and Jackob Nielsen. The mentioned attributes are:

1. Ability for users to learn basic tasks when they first encounter a given system / process,

2. Efficiency, i.e. how quickly the user can solve and undertake tasks after becoming familiar with the design,

3. Ability to remember functions and options of the system needed for proper use after a certain time of not using it,

4. Errors, i.e. how many mistakes the user makes, how serious these errors are and how he copes with solving them

5. Satisfaction, or how pleasant it is to use the designed system.

Why is usability so important?

When something is unclear in the application, we do not know why there are continuous errors, we cannot find the information we need, we will probably give up using such a solution. Therefore, usability plays a key role in the design process as it allows our products and systems to survive among users. If something has clearly defined rules and informs about steps taken or mistakes, it is easier to adapt to such a solution and to use it is pleasant.

How to improve usability

Jacob Nielsen stated in one of his articles that utility does not need to be measured in order to improve it. However, there are several methods of improving it that are used in the evaluation phase of the project. The most popular method is usability testing, also known as user tests or task tests. It is possible to conduct an evaluation by means of tests at each of these stages, where we have a specific subject of the study. Task tests are used to test the interface by the user in the presence of a moderator according to a predefined test scenario. The research scenario may contain a few simple tasks to be performed, starting from easier ones like searching for something to more difficult ones like filtering or adding / removing. The course of the study is usually recorded or observed by another researcher or client.

An in-depth analysis of the test results is a source of much valuable information, helps to improve the product and verify any errors. Through testing with users, many aspects of the product are investigated:

1. Understanding the purpose of the product and its possible functions,

2. Correct use of functionality,

3. The natural sequence of actions following one another,

4. Hierarchy of elements and their availability,

5. Elimination of problems related to the user's movement in the application,

6. Linguistic correctness.

An important stage at the level of defining usability in the context of the project is to check the already available solutions and identify their advantages and disadvantages. This procedure is called competition analysis, or benchmarking.

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