Build Great User Experiences with User-Centered Design

Jason Beres [Infragistics] / Wednesday, March 24, 2021

We all use websites and mobile apps every day, some excite us, others leave us drained and frustrated. One contributes to an enhanced feeling about the company, the other detracts and may well cause us to never return.

In fact, according to The App Attention Span Study, produced by AppDynamics and the University of London, “90% of users reported that they stopped using an app due to poor performance.”

So, what separates the good from the bad? And how can you incorporate techniques that make the difference. The best use a technique known as user-centered design (UCD).

In this article, you will learn:

What is User-Centered Design?

User-centered design is a series of processes that focus intensely on user needs and preferences. It considers the target user’s requirements, objectives, and feedback. It engages actual users consistently, using research and engagement. Every design decision is evaluated in the context of whether it delivers value to the user. User-centered design gives you a way of adding an emotional impact to your products.

User Centered Design Process

User-centered design includes multiple phases: identify need considers the people who will use the product; context of use examines what they will use it for and under what conditions they will use it; specify requirements identifies any business requirements or user goals that must be met for the product to be successful; produce design solutions typically includes rough concept to finished design; evaluate designs considers usability testing to ensure direct feedback from real users; and finally system satisfies involves deploying the product and evaluating that it satisfies user needs.

Why User-Centered Design is Important

As touched on earlier, UCD makes your product desirable — and keeps people using it. The process helps to understand users’ needs and preferences regarding features of a product, task, goals, user flows, and more. At the end of the day, UCD has become one of the most important user experience requirements – that of being user-centered. It should be implemented throughout the entire customer experience, no guessing, no personal opinion. What matters is what your users say and do. Every “touchpoint” that the customer has with the product should be analyzed, well designed and developed.

Dr. Donald Norman, a cognitive science researcher, often considered the godfather of UX whose 1988 book The Design of Everyday Things remains a sort of UX bible, said that design decisions should be based on the needs and wants of users, including:

  • Empathy
  • Optimism
  • Iteration
  • Creative confidence
  • Belief in making
  • Embracing ambiguity
  • Learning from failure

User-centered design creates a unique chance to design together with communities. User-centered designers deeply understand the folks they’re trying to serve. They create lots of ideas and make innovative new products rooted in people’s actual needs.

To design in a user-centric way, identify the people who will use the product, what they’ll use it for, and the conditions under which they will use it. Observe people’s lives and hear their hopes and needs.

Designing a Dashboard with User-Centered Design

Here’s an example of some steps in the UCD process you might use to design a dashboard.

Who is my Audience?

By nature, dashboards serve the executive and management levels of an organization; even so, the individuals of this user base will be diverse. To better understand who you are designing for, determine their experiences and abilities.

  • Consider the user’s tech savviness: How capable is the user with a particular digital platform or device? Are certain UI elements or gestural interactions common or unknown to them?
  • Understand their analytical capabilities: Are they able to recognize problems or opportunities based on the information presented?  Will they know what to do later or do they need to be guided to their next step? How can visual design enhance their capabilities?
  • Know the user’s prior familiarity with the information being presented: What do they already know? Will information need to be explained?

  User Centered Design Dashboard

The user of this dashboard not only is experienced with sales management, but also holds the analytical capabilities needed to make the connections between these diverse data visualizations. The grouping of information, connections through color, and visual explanations of charts enhance the user’s ability to detect trends.

How Will the Dashboard be Used?

A dashboard can be used in many ways so designing with the user’s workflow in mind will add structure to the design decision process.

  • Consider the user’s environment: Will they be using the dashboard in their own office or in the field? Will the user be in-doors, out-doors, or both?

  • Know how the user will typically view the dashboard: Is it to be shown on a large presentation screen, a mobile device, or on a piece of paper?

  • Understand the amount of time the user has to review the data: Will they slowly and meticulously review each metric, or do they need to quickly and deliberately scan the dashboard for key numbers?

  • Consider collaboration: Would it serve the user to be able to share or export information from the dashboard? Does the dashboard need to format to print?

  • Connectivity of the dashboard may serve your audience as well: Will your audience require an internet connection to achieve their goals? Do they require live data sources?

Usability Testing — Essential Part of User-Centered Design

An essential part of user-centered design is usability testing, also known as user testing. Unlike functionality testing that verifies that the functions of a product or service works as intended, user testing measures the ease of use and intuitiveness of a product or service. It asks users to perform a task and observe what they do, where they succeed and where they have difficulties, which is the essence of UCD.

There are many options for how to user test, from in-person meetings to remote user testing to moderated or unmoderated user testing. Remote user testing is a way to test how easy it is to use your software with people who are in different geographical locations. It can include testing a design prototype of your software before coding begins or even to test an already built-out website.

For those designing software, remote user testing lets a developer or usability analyst get fast feedback before a developer writes the code that turns the design — or prototype — into a completed app. It differs from traditional usability testing that brings users and researchers together in one place to conduct the test.   

Design, Usability Testing and More with Indigo.Design

Indigo.Design is a complete design-to-code system from Infragistics that is built on the concept of UCD by integrating prototyping, design systems, user testing, and code generation.

The Indigo Design System is a Sketch library that is included with Indigo.Design and contains various components (symbols) that allow a designer to create intricate user interfaces and leverage pre-made palettes, typographies and assets such as icons and illustrations. On top of that UI components are built to offer design time flexibility through various states and templates. To improve your productivity there is also a collection of patterns such as product details layouts, various forms, and pricing tables among others.

To see how this works, check out how to create a Sketch artboard.

Indigo.Design also offers prototyping and usability testing. You can import your Sketch document and share it in as an interactive prototype. This will allow your stakeholders to view your prototype on any device and give feedback via comments.

When you are ready to user test your prototype, Indigo.Design offers a strong user testing function. Here’s what you can learn:

  • Test Analytics Overview- Get key insights including the test success rate, total number of users who accomplished each task with your test, and the average time spent on each task during your user test.
  • Completion Funnel– Observe an aggregate representation of the expected user path, as well as the actual paths users took while trying to complete each task within your user test.
  • User Segments– Gain additional insights by automatically segmenting users based on the actions they took and whether they completed a task.
  • Participation Details Table– Dig deeper and overserve session details for each individual user, including a video, voice and/or facial images captured during the test.

 How To Create a Usability Study

The above example shows an Indigo.Design usability test with 3 tasks, and each task has multiple steps. Once users complete the test, designers or analysts will have direct feedback on the prototype’s usability.


Watch this 90-sec unmoderated user testing video to see how you can start your own user test. This key step helps to ensure your app meets the principle of UCD, which is to make it desirable, so your users continue to use it.