Great post on UCD and the common belief systems. By Thomas Petersen
“In broad terms, user-centered design (UCD) is a design philosophy and a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of end users of an interface or document are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process. User-centered design can be characterized as a multi-stage problem solving process that not only requires designers to analyze and foresee how users are likely to use an interface, but also to test the validity of their assumptions with regards to user behaviour in real world tests with actual users. Such testing is necessary as it is often very difficult for the designers of an interface to understand intuitively what a first-time user of their design experiences, and what each user’s learning curve may look like.
The chief difference from other interface design philosophies is that user-centered design tries to optimize the user interface around how people can, want, or need to work, rather than forcing the users to change how they work to accommodate the software developers approach.
So as you can see a typical UCD process to define it in terms of the hammer test, is based on testing the drawing, the cutout and the Styrofoam hammer.
Not the actual hammer.So why is that? How comes something that seems to be an obvious problematic implementation of the goal of UCD, have become the norm?
This way, users have become customers and you can suddenly start to test where it matters with valuable feedback.
This will no doubt mean that many have to re-educate themselves and rethink how they approach design whether it be UX, IA, UI or GUI. It is none the less as stated, necessary to stay relevant for the future. A pivotal part of this will also be to re-educate clients and help them understand that they will need to look at at product design a little different.
Design is a decision, not a democracy. If you are serious about using design strategically then courage is the strategic advantage you should be looking for. And with the ability to quickly change wrong assumptions it’s not really dangerous, just common sense.