In essence, this is a set of design principles which prioritises the user, and the nature of the user’s experience of the product during the design process. A key point is that the user, as the end target of the design process, should be involved at every stage along the way. Also, the philosophy is that the manufacturer should design a product that the user would need and want to use, not try to convince them to use something they don’t want.
There are 6 principles set out that should ensure a design is user-centred –
- The design is based upon an explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments.
- Users are involved throughout design and development.
- The design is driven and refined by user-centered evaluation.
- The process is iterative. (contains procedures which can be repeated to get better results)
- The design addresses the whole user experience.
- The design team includes multidisciplinary skills and perspectives.
The UCD idea seems to be mainly applied to the development of software, and the development of websites in particular. A major part of the process is the “rhetorical situation”, and in this case the rhetoric appears to be whatever message you want to communicate to your audience. The rhetorical situation has three components; audience, purpose and context.
“Personas” are developed as archetypal focuses of the design process. They are a sort of distillation of all the types of people the design is aimed at all rolled into one person, from information gathered from interviews. There’s also a secondary persona, and even an anti-persona, to represent the kind of people you’re specifically not aiming your design at.
“Scenarios” are produced where a period of time or sequence of events is played out in written form, with the personas appearing as characters within them. They can represent best case, worse case or “meh” case situations. Since the personas are given names and backstories, the idea seems to be that the people designing the product have a more concrete point of reference for their target audience and can work in a more informed way.