Developing a service or user interface around what people do, want, or need is an critical part of a user-centred design approach.
An early focus on user needs ensures that your product is user-centred from the outset, saving time and money during later stages of design.
Evidence based research is essential to understanding user needs.
Ethnography, participatory design and usability testing are key methods in a user-centred approach.
Ethnography is about immersing yourself in the world of your users in order to understand their needs and motivations. This evidence will drive the rest of the development process along a user-centred path.
Techniques include observation, user-diaries, cultural probes, shadowing, and user workshops.
Participatory design is an approach that involves end-users in the design cycle – helping to shape and test ideas and products.
Usability testing provides a powerful tool to communicate what parts of your design work well and what requires refinement. The experience of users is witnessed first hand. You observe users as they use your prototype, then adjust your design accordingly. It is best carried out as part of an iterative design cycle.
Ideally, paper prototypes and low fidelity digital models should be created and tested early in the design cycle – before resources are put into creating final interfaces for testing.