Saturday, May 19, 2007

4 Approaches for User-Centered Design

From "Designing for Interaction" by Dan Saffer

1. User-centered design (UCD)

2. Activity-centered design

3. Systems design

4. Genius design

1. User-centered design

Focuses on user needs and goals

Goals are really important in UCD; designers focus on what the user ultimately wants to accomplish

Designer then determines the tasks necessary to achieve those goals, but with the users' needs and preferences always in mind

Designers involve users in every stage of the project; user data is the determining factor in making design decisions

Pros: Gets designers to focus on needs and goals of users, rather than their own preferences ("You are not the user")

Cons: May result in a product that is too narrowly focused; also, may be designed for the wrong set of users

2. Activity-centered design

Focuses on the tasks and activities that need to be accomplished

Typically functional products (e.g. appliances, cars) use activity-centered design

Activities are made up of tasks; each task is a moment in the life of an activity

Ex. Decide to buy a new game; decide what game to buy; decide where to buy it; get directions to store; go to store; enter store; find game in store; buy game; leave store; go home.

Designers observe and interview users for insights about their behavior more than their goals. The activity, not the people doing the activity, guides the design.

Pros: Gets designers to focus on the behavior of users

Cons: By fixating on tasks, designers won't look for solutions for the problem as a whole

3. Systems design

Focuses on the components of a system

Structured, rigorous design methodology

Uses an established arrangement of components to create design solutions

Users are de-emphasized in favor of context; focus on the whole context of use, not just individual objects or devices

Pros: eliminates guesswork and fuzziness of other approaches, provides a clear roadmap for designers to follow; useful for seeing the big picture, a holistic view of the project

Cons: rigorous and time-consuming

4. Genius design

Relies almost solely on the wisdom and experience of the designer to make design decisions

Designers use their best judgment as to what users want and then design the product based on that judgment

Apple computer does most of its design this way (e.g. iPod)

Best practiced by experienced designers

Pros: fast, easy, personal way to work; may allow designers to think more broadly and innovatively

Cons: may miss user needs and result in an un-usable product

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