User Centered Design and Your Website

Are you familiar with User Centered Design?  If not, the concept is nearly as straight forward as it sounds.  A User Centered Design method strives to involve the users in the development of a product as early and as often as possible.  The goal is to produce something highly usable, ensuring a good user experience.

The number of sites on the Internet continues to grow at a furious pace.  With this growth comes a host of competitors looking to entice your customers.  It is no longer possible to win customers with good products and services alone.  If visitors do not find your site intuitive and highly usable, they are likely to turn to a competitor who has incorporated these concepts.

Although the benefits may be apparent, applying User Centered Design to a website is not without its challenges.  If your site has a broad audience, you must determine which voice will be used to guide your decisions.  It may also be more difficult to collect in depth data from sites that have a large number of visitors.

If you are interested in incorporating User Centered Design concepts for your website, here are a few techniques to consider:

Surveying your users is the easiest and quickest approach for gathering user feedback.  This can typically generate a large amount of data in a small amount of time.  However, the results can end up too broad if your audience is large is diverse.

A persona is a detailed snapshot of a typical customer.  Design elements are reviewed through the eyes of this created individual.  This approach can be helpful for design teams or other development groups that do not have adequate access to users.

When discussing new concepts with users, sometimes it is difficult to have a meaningful discussion without proper context.  A mock up of the purposed solution will provide a common frame of reference.  Users often find it easier to articulate what they do not like or what they would change from a mock up than to list all the features without context.

User Testing
Users are given a set of tasks to accomplish on the site.  Afterwards, users provide detailed feedback on the overall user experience.  This process if often repeated until the desired results are met.