User-centred design

Top tips for user-centred design


User-centred design is a methodology that puts the user at the centre of all design decisions. You can apply the principles of user-centred design in web design, as well as new products or service development.

The three main principles of user-centred design are to:

  • focus on user needs, goals and limitations (throughout the design process)
  • measure and test developed designs with real users
  • keep working on it until the product or service meets all of the needs of its users

It's important to find the right target users of your planned product or service to make sure you can carry out meaningful user-focused research. You should engage with these end-users early on and continually throughout your design process.

You should also:

  • make user-centred design a shared priority for the whole design team
  • integrate any research findings into the ongoing design work
  • schedule time for regular feedback to the whole team
  • utilise user stories, videos, photographs, checklists and catchphrases to make research findings vivid and enduring

Give users space to express themselves

Try to keep your user research sessions as intimate as possible. Having several members of your team present is likely to inhibit participants. Protect your participants' confidentiality and reassure them you are evaluating the design problems and not them personally.

If several people from your team need to carry out the research, it may be better for them to do it individually and share their findings afterwards.

Prototype, evaluate, reiterate

You should create prototypes, sketches or functional production models of your ideas, and gather user feedback on these as early as possible in the design process.

Depending on the nature of your project and the stage it's at, suitable prototypes can include:

  • written scenarios or sketches outlining functionality
  • computer-based simulations of functionality
  • fully working models that represent the full functionality

A viable prototype enables end-users to give feedback on how well the product or service meets their needs, and on its usability. You can gain fresh perspectives by also testing prototypes on new users who have had no previous involvement with your project.

Find out more about the user-centred design process.