Picture this. You’re looking for your first house. You’ve seen the photos, you’ve checked your budget, you’ve even been to the estate agent, who somewhat over-enthusiastically encourages you to check out a “great space in an up and coming neighbourhood that’s been on the market for a while, so we’ll be able to negotiate a great price!”. You hesitantly agree to check it out. Walking in, you’re abruptly greeted by a faint smell of smoke, and carpet reminiscent of the pub your mum used to warn you about going to “after dark”. Ho-hum you tell yourself, all cosmetic. Making your way through the house (loose term), you’re greeted by a mismatched layout, the bathroom is by the kitchen, the lounge tucked under the stairs, and a “sizeable second bedroom” upstairs that Harry Potter wouldn’t even touch.
When it comes down to it, for one reason or another, you’re most likely not going to spend your hard-earned money on bringing a shambles up to a livable standard straight off the cuff. Houses that aren’t designed for everyday occupants are a nightmare. Equally so, software not designed with the user in mind can be a disaster, the later is all too familiar to most of us.
Examples of good and bad UX (user experience) are all around us. They’re in the places we work, the cars we drive, and the software we rely on. Lucky for us, UX awareness has increased in the past few years, businesses have cottoned on to the importance of usability when it comes to their websites and apps, and through the proliferation of mobile phones and access to the internet, so too have the wider public. Within all this still, remains the golden question, how do you make software that looks and feels like a dream?
Enter, User-centric design.
User-centric design is all about, you guessed it, centring the design process around the expected user pool. It’s about looking at how someone will interact with the software, what their goal is, and what the best way for them to achieve that is. As a design process, it looks like this;
Identifying who is likely to be the primary type of user and what are their requirements.
Learning what their goal is, and where they need to go to make this work.
Design based on the above requirements.
Test your designs, with a pool of users as closely linked to the end-user as possible.
Learn from the tests and make amendments where necessary.
Some of the most successful names in tech fork up millions on this design process, Amazon, Apple and uber all pour copious levels of funding into the iterations of their website, OS and apps respectively.
In late 2019, mobile accounted for 52% of web traffic worldwide, extended access to the internet in developing communities, and a gradual price drop in mobile phones are generally suggested to be the cause, but moreover, there’s a convenience that comes with mobile, you always have your phone on you, it’s portable, familiar and small. And therein lies the need for good UX. Less screen real estate means apps and websites have to be as intuitive as possible and allow users to access key functionality with minimal effort.
The easiest way to design for the user is to think like a user. If you come to a website or an app for the first time, how would you expect it to work? Chances are you’ll have a similar idea as your target audience, however, always back it up with user research, knowing what people don’t like can be equally as valuable as knowing what they do.
But remember, don’t always feel that you need to stick with what people know; as long as you’re clear with your message and guide them where they need to be. When something is new, people expect it to be different. Innovation is as important as familiarity in UX.
Andy Syson, Designer at ArchCo-written by Hamish Kerry, Marketing Executive at Arch