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Designing for the real user

UI and UX (UCD and ISO 9241)

Designing modern digital services on the WordPress platform is more about the user experience than ever before. Gone are the days where the creative director rules the roost with opinion and experience.

As a modern digital agency, design is all-inclusive and about meeting the needs of the users. And it goes by the name of User Centred Design (UCD), complete with a formalised structure of sorts under ISO 9241. Yikes!

Do we really need an ISO standard for design? What does that mean? Have any web agencies even heard of ISO 9241? Hows does that work with WordPress? WTF are you talking about?

It’s not a bad idea, but should only be a guide. There are specific rules around accessibility, and our fab GDS have produced a great guide to get started.

But UCD is less about accessibility and more about usability. This is maybe where the traditional designer loses the plot – traditional design is as much about personal opinion and subjective view of experts as it is about real people.

UCD is not actually a design, it’s a process in which we document the needs, wants, and limitations of end users. Each critical step is analysed as a set of problems withe classic problem-resolution techniques applied. This is all carried out in the “dry-run” stage as a modified use-case with the aim of mapping the simplest, and therefore the best, solution.

To get to grips with UCD and applying the framework of ISO 9241 is pretty straightforward:

  • Design is about understanding users, tasks and environments.
  • Designers, users and stakeholders are involved throughout the design and development phases.
  • User feedback during the process is actively encouraged and incorporated in the the work.
  • Stay agile. Do many versions. Live and breath prototyping.
  • Carry out periodic testing using just 5 people.
  • None of this is difficult to do. Adoption is a matter of will and process control.

History of UCD

Just over a year ago, we published Design Principles for a Digital Services Age with the aim of sharing what we have learned about the changing face of design.

In this approach we, again, started with needs and that’s where the focus stays. The very last thing we want users to do is to learn something new, or change their existing way of working for no good reason.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Good design will improve digital interaction, increase revenue (if appropriate) and elevate customer satisfaction.

Finally. Perfection is not attainable, nor should it be sought. Digital services are evolving and should meet most of the users’ needs most of the time.