User-centred design (UCD) is a project approach that puts the intended users of a site at the centre of its design and development. It does this by talking directly to the user at key points in the project to make sure the site will deliver upon their requirements.
The stages are carried out in an iterative fashion, with the cycle being repeated until the project’s usability objectives have been attained. This makes it critical that the participants in these methods accurately reflect the profile of your actual users.
ISO 13407 outlines four essential activities in a user-centred design project:
• Requirements gathering – Understanding and specifying the context of use
• Requirements specification – Specifying the user and organisational requirements
• Design – Producing designs and prototypes
• Evaluation – Carrying out user-based assessment of the site
The following is a typical top-level characterisation of the most popular user-centred design methods:
What are they?
A focus group involves encouraging an invited group of intended/actual users of a site (i.e. participants) to share their thoughts, feelings, attitudes and ideas on a certain subject.
Organising focus groups within an organisation can also be very useful in getting buy-in to a project from within that company.
When to use
Focus groups are most often used as an input to design. They generally produce non-statistical data and are a good means of getting information about a domain (e.g. what peoples’ tasks involve).
It’s necessary to have an experienced moderator and analyst for a focus group to be effective.