There is quite a lot of evidence both made by researcher and companies such as the Standish group and Google that one of the key success factors when developing computer systems is user involvement.
If you want to work with user involvement in your projects there are many user centered processes to choose from such as UCSD, rapid contextual design, and participatory design. These processes vary some in their values and ways of working, but I have chosen to see them as complimentary and when used in practice they are all good in different ways.
There is even an ISO standard that defines user centered design for those who are curious.
User centered design processes are iterative, and you iterate either between all the stages of the process, or the last three stages depending on the complexity of the organization, the requirements and the system built.
The first step in these user centered processes is to understand the context of use where you specify the user and organizational requirements. This is usually done through using one or several of the following methods:
- Meetings with users
- Field studies
- Vision seminars
After you have done work on understanding the context of use you move on to specifying the user requirements. This is usually done through using one or several of the following:
- Personas descriptions
- User Stories
- Usability goals
- Vision seminar documentation
When this is done, you work with producing design solutions of different kinds. This is usually done through using one or several of the following methods:
- Paper prototypes
The last step in this iterative design process is the evaluation of the prototype. This is usually done through using one or several of the following methods:
- Expert evaluation
- Prototype interview
- Formal evaluation (in a lab)
- Informal evaluation
Knowing how to use user centered methods, in what context and in what format is really a professional skill in itself, and I will not elaborate further on the topic in this blog post but recommend the books Rapid Contextual Design and Användracentrerad systemutveckling (in Swedish) for the curious reader.
The next blog post in this series will elaborate on the problems encountered when trying to establish or institutionalize user centered design and UX in organizations.