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User Centered Design [Part 1]: What is it and why is it important?

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User-centered design might be the most important concept to master if you want to make the most of your website. But for a design principle based on ease of use, it’s not always so easy to understand.

Not to worry – we’ll be presenting a series of posts covering all the good stuff you and your organization should keep in mind to make sure you are unlocking the power attainable through user-centered design.

What is User Centered Design?

At its core, user centered design is about empathy – rather than a designer building something strictly based on how they would use it or based on what makes sense to them, a user centered approach requires the designer to put themselves in the shoes of the person who will actually use the site.

Generational differences, technological literacy, physical abilities, cultural backgrounds, and so much more can all impact how we approach a tool like a website.

A user centered approach requires taking a step back, acknowledging these differences, and imagining how someone with different skills and experiences would engage with a product. This requires designers to understand who the intended user is and what accommodations they might need.

Why is User Centered Design Important?

Designing your website with your user in mind is the key to ensuring your site has the intended impact. When your users arrive at a site that is intuitive and natural for them to use, there is a much better chance they will engage with your content and heed your calls to action.

A well designed site will make it immediately clear to your user what’s in it for them – they’ll see the value and WANT to participate. Further, it will make it clear what they need to do. Seeing that value in taking action and knowing the steps to take are the building blocks of meaningful engagement and an overall effective user experience.

On the other hand, if you designed your site without prioritizing the user’s experience, your user will undoubtedly pickup on that choice. Users perceive unconsciously whether a system or experience has been designed with them in mind. If the font is too small for them to read, the language too chock full of jargon for them to understand, or the buttons placed in easily overlooked corners, they can sense that ensuring their engagement is not your top priority and ask themselves why they should bother.

So how do we avoid alienating our users? First we need to know who they are! Stay tuned for our next post that will dive into what you need to know about your users in order to design a site they can tell was made just for them.

Aero Design, Inc.

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