Illustration: Sandra Kuan
Be resolutely user-centric. Centre the application on the user. In other words, and more simply, think user.
These principles are regularly raised with regards to the ROI of a digital application. A Google search on the subject will provide us with optimized methodologies and quantifiable results.
So be it, we will think like the user from now on.
All that’s left is to determine who the user is. Who is the person that exercises such influence over the relevance of our design?
Figure this out and suddenly we uncover an area of subjectivity and fluctuation. The design phase often leads us to call upon the ordinary user, sometimes even the average Joe. For example, “For me, as a user […]” is an intrinsic part of any discussion surrounding an interface.
The user is only average when it comes to his cognitive ability in a given experience: we share the capacity and limits to identify signals and process messages.
On the other hand, the user is rarely ordinary or average because we can recreate his path, slide him into a marketing segment or establish his/her profile.
The user in the design phase is a cluster of perspectives on the use of an application. He embodies reasons to visit, usage conditions and the behavioural profile that builds uniqueness, utility and relevance in our digital approach.
What does “designing an optimized iPad application” imply? Starting from the device’s specifications to define the most relevant services in mobile? Selecting functionalities by assuming that iPad users are, for the most part, decision-makers and influencers? Or perhaps it’s both?
The user that we call upon is helpful when it comes to decision making and negotiation if:
Traditional personas, in creating archetypes of usage and visit motives, allow the design to be challenged by user requirements: what is X looking for and under what circumstances? However, the conditions against which we measure success are usually unavailable with personas.
For a user-centric approach to provide long-term assistance in the decision-making process, the user must bring both his visit habits and the measure of his success to the table. If we create an interface or an application targeted towards a particular user’s habit, but still measure its relevance by calling upon the average Joe user, we will remain, to quote J. Gracq, in a “closed circle of avoidance, substitution, and fluctuation.”
Being user-centric means to subscribe to a (usage) path from the initial phase right through to measurement: to establish an Analytics vision in UX design sites or information architecture.