10 things that convinced me of user-centered design

This summer I successfully completed the CAS «Usability and User Experience». In this training I was shown the importance and benefits of user-centered product development. Already in the blog post «Don't forget! This is what you should keep in mind when creating your new website», dedicated a chapter to user-centered design.

My way of thinking has changed fundamentally through this further education. Where I used to get involved in discussions about details of a screen design, I wouldn't torch and organize a usability test today.

For this reason I would like to dedicate a complete blog post to the topic. Below I list 10 points that got me thinking, impressed or just convinced by user-centric design.

1. products with usability errors

In our training courses, we have frequently dealt with existing products that exhibit usability errors. On the one hand this is quite funny to look at, on the other hand you seriously ask yourself how something like this could happen. Quite simple: The product developers were on the road with tunnel vision during the entire development phase and never tested the product. Even a short test with a simple prototype could have prevented the usability errors.

© Katharina Kamprani – The Uncomfortable

Sometimes usability errors also occur because design was weighted higher than usability. A well-known example of this is Apple's Magic Mouse. As you can see from the picture below, it is very difficult to continue working if the mouse has an empty battery. Charging and working at the same time doesn't work. So you are forced to either have a second mouse ready or pause while Magic Mouse is charging.

© geek.com

2. good products arise from existing problems

Are there any cars today that don't have cup holders? Not really.

As you can see on the following pictures, this was not always the case. And it is precisely because of such pictures that new product ideas emerge. Always go through life with your eyes open and look out for problems that could be solved with a simple invention.

© FHNW / CAS Usability und User Experience
© FHNW / CAS Usability und User Experience
© FHNW / CAS Usability und User Experience

3. start with the problem and consider all possible solutions

I often hear the sentence «Let's make an app». Why an app? Simply because it is trendy and is considered modern? Whereby this is no longer the case and the app download numbers have been declining for years.

My point is: Start with the problem. Which problem should be solved? Do a brainstorming and consider all possibilities, digital as well as analog. Most of the time an app is not the best solution and the problem can be solved with less effort.

4. for who a product is developed

In the user-centered development of a product, it is of course always of central importance to know who the users are. This is the only way to achieve the best possible result.

For example, if you ask yourself which bike is the best, you will get different answers.

© FHNW / CAS Usability und User Experience

For a child, of course, the running wheel is most suitable. They want to have fun and learn to keep their balance in order to use a real bike later.

On the other hand, the bicycle at the top right is best for a postman because he wants to deliver mail as reliably and efficiently as possible.

So it's important to know who you're developing for. Depending on the needs of a target group, a completely different product is created, as the following graphic shows well.

© FHNW / CAS Usability und User Experience

If this is not considered and a product is to be developed that appeals to everyone, it comes as with the car below.

© FHNW / CAS Usability und User Experience

5. avoid long discussions and perform many tests

You can discuss details for hours in the project team, with superiors or even with clients. Such discussions should be avoided – because time is better invested in usability tests.

It is best to invite test persons at an early stage of the project and present them with a simple prototype. Even if this prototype has not yet been worked out down to the smallest detail, valuable insights can still be gained. And most of the time there is no need for long discussions.

The following video shows how such a usability test could look like.

6. users do not act as we expect They do

No matter how logical and clear the layouts we can create for ourselves, in a usability test there will practically always be something that is not understood. Things that are totally logical for designers and programmers can be viewed and operated completely differently by «normal users». The picture below illustrates this quite funny and successful.

© invisionapp.com/inside-design

7. users do not always tell the truth

In an example from an interview we could see very well that respondents often tell small lies, not even intentionally. They don't want to badmouth a product or look "stupid" themselves because they don't understand something.

In the example interview, the respondent said that he can use the hearing aid very well and has a lot of practice with it. He also claimed, for example, that a display for the remote control is necessary and will not work without it. His wife was also in the interview. When it came to operating, he had serious problems and the wife had to help him. In general, his wife interfered a lot and said things like " darling, you know that " and put him under pressure. If he did not know something, she showed it to him. For the user himself, the operation was obviously too complicated. He also had to wear glasses to operate the display, because he couldn't read it without them.

If you now compare the mere statements with the observations, you notice that this does not agree absolutely. It is therefore important never to rely solely on statements, but to always conduct an interview in context and observe the user's actions.

8. always start from BDU

When developing a product, you should never assume that something is clear and understandable for users just because you understand it yourself. It's always to assume BDU (brain dead user). According to the motto «Don't make me think».



© board.world-hack.org

9. feedback helps the comprehensibility of web applications

People are used to an action triggering a reaction. So when I press a light switch, I expect a light to come on somewhere. If this does not happen, I assume that something is wrong.

It's the same with web applications. When I click on a button, I expect feedback. If this doesn't happen, I don't know if my action could be executed or not – and I'm confused.

© colingarven.com

10. make use of standards

Humans are creatures of habit. This can also be used for product designs. For example, when designing a new car key, it makes sense to use the proven symbols of an open and a closed lock. Using something completely new leads to confusion rather than improving the overall design.

The same applies to digital products. For example, people are used to a website where the navigation is at the top right, while the company logo is placed on the far left of the navigation bar. Of course, this is not a law carved in stone, but it is advisable to follow it. With every deviation, usability losses must be reckoned with.


In addition to the points mentioned above, I take a lot of inspiration and new ideas with me from the CAS «Successfully Implementing Usability and User Experience». Whenever I come across a problem, I think about how everyday life could be made easier for myself and my fellow human beings.

Which of these points impresses you the most? And to what extent do you already involve your users in product development? Where do you see potential for improvement? I look forward to your comments.

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