February 8, 2023

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User Centred Design

Recognised competencies in user centred design

User centred design (UCD) is an approach to design that focuses on the needs and recognises the limitations of the end user. This approach emphasises the importance of involving users in the design process to create products and services that are both useful and usable. UCD also helps to ensure that users with accessibility and assisted digital needs are involved in the design.  

The following are some of the key competencies that are critical for effective user-centred design. It is worth noting that competencies do not refer to roles, as practitioners can have multiple competencies. It is possible to have one individual doing multiple competencies, however, this would depend on the size of the project, team and organisation. 

  1. UX Leadership - refers to individuals in leading and guiding user experience (UX) design within an organization. UX leaders are responsible for shaping the overall strategy and direction of UX design, ensuring that it aligns with the organisation's goals and objectives.  They drive the design vision, mentor teams, communicate the importance of UCD and ensure the design process and business objectives are interlinked. This influences organisation transformations towards user-centricity and practice recognition.   

  2. User Research - A user centred approach to design relies heavily on research to gain insight into user behaviour, needs and limitations to understand the problems service should solve for users. In new services, it investigates user appetite for change and the introduction of new products. These individuals conduct research that can include methods such as user surveys, diary studies, interviews and direct observation. In existing services, it is very effective for user research to work with Customer Service and analyse data to have a clearer understanding about the user's problems and needs and that is great supplement for scoping further user research.    

  3. Interaction Design - involves creating the way users interact with a product or service, including the user interface, navigation and overall user experience. Designers must have a deep understanding of how users interact with technology in order to create products that are intuitive and easy to use. Interaction designers have a good understanding of solving interface problems for users with accessibility requirements making it usable for screen readers and assistive technology devices.   ​​​​​​​

  4. Visual Design - involves creating the visual aspects of a product, such as the colour scheme, typography and the overall look and feel. In UCD, visual design individuals should create a visual language that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional for the user. There is also an importance for visual design to ensure that a company brand is present in the design and it does not inflict the accessibility and overall user visual experiences. Visual Design is not only dedicated for digital solutions as it should be physical material such as marketing collateral.     ​​​​​​​

  5. Service Design - the activity of planning and organising business resources (people, props, and processes) in order to improve (1) directly, the employees’ experience and (2) indirectly, the customers’ experience as referred in  Service Design: Study Guide (nngroup.com) It focuses on anyone who uses the service or can be affected by service, recognises the physical and digital artifacts within the service and defines the workflow based on the users’ behaviour. Service Designers present the service in the visual form called "service blueprint". ​​​​​​​

  6. Prototyping - the process of creating a physical or digital representation of a product or service to test and refine the design. Prototyping is an essential part of UCD as it allows designers to test journeys with users, communicate the design to stakeholders and reduces development rework time and cost.    ​​​​​​​

  7. Technical Writing - refers to the process of creating clear and concise documentation that supports the overall user experience. Technical writers in a user centred appraoch to design create user manuals, online help tutorials, and other forms of documentation that help users navigate a product or service. They provide users with the information they need to effectively use a product or service, while also enhancing the overall user experience.  ​​​​​​​

  8. Content Design - the process of creating clear, concise, and accessible content that supports the overall user experience. Content designers create text, images, and other forms of media that form the user interface of a product or service. They produce the content that is understandable to users with neurodiverse problems and low levels of literacy.  ​​​​​​​

  9. Usability Evaluation - refers to the process of testing a product or service to determine how well it meets the needs of the user. Usability evaluation is a critical component of a user centred approach to design as it helps designers to identify areas where the user experience can be improved and make design decisions based on user feedback. The results of usability evaluation should be used to inform the design process and development, allowing delivery team to make data-driven design decisions that improve the overall user experience. ​​​​​​​

  10. Performance and Analysis - refers to the overall process of designing and evaluating products and services from a user-centred perspective. The P&A process in a user centred approach to design involves several key steps, including user research, requirements gathering, prototyping, usability evaluation and interactive design. It also works after a service has gone live, focusing on continuous improvement, analysis of user experience and the achievement of business objectives, using various techniques like real time analytics or UX metrics frameworks (HEART, SUS) and business metrics frameworks (AARRR , RARRA, CX index etc..) 

In conclusion, UCD is a design approach that places the user at the centre of the design process. Effective UCD requires designers to have a range of competencies, including user research, interaction design, visual design, content and collaboration. By combining these competencies, designers can create products and services that are both useful and usable for the end user. 

Maciej Szmukla 
Head of User Centred Design, Jumar