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August 20, 2023 - 7 minutes

User-Centric Design: Applying Human-Centered Approaches to UX/UI

Prioritizing the user throughout the entire design process is a critical part of human-centered designs. 

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All UX/UI designers know that they’re designing for humans, right? It makes sense; your designs are to be used by humans so they’re naturally for humans. However, it’s not actually that simple. There are so many factors that contribute to the human experience that designing with a generic understanding of humanity isn’t enough; you need to fully understand your user, what they want, and how they browse your page to create a truly human-centered design. 

To better understand how to prioritize your user during the design process, let’s dive into the basics of user-centric design, human-centered approaches, and the overall importance of your user to your design process. 

What is User-Centric Design?

Let’s put it simply: user-centric design is just what it sounds like. It’s a design practice that follows the typical stages of any design, but puts the user first at every step. Here’s an example: you’re creating a design for a social services website that serves a large community of immigrants from lots of different backgrounds. It might be easier to create a website that’s quite similar to what you already have for citizens, but that simply won’t be effective for this separate group of people. You need to create an efficient and effective design that simultaneously conveys trust and hope to the user, while having different language options and thorough explanations of the services available to them.  

The version of the website that exists for citizens of that country probably uses complex language and words and terms that citizens are expected to understand. However, your audience for this new website has a totally different level of understanding when it comes to your country, meaning you need to be thorough, offer lots of explanations, and include foreign language options. 

This is just one example of how UX/UI designers need to prioritize the user from the very first step of the design process. We can break the user-centered design process down into five steps: 

Think like your user

This may seem super obvious, but lots of designers forget to include this basic step! Your first priority should be to put yourself into the shoes of the user and ask yourself these questions: who is your user? What is their goal? What are their main barriers to reaching this goal? Sometimes these answers might be obvious, but if you’re having trouble answering these questions, don’t be afraid to include your users in the design process and ask them to answer themselves! There’s nothing better than hearing about issues right from the horse’s mouth. 

If you have the ability to work with your users, try offering them the opportunity to provide feedback or simply watch them interact with the design–this will give you valuable insights.

Identify problem areas

Okay, you’ve talked to your users and you have an idea of what the issues are. The web design isn’t accessible, the language is too complex, or it’s impossible to find the information they need. So what do you do? Outline each problem area and make a list of the issues you wish to resolve with your design; remember, you can’t tackle every problem at once. It’s best to see where lots of users are struggling and resolve the bigger issues first and then handle smaller ones later on. 

Brainstorm solutions

You may be the best UX/UI designer in the world, but you will probably need to brainstorm a few different solutions before you land on the perfect one. Opening up brainstorming sessions with your entire team where you record every single idea can help you think about problems in new ways and introduce innovative and creative solutions. Remember this: not every idea is award-winning, but it could be useful paired with another idea or beneficial to your design process later on. 

Be open to all ideas and attack your problems with a truly open mind. 

Test your ideas

You have problems and you have solutions: let’s get to creating! With three crucial aspects defined (the user, their problems, and your solution), you can put what you’ve worked on into practice and see what’s actually viable in your design. Just like with the brainstorming session, don’t be afraid to try out different ideas and fail–the right solution is right around the corner.

Release to users

After you work on your design ideas and transform them into actual and real ideas, it’s time to release your design to the public! Although it might be tempting to just release them out there to the world, it’s probably best to move slowly and test them out on a small group of users before you release them to the general public. 

Now that you’re convinced of the importance of focusing on the user, let’s dive a bit deeper into what you can actually do to create human-centered designs. 

Human-Centered Approaches to UX/UI 

When working to create a design that’s truly catered to your user, you need to ensure that your design is ethical, easy to learn, user-friendly, intuitive, and error-free. Why? Because these five basic principles of human-centered approaches to UX/UI design ensure that everyone has equal access to the design, without requiring an advanced knowledge of tech or computers. 

Ready to learn how to prioritize the user in your designs? Here’s what you can do:

  • Use user data to your advantage, gathering important information: to create a truly user-centered design, you need to fully understand the user, what they want, and what they need. To do this, pay attention to their behavioral patterns, such as what they click on and what emails they open, in addition to colors they respond better to or if the images used on the website are effective. 

  • Use your brand guidelines to create a familiar user experience: you want your users to recognize your brand every time they see an ad, post, or even head to your website. Make sure you use familiar graphics, fonts, colors, and styles so that you create a sense of belonging and comfort with your user, encouraging them to come back again and again. 

  • Make the user experience easy: no one wants to feel like they need a PhD to understand your website content and if users are bombarded with large amounts of text, they might feel unwelcome or overwhelmed and simply go elsewhere for whatever they’re looking for. To avoid this, make sure your designs are soft, inviting, and contain the necessary information in accessible manners, such as in lists, dropdown menus, or options to click to see more information. 

  • Focus on improvement over time: the UX/UI design field is one of continuous improvement over a long period of time; user needs will change or you’ll see a need to add more information/services to your design. Be open to changing the design in the future and ensure you listen to user feedback to improve any future iterations of your design. 

  • Embrace simplicity: it might be tempting to include all your services or client testimonials right on your homepage so that users see it immediately, but simplicity is key when it comes to human-centered designs. No one wants to be overwhelmed with text, graphics, or information as soon as they navigate to a web page; clearly define the absolutely essential information that needs to be on the homepage and find ways to incorporate the other details onto other pages–carefully, of course. 

Real Life Examples of Human-Centered Design

It might seem overwhelming and borderline impossible to create truly human-centered designs, but it is a reality. In fact, these companies have done it quite well: 

  • FitBit: many of today’s users might not even recall when we didn’t have an easy and portable way to track our steps, calories, workouts, sleep patterns, and much more. But FitBit saw a need for users to have a long-term way to track these important details, compete with friends, and understand the benefits of healthy habits. 

  • Duolingo: you might have seen memes of the Duolingo owl reminding you to complete your daily challenge, but the Duolingo user design was created incredibly well, bringing the user’s goal of learning a foreign language to the forefront of the design with a clear and intuitive process for advancing through the course, fun marketing strategies, and appealing to the human desire for progress and achievement with awards, recognition, and a clear outline of what you’ve completed. 

  • Netflix: Netflix didn’t just put all our favorite shows and movies in one place; they managed to combat restlessness and boredom by offering users personalized recommendations to what they might want to watch next, the ability to rank what they’ve seen, and all the information you might want about what you’re watching. They saw what users were asking for and needing and incorporated that into their app design. 

We’re sure you get it now: user-centered designs with human-centered approaches are the only future of UX/UI design. After all, if your design isn’t ideal for your user, it won’t meet your goals. So when you start working on your next design, make sure you prioritize your user throughout the entire process. 

Are you ready to take the jump into UX/UI and create intuitive and user-friendly designs that capture the attention of your user, bringing them back for more? Then Ironhack is the perfect place for you. 

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