|InfoVis.net>Magazine>message nº 30||Published 2001-02-19|
|También disponible en Español|
The digital magazine of InfoVis.net
In a simplified way, we can define User Centred Design (UCD) as the practice of designing products in such a way that their users can use it with minimum stress and maximum efficiency (after a definition by Woodson*). At the end it is the name that has been receiving in the last years what in the U.S. is known as Human Factors Engineering and in Europe is called Ergonomics.
Nevertheless, this change of name comes from something more than a unification of criteria. In the last few years the customer has become the centre of attention of all the operations of a company. The above mentioned definition involves all the departments that take part in one way or another in the launching of a product. It’s not only a set of techniques, but a philosophy of how to do the work.
Jeffrey Rubin describes the three main principles of UCD in his interesting book Introduction to Usability Testing as:
Clearly this is a philosophy, like Total Quality Management or Innovation Management that involves the whole company and is interdisciplinary by nature, since a product must be usable, but also attractive, it must solve a market need and should have a low cost…
Anyone that has launched a product taking into account from the beginning the needs of the user and the usability of the product knows all too well the serious difficulties that it poses:
For this reason we can’t approach UCD in a naive way. It’s not only a matter of asking the user. For years the most serious companies have been using ergonomics in the design of chairs or working places, the Software Engineering has developed methodologies to create (relatively) easy to use user interfaces. In the same way the web development is beginning to show an increasing interest for the UCD, beyond the mere final usability test, performed once the structure and main features of the web are already in place.
The experience with the latest products in whose development I’ve taken part shows that UCD pays back amply the effort of changing the mentality, integrating with other departments and overcoming the difficulties of interpretation and statistical evaluation of the user response. The products obtained this way go clearly beyond what could be expected by using traditional methods
*Woodson, Wesley E. "Human Factors Design Handbook", 1981 McGraw-Hill
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