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The Myths Of User-centered Design

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Posted by Binh Pham on 29 Nov 2019 at 03:37

User-centered Design (UCD) very much depends on user-research via a mixture of investigative methods and tools (e.g., surveys and interviews) and generative ones (e.g., brainstorming) to develop an understanding of user needs. Underlying these researches are our assumptions and beliefs about different factors including people, their habits, expertise, technology or even responsibility. In this article, we will go through some common traps we might catch in UCD. 

 
MYTH #1. USER RESEARCH CAN TELL YOU HOW TO DESIGN THE PRODUCT
 

It's a popular belief that after a user research, specific details on how the product should look like will be revealed. People conduct user research with the expectation that its findings will immediately tell designers what needs to be done for an efficient design. 

 

person writing on white paper

 

However, while user research provides valuable information for product design, it does not immediately generate detailed and specific design solutions. Findings on user research can contribute to an innovation but they do not directly produce one. It may require additional effort from iterative design cycles.

 

MYTH #2. USER RESEARCH ADD EXTRA COSTS TO THE PROJECT

 

Very often, companies build their products purely based on their assumptions about end-users without involving real users in the design process because they don’t want to incur the costs of time and money for user research. Businesses tend to see user research as an additional time and money expense. 

 

fan of 100 U.S. dollar banknotes

 

However, the real question is: how should that amount of time and money be spent to generate something useful for an optimal product design? The truth is the cost of not understanding users is far greater. Producing something that does not match with the users need and expectations may lead to a poorly designed solution and consequently lead to a higher cost and time spent to fix the product.

 

MYTH #3. USER INTERVIEW SHOULD BE BASED ON A PREDEFINED LIST OF QUESTIONS

 

In many cases, user interviews are conducted through a predefined list of questions and this same set of questions is applied to every user interview. However, this might not be the best approach to do a user interview. According to Aturo Rios, UX Designer at Wizeline, “interviewing entails more than scheduling sessions with participants and asking a series of predefined questions. It requires designers to develop what Indi Young defines as cognitive empathy: discovering the underlying thoughts and emotions that guide someone else’s decisions and behaviors.”

 

two person writing on paper on brown wooden table

 

An interview therefore should be flexibly adjusted depending on the personality of the participants. UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian conducted a study which revealed that only 7% of what we communicate depends on the content of the message, 38% corresponds to voice (intonation, tone and volume), while an outstanding 55% can be attributed to body language. This is why it is so important as interviewers to develop skills that allow us to read the subtext in our participants and pay attention to their non-verbal communication. By observing and connecting with participants, we can gain a lot more valuable insights about their behaviors rather than sticking to a predetermined set of questions.

 

MYTH #4. USERS TEND TO BE MORE EMOTIONAL THAN RATIONAL

Although classical economics taught us that users make a decision based on a process with careful analysis of cost and expected utility, research findings show that people tend to base their decisions on emotions rather than rationality. According to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, “Even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion.” 
 

 

Therefore, designers should learn about human decision making and go beyond usability to create products that effectively influence our behavior. 

 

MYTH #5. IN USER-CENTERED DESIGN, WE ONLY CARE ABOUT USERS

 

As the name says it all, human factor is the main focus in human-centered design. However, it should not be the only factor that we consider in the whole design process. Human factors, social factors and technological factors all interact together and affect human activities as well as emotions.

 

(Source: Winograd & Woods, 1997)

 

As these factors interact with each other and directly affect users as well as the way we will form a product or service design, we should carefully look into all these relevant factors throughout the process in order to achieve the goals of implementing a human centered design approach.

 
SUMMARY
 

Recognizing these myths is a big step toward executing a more effective and impactful user-centered design process. By understanding thoroughly about users and consider the full spectrum of possible interventions, we can deliver a powerful and useful product that perfectly match users needs and expectations. 

 

You can read more about User-Centered Design at www.eastagile.com/blog. We have created a list of techniques that you can use in a UX design process. Many of them will help you put the user center stage in your project. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Contact us for more information. We’ll quickly get back to you with the information you need.

 

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