User-centred Design

Magic of the Problem

User-centred design has both formal and informal aspects. Informally, it is the creation of elements "for the purpose of affecting a 'user' in some way," the last half of the definition of design used in this project. Formally, it encompasses the fields of "user-centred design", "functionalism", "programmatic design" and "ergonomics" (and any number of other buzz-words). In user-centred design, the pattern store which is used is the project's programme, and user needs into details for the final design.

Methods for determining user requirements and project programmes are various and often quite involved. Most architects rely on unstructured client interviews and statements of programme. Other disciplines, particularly information design (including technical writing), have involved, complex systems for the collection, transformation and testing of programme. These systems will often involve the creation of questionnaires, the development of mock-ups, and the statistical analysis of results to determine best-fit. These more advanced methodologies normally include highly systematised views of the design process, something which tends to be foreign and "restrictive" to most traditional design students.

One of the greatest critiques brought against designs developed with user-centred design is a lack of "connection" or "identification" with the user. This is normally due to the reliance on the technical requirements of the design for the creation of "order", or the development of too limited a model of the user. Often cultural and personal associations are absent from the forms created, making the resulting projects seem antiseptic and cold. Conversely, user-centred design is often trumpeted as being responsive, intelligent and efficient, since it can serve to tightly focus the design on the needs of the user.

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Document Name: tc.genorg.gen.hands.user.htm
Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
Reproduction for other than personal use prohibited without express written permission from the author.