November is the month of World Usability Day, with its focus on user-centred design (UCD) – which seeks to put the needs of the end-user first in designing user interfaces for products – but what does this mean for us, how should we best support this?
The user’s experienced should be considered right from the start, not just a distinct design ‘phase’, so we know that we’re building the right thing as well as building it right.; indeed, the poster ‘designing the user experience’ from the User Experience Professionals Association (UxPA) shows the importance of this, including it during analysis as well as throughout the project.
“Only two industries talk about their customers as users; drug dealers and tech companies”, Edward Tufte.
This is great, from a first principles perspective; however I will admit to having a problem with the term ‘user-centered design’ itself. Leaving aside the dubious and old-school dependency on the term ‘user’; it is still very focused on technology.
It is far stronger to talk instead about customer experience design (CXD).
The strength of this term is that it works well when it comes to product design, and it’s also far broader, enabling us to incorporate it into service design, business process improvement, organisational design, corporate strategy, etc.
What we mean by this, is that rather than focusing solely on how someone will physically interact with a product, we start from the first principles of whether a product meets a need that a customer will value sufficiently to use and for which, commercially, they will pay. Then we move on to understanding the entire customer experience life-cycle (or journey) from the point at which a customer discovers a product, through enquiry, purchase, payment, set-up, use, assistance, and eventually discarding.
Only by considering what you want the customer experience to be at all touchpoints with the customer, can you truly consider a product to have been defined. Of course, to make it a success, you still need to assess the needs of, and the impact on, the organisation. However, as with good practice in business process optimisation, if you start from an external touchpoint and drive right through to the final ‘moment of truth‘ with the customer, you will have covered internal needs and impacts. This is why we refer to this as an ‘outside in’ approach.
Please note: an earlier version of this article was first published at Redvespa.com, my employer at the time.