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My User Centred Design Process

Guy Carberry, 23 November 2021

Every user centred design professional has a goto set of tools and methods for getting the most from the tasks they have been set. This article provides a little insight into mine.

It's always an interesting challenge to attempt to illustrate a non-linear process without the use of a diagram but I thought I'd give it a go:

  1. Identify and understand the problem
  2. Test with users
  3. Design possible solutions
  4. Test with users
  5. Develop the solution
  6. Test with users
  7. Refine the solution
  8. Launch the solution
  9. Test with users
  10. Improve the solution

Accepting that testing with users is a fundamental part of every stage, we can refine the list into five stage gates:

  1. Understand the problem
  2. Design possible solutions
  3. Develop the solution
  4. Launch the solution
  5. Improve the solution

Or, Understand > Design > Develop > Launch > Improve.

Let's look at each of the stages in detail.

Understand the problem

In this first stage we want to know

Techniques employed at this stage include

Design possible solutions

In the design stage we take all of the outputs from the previous stage and think about all the ways we can solve the problem. Often we won't get to this stage at all if the problem has not been clearly identified.

Here we may use any of the following techniques:

Develop the solution

At this stage we are ready to commit to technical development. This is where costs can escalate so we ensure that there are clear measures of success and a reliable agile development methodology in place. We want to deliver regular, incremental potentially deployable increments of value. That is, functionality that we can make live and once again test with users.

The most active user research technique employed at this stage is face to face or remote usability and accessibility testing. This helps us identify unforeseen issues that only present themselves once a more fully formed service or product starts to emerge.

This stage is iterative with each UX test session further informing changes to the product backlog.

Launch the solution

We need to ensure that sufficient mechanisms for capturing and evaluating user behaviour and sentiment are in place at the moment of launch. This includes:

We also need to be clear on how we will be alerted to UX issues and how we will go about prioritising and fixing them.

Improve the solution

Committing to continuous improvement will ensure that your product or service is able to evolve to better meet user needs and expectations as time progresses. Often user needs remain fairly constant. Their expectations about how those needs should be met changes over time. We need to keep checking in with users as well as keeping an eye on the competition. As long as there is commitment to continuous improvement it should also be possible to continue to innovate and bring value to both users and the business alike.

At this stage it is possible to revisit the techniques used at all of the previous stages and make the case for improvement.

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