User centred design doesn’t mean sacrificying business control

I have been out and about pitching for work quite a bit recently (which explains why my blog has been quiet!). It has been around two years since I last did this, so as well as scratching off the rust, I’ve also had fairly fresh eyes (and ears!) to the kind of things that clients are looking for and common misunderstandings about user centred design.

I have been particularly struck by two different clients thinking that user centred design means doing just what customers say that want at the expense of the business’s objectives. I appreciate this may be a literal translation of user centred design, but it is too simplistic and does a disservice to the pragmatism that goes into the design process.

Obviously I quickly put them right on this.

It is important to understand that user centred design not only means designing a solution to meet the needs, comprehension and desires of real users, it also means thinking pragmatically and creating a solution that works both for the business and users.

There are four key concepts behind user centred design. These are:

  1. Structured user involvement
  2. Prototyping
  3. Iteration
  4. Multidisciplinary teams (including key stakeholders such as the business and technology)

Forget any one of these and you are in trouble!

It is wrong to practice UCD in an idealistic vacuum without structured collaboration with multidisciplinary teams.

It all of which puts me in mind of my previous posting about my frustrations with misunderstandings of the term usability testing (Usability testing is really design research).

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