Discussions about user experience often generate conversations about user-centred and human-centred design. These terms are often weighed against or compared with product-centred design, but what do they mean and how do they differ? In this guide, we’ll explore these concepts in detail, providing information about the benefits of user-centred design and how designers are conjuring up new and innovative ways to cater to consumer preferences and new trends.
What is user-centred design?
User-centred design is a term that is often used interchangeably with human-centred design. The truth is that while there are similarities, there are also significant differences. The most useful way to break the definitions down and gain an understanding of how the concepts vary is to consider that in most cases, all users are human, but not all humans are users. Human-centred design focuses on creating products that appeal to humans as a race and take their similarities and their quirks into account. A product is developed using information and knowledge about human beings in general and their psychological functions and processes and physiological traits. Human-centred design places the requirements, preferences and limitations of humans at the forefront. User-centred design could be classified as a subset of human-centred design. The primary difference is that it goes further in targeting a buyer, a recipient or a customer. User-centred design appeals to a specific group of people or a target audience. The design process is more focused and it takes the views, feedback and traits of that particular buyer or group of buyers into account. There are myriad factors that are considered when drawing up and developing user-centred designs. Examples include age, gender and profession.
The Interaction Design Foundation defines user-centred design as:
“User-centered design (UCD) is an iterative design process in which designers and other stakeholders focus on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process. UCD calls for involving users throughout the design process via a variety of research and design techniques so as to create highly usable and accessible products for them.”
What is product-centred design?
Product-centred design works differently to user-centred design. The key difference lies in the relationship between the user and the product. With user-centred design, designers and developers will focus on implementing features or processes that are specifically designed to optimise experience and cater to the user’s preferences and how they want to use the product. With product-centred design, the user adapts their behaviour or their response or actions in order to be able to use the product.
The benefits of user-centred design
Products are created largely to respond to a need or a desire among consumers. Some products, for example, those that solve problems or enhance safety, serve an essential purpose, while others are sought-after because they bring happiness or enjoyment. No matter the type of product or packaging, it’s always beneficial for designers and inventors to consider the experience that the item will provide for the individual. User-centred design prioritises customer experience by understanding and responding to their needs and preferences. Adopting this approach throughout the design process is an effective means of creating products that are not only functional and usable, but also sought-after. While some businesses may focus on producing products and then searching for buyers to place orders, user-centred design seeks to find the audience, get to know them and then develop products that are specifically tailored to meet demand. The design process is underpinned by the goals, preferences and needs of the people who will actually buy and use the product, rather than predictions made about audiences or the opinions or targets of stakeholders or sales teams.
Statistics underline the importance of packaging design when influencing buyer habits and consumer actions. Forty per cent of buyers will share branded or unique packaging on social media and over 70% of shoppers admit that packaging design influences the purchases they make.
Features of user-centred design
When implementing user-centred design, it is always beneficial to follow steps and processes and to undertake extensive research and collect feedback during the early phases. Adopting a methodical approach minimises the risk of making mistakes, it provides a crucial insight into how buyers react to different products or features and it saves time and money later down the line. Here are some key principles to bear in mind:
- Understanding the requirements: the first step of any user-centred design project is understanding the requirements of the brief and the needs of the user.
- Collecting and using feedback: customer feedback is critical. Ask users to provide feedback about your ideas and take comments, opinions and suggestions on board. Gather ideas that give you in-depth information about the requirements of the user and use them to develop and tweak designs.
- Evaluating the product: the next step involves early evaluation of the product with the help and input of users.
- Integrating user-centred design with other facets of the development process: at this point, it is advisable to combine elements of the project to integrate user-centred design with other aspects to create the best possible finished article.
- Improve, modify and enhance: the final phase is an iterative process, which involves improving, modifying, adjusting and enhancing products to ensure optimal outcomes.
User-centred design and product-centred design are terms that are used frequently when developing ideas and concepts for products and packaging designs. User-centred design is often linked to human-centred design, but it is more targeted and specific and the two concepts differ in their primary objective. User-centred design is a process, which focuses on developing designs with a target buyer, a group or a specific demographic in mind. The aim is to create designs or products that cater to preferences and needs and provide a positive experience, rather than encouraging or forcing the user to adapt their behaviour in order to utilise the product.