User-centered design (UCD) is an approach for employing usability. It is a structured product development methodology that involves users throughout all stages of Web site development, in order to create a Web site that meets users’ needs. This approach considers an organization’s business objectives and the user’s needs, limitations, and preferences.
Importance of User-Centered Design
In order for your Web site to be successful, users must visit the site to find information or accomplish tasks. No matter what objectives you have set for your Web site, it must carefully balance the needs of users and the needs of your organization. If users don’t find your Web site helpful, they will not use it.
From the business side, you can lower operating and redevelopment costs by developing a product, such as a Web site, correctly the first time around.
To create a user-centered Web site you must think about the needs of your users throughout each step in the development of your site, including:
- planning your site
- collecting data from users
- developing prototypes
- writing content
- conducting usability testing with users
Creating a User-Centric Web site
The first step is to clearly define your organization and users’ needs, goals, and objectives. To get the project started, begin by asking yourself (and your Web development team) more detailed questions such as:
- What are your agency’s primary business objectives and how do they relate the Web?
- Who are the users of your Web site and what are their tasks and goals?
- What information and functions do your users need, and in what form do they need it?
- How do users think your Web site should work and what are their experience levels with the Web site?
- What hardware and software will the majority of your users use to access your site?