Creating and designing a product is an art. Have you ever wondered why apps like Instagram, Spotify, and Netflix are so popular among users? What if, behind the success, there is a specific approach that can help you, too, create a successful product?
The secret sauce is to transform your products from simply functional to exceptional by applying user-centered design.
Businesses that prioritize customer experience outperform their competitors by 4-8%, according to Forbes. So, why do you need to implement a user-centered design in your software products?
The key for your business to win the user’s heart is to design a product that makes their life easier and more enjoyable. Designing your product around your customer's needs and goals with user-centered design will make your product successful in the market.
Want to know more about the importance of user-centered design and the benefits of applying it to custom software development?
Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy this article!
What is user-centered design?
After User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI), “User-Centered” design became a buzzword in the design field.
User-centered design (or UCD) is an approach that puts the users or customers at the center of the development efforts and focuses on developing products and services based on their needs, preferences, and behaviors. Your actual product design relies on the character for whom it is designed. That is why user-centered design is also called human-centered design.
In some ways, user-centric design is exactly what it sounds like: professionals design the product around the demands of the user rather than forcing the consumer to adapt to the design.
Let’s imagine that you are a user of a website. What do you draw attention to? Will it be images, text font or size, buttons, page arrangement, colors, navigation, or something else? When we think about details like this separately, we may have a false impression that these are not very significant, but all of these contribute to our overall user experience.
There are 5 key principles of user-centered design. The idea behind them all is to keep the users at the heart o the product development process by continuously collecting and iteratively implementing their feedback with the product's success as an ultimate goal.
In practice, there are four main stages in the user-centered design process. Naturally, it starts with in-depth understating through research about users' behavior, their needs, wants, and goals they want to achieve with the help of the product.
Then it's essential to map these needs with business requirements by emphasizing how the product is beneficial for the users and the business and identifying key metrics to assess how well the product meets both users' & business expectations. The more specific you are, the better.
Moving on to creating & generating design solutions to users' needs - storyboards, user journey mapping, wireframes, and clickable prototypes that further on will be subject to UI testing.
The loop ends with conducting usability testing with real users (preferably) to assess what works, what doesn't, and where improvements are needed. Below is a graphic representation of the USD process.
An important thing to mention is that the USD process doesn't end with the evaluation step. From our experience, there are at least 2-3 iterations needed until the design passes successfully the usability tests, and that's a normal process.
Examples of Apps with Great User-Centered Design
A lot of people around the world use Airbnb. The Airbnb app is welcoming users from all backgrounds and screen types. The design is very simple and intuitive. You don’t need to guess what you should click next.
Built with simplicity at heart, Airbnb is a North Star in user-centered design for many brands and products.
While exploring the Airbnb app on the web or mobile, you will notice that you can easily find the exact property that you want to rent. You have many filters available; you can sort by price, number of rooms, location, type of property, and many other criteria.
They will make the process of looking for accommodations easier and more precise based on your requirements. All of these features contribute to a pleasant user experience.
Canva's UX/UI design is often praised for its simplicity, usability, and intuitive interface. The main reason why it's considered a great example of user-centered design implementation is the interface is intuitive and easy to navigate which provides all the users need to accomplish their goals on the platform.
On top of this, a high level of customization is available and it fosters efficient collaboration allowing users to share designs and get feedback from their team members in real-time.
Canva's design is optimized for mobile devices, making it easy for users to create and edit designs on the go.
Designers are constantly striving to create a better experience for users. A very good example of applying user-centered design is Duolingo.
The target users of this app are very different and spread all over the world. Knowing that learning a language is a difficult task for most people and that it takes time and motivation, the design team focused on developing an interactive and gamified design.
By completing lessons, users can earn points and also extend their learning streak, which helps boost motivation and keeps them engaged in the process.
Also, during the learning process, cheerful characters appear with their own personalities and stories, which makes the learning experience more interesting.
According to the Duolingo blog, once they improved the user experience, there was an increase in lessons completed and time spent learning in the app.
Why user-centered design is important in custom software development?
A creative and user-centered design will help you create a strong image, build a brand identity, and gain the love and loyalty of your customers.
Nowadays, when a lot of information is accessible to users, it becomes incredibly challenging to keep their attention on your product or service. Applying user-centered design in custom software development can help you catch users' attention, increase conversions, and create products that fit market needs.
1. User-centered design is the foundation stone for exceptional user experience. A user-centered design approach enables developers to understand the users' needs and preferences, which allows them to create software that is tailored to the user's specific requirements. This results in a product that is easier to use, more intuitive, and ultimately provides a better user experience.
2. User-centered design fuels user engagement with the product. When users find a software product that is easy to use, it becomes more engaging and appealing to them. This results in higher user adoption rates, increased user satisfaction, and ultimately, higher business outcomes.
3. User-centered design reduces development costs & increases productivity. By focusing on the user's needs, developers can avoid developing unnecessary features, functionality, and design elements that are not relevant to the end-user. This can help to reduce development costs and minimize the time it takes to bring the product to market.
User-centered design has a lot of benefits for your business.
By taking this approach, you can expect higher levels of customer engagement and loyalty, as well as lower development costs and improved product performance.
Applying UCD can save your business money and time for testing. Testing your software with final users costs less than learning from your own mistakes and testing a lot of theories.
Efficient USD implementation can reduce risks in custom software development. Of course, every project that you start has its own risks, but when applying a user-centered approach you get the chance to validate the problem before spending budgets on building an irrelevant product.
Product competitiveness is also a benefit that user-centered design can bring if you implement it. How does it happen? Users of your product or service may not understand the concept of “user-centered design”, but sure they will pay for a product that is simple to use and finds solutions to their problems.
When users are not forced to change their behavior and their problems are solved quickly without much effort from their side, this increases loyalty to your product or service and brand.
This is how a UCD approach in product design allows your business to build a strong relationship with your users.
User research process
User research is the process of understanding and researching your customers’ or users' needs and behaviors through investigation. It s a systematic process of studying your users to gather the information that will help in the design and development processes.
What is not user research? - It’s not a “magic pill” that will give you all the answers to your product questions or problems. Before you know the answers and solutions, you must go through a creative process of generating ideas and doing iterative design repeatedly until you reach your goal.
Your product needs to be not just useful but also enjoyable and easy to use. How to do that? The answer is extremely simple: know your users and what they want. Learn more about tips for effective user research in the following rows.
Importance of user research in user-centered design
User research is an essential component of user-centered design because it provides valuable insights about the target users. A few reasons why conducting effective user research is an important part of UCD:
- It Helps to Understand User Needs. User research helps in understanding the needs, goals, and challenges of the target audience. This information is critical in designing products that meet user needs and address their pain points.
- It Provides Insights into User Behaviors. User research helps to identify how users interact with products, their preferences, and their pain points. This knowledge helps designers and developers to create products that are intuitive to use and address the user's specific requirements.
- It Makes it Easier to Create Personas. Personas are fictional representations of users that are created based on user research. Personas help designers and developers to better understand their target audience, their needs, and their preferences. This information can be used to design products that are more relevant and tailored to the user's specific requirements.
- It Helps to Test different Hypotheses. User research helps to test product ideas and concepts before they are developed. This approach helps to identify potential problems early in the development process, allowing for quick iterations and improvements.
- It Helps to Increase User Adoption. User research helps to create products that are tailored to the user's needs, preferences, and behaviors. This approach results in products that are easier to use, more engaging, and more likely to be adopted by the target audience.
Tips on how to conduct effective user research
Suppose you want to create an app for online shopping. Understanding your customers’ behaviors, needs, and goals and including collaboration with them, can simplify the work process, help you create an app that has a realistic context, and uncover problems & design opportunities.
Here are some steps on how you can organize your design process
a) Determine your research targets and objectives. Before starting the research process, you need to understand and precisely define what you want to get from it and how it will affect your future product and design decisions. If we are talking about our example with an e-commerce app an example of a research goal can be: finding problems that users face right before ordering a product online.
b) Figure out your target market or users. Decide who you want to investigate and develop a plan for how to attract them. For our e-commerce app, it can be a user, who placed some products in their shopping bag.
c) Select your research methods. Choose techniques that are relevant for your research goal. Examples of research methodologies can be interviews, surveys, test cases, or field studies.
d) Conduct the research. Using the approaches you have chosen, collect data from your users. Talking about our imaginary e-commerce app, we can prepare some questions and interview, for example, users that like to buy online clothes and have different buying behaviors.
e) Analyze the research results. Evaluate the data you have gathered for trends and insights. After studying the results, in our case the responses to the questions from the interview, we need to identify what are users’ problems and how to solve them.
f) Inform your team about your findings. Share the findings with your colleagues and stakeholders and use them to improve your future product and design decisions.
g) Iterate. Because user research is a continuous activity, conduct the research and receive feedback throughout the life cycle of the product development.
If you will follow these steps, you are one step closer to creating a successful product that will rock the market.
Key design principles for user-centered design
Usability is the first principle of a successful design. Usability refers to how simple and efficient it is for people to interact with your product or service.
In the user-centered design process, usability is a key principle that is considered throughout the entire design stages, from the early phases of idea creation to the final product review.
Usability is a qualitative measure of the simplicity of use of your site, app, or service. The main rule is that customers should be able to effortlessly reach their goals, such as buying a product, subscribing to an email list, or finding information.
A great example of applying usability principles in design is the Waze app.
Waze makes the process of traveling to a destination easier, faster, and more comfortable for drivers. You can see routes and arrival times to a destination just by clicking a few buttons. Waze has done an excellent job of making navigation on the app very intuitive and simple for all users.
Accessibility is another key design principle. It is an important result of the user-centered design process.
When designing your product, you need to take into consideration all types of users that can interact with your product or service. An accessible design can break down the barriers that prevent people from using your products efficiently.
In user-centered design, accessibility refers to the practice of developing apps, services, or settings that will help all users. This involves also ensuring that the interface is accessible to people with disabilities.
A great example of accessibility in a web app is Google.
Google provides many features to users such as voice access, live captions, sound amplifiers, lookout, and many others. These help a lot of people prevent problems and discomfort when using Google’s products.
Making accessibility a priority can help all users, not just those who have disabilities. Designing for humans requires dealing with a wider range of accessibility and embracing many possible users’ physical limitations such as for example reading a small text.
Engagement in user-centered design is about involving the final users in the design process to assure that your final product meets their preferences and goals. User engagement is a metric that shows you whether customers find value and utility in your product or service.
Engagement can be measured using different indicators such as likes, clicks, downloads, comments, follows, and others. A user-friendly design can boost these indicators.
An example of a design strategy to increase engagement is Sephora.
Sephora's marketplace features a chatbot that can assist customers in real-time in selecting the best products for their needs by consulting with a beauty advisor. This is a great feature since people want to obtain help and guidance quickly. This helps users purchase something easily.
But why do you need to think about engagement with your future product? Highly engaged users are more likely to buy something from you, follow your emails and marketing lists, or recommend your product to someone. These lead directly to an increase in your business’s profitability.
So, engagement can be increased by giving your product a user-centered approach. Also, by applying to your software the best design practices, consumers will gain a better experience and a better understanding of your product’s purpose.
How Oneest applies user-centered design in custom web & mobile app development?
User-centered products require user-centered designers. Based on industry best practices, multi-disciplinary UX/UI designers from Oneest will guide you in choosing the best-personalized solution for your problem.
We aim for quality and the best user experience in any design we do. Our team at Oneest can help you design intuitive, engaging, and simple web and mobile apps.
How do we go about it? Here are some secrets and tips from our kitchen.
I. Prototyping and testing are key parameters in the design process. Our designers develop a rough version of the product to test its design and functionality. This helps us to ensure the best quality and to find and change any design issues before finishing the product.
Testing the prototype allows us to iterate on the design before any web or mobile development started. Why is that important when designing customized apps? Just imagine launching an e-commerce website and then noticing that customers take a lot of time to find the button “buy now.” This would directly affect the user’s experience and, therefore, your sales.
To avoid those kinds of issues, our team of experienced and interdisciplinary UX/UI designers works together to iteratively improve the design and transform your business requirements into features that users need.
II. Creating user personas is another key step in our product’s design process. Our team knows that by deeply understanding the user, we can create products that satisfy customers’ needs and therefore more likely to be successful.
Creating user personas means creating an imaginary outline of your target customers based on their specific problems, needs, and behaviors. Also, they are useful for making sure that your product is accessible to all users, including those with special needs.
How does our team create user personas effectively? It’s all about deep user research. From our experience, we know that collecting information about your target consumers will help us understand their main problems, characteristics, and behaviors.
As an example, when we developed the UX/UI design concept for an airline flight booking system we applied besides best practices for an exceptional user experience also the user-centered design and developed user personas.
An example of a user persona for this had the following details: name, demographics, occupation, and brief personal description. Below you can see roughly what it looked like:
User personas differ from business to business. Together with our team, we can create an ideal user persona and help you design the best products that your customers will surely love.
Oneest’s design team strives to create the best products possible based on your company's users' specific needs.
III. Iterations and improvements are a normal and natural steps in any product design process. This allows our designers to make changes in the design process based on users' feedback and usability & accessibility tests.
Iterations allow our designers to make changes based on learning from previous experiences. One of the advantages of the iterative design is that iterations allow for quick prototyping and testing.
By making prototypes and drafts of the product and testing them, our team can quickly see and change the problems by directly gathering the user's feedback. This may assist you in ensuring that the final product is of high quality and meets your expectations.
We strive for continuous improvement. Our experience in design allows us to find the best solution for your company’s product improvement according to users’ needs.
Our goal at Oneest is to create products that customers love and need.
We truly believe that user-centered design is a crucial aspect of custom software development. This way, your company focuses on developing products and services based on your customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviors.
Your business can gain a lot of benefits by using the UCD approach in designing the products, such as creating a strong image, building a brand identity, and winning the love and loyalty of your customers.
Deep user research is a strong foundation for future design and development strategies for your product. Our team of professionals can help you develop a useful and successful product and keep you on the same page with your customers.
If you're interested to learn more about our UX/UI design services & deliverables you can read here. Alternatively, you can check out how we helped a top low-cost airline company double its sales with an exceptional UX/UI design of its flight booking system.
Or, contact us if you have a specific request and are looking for a reliable team to develop a product that customers will love. We will be happy to discuss more with you about the best strategies aligned with your business needs.
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