Building the tool that online ad agency needs most has taken on new meaning for me. For months I have been gathering research that will lead to the formation of a set of agency products. I am developing my plans, product ideas and observing agencies business problems. I have defined the common agency process, developed personas and outlined the typical task analysis.   Now that I am ready to begin vetting out a new product specifications, I stepped back to answer the most important question of the day….

What is User-Centered Product Design?

User-centered design (UCD) is a method for designing ease of use into the total user experience with products. Key to this approach is the focus on understanding the users—their environment, their goals and tasks necessary to achieve these goals, their skills, and their abilities.

Throughout the development cycle, feedback and input from users is gathered to ensure that the design is based on real data, and not the product development team’s imagination about what users do.

Using this method enables the efficient design of effective interactive systems as UCD expedites and simplifies gathering user feedback and incorporates it into the design process.

Specifically, user-centered design means that product teams start by observing and working with its users. Throughout the design process, users judge whether the product meets their requirements by evaluating prototypes.

After a period of iterative evaluation and design, the technology is built to fit the mockups.

User-centered design is about describing the whole user experience, not just what the users see on the page. It is about relating user goals to application functions, as opposed to taking requirements from someone and turning out web pages.

The deliverable for user-centered design is a product that is useful, usable, and desirable to users, not just the final HTML, programming, or implementation.

Note that user-centered design is different from and complementary to market research. Market research strives to answer the question, “What product should be built?” Marketing knows what customers are asking for, what drives their behavior at the point of sale, what they will pay for, and what determines their purchasing habits.

User Experience, on the other hand, knows what customers or clients actually do, what makes a product simple or difficult, usable or not. Thus, User Experience is better suited to answer the question, “How should the product be designed?”

Marketing, User Experience, and Engineering offer a spectrum of perspectives in product development. Creating the right synergy between these functions so that a successful product is built is not an easy task.

Experience Planner/Designer In The Seat of Product Developer via @jpenabickley