Nowadays, User Centered Design has been embedded in many design works. This essay seeks to explore the nature of this approach. This essay is split in to four sections. The first section is to provide a definition for User Centered Design while the second section will explain the benefits of using this approach with examples. I will then move on to discuss the limitations of User Centered Design and a conclusion will come afterwards. What is User Centred Design?
User Centred Design is an approach which aims at increasing the usability of products, and therefore making them more effective in meeting users' needs. This approach requires the designer to focus on the users throughout 'The planning, design and development of the product.' (UPA resources, no date) Norman (1999) described user centred design as 'Transforming difficult tasks into easy ones.' It requires the designer to study the users before designing. User Centred Design approach often requires a great deal of involvement from the users during the process. Carrying out this approach often includes collecting end users' opinion right before the start of the project, as well as during the design process, and designing with them. The objective of this is to allow the designers to have a good understanding of the subjects who will use the product. Therefore, good interaction between designers and users is the key under this approach. UCD is widely recognized and there is an international standard which serves as a benchmark and a guideline. International standard ISO 13047:Human-centered design process outlines the 5 stages of a typical UCD design, which are identifying need for human centered design, specifying the context of use, specifying requirements, creating design solutions and evaluating designs. (UPA Resources, no date) These steps define only general procedures but not exact methods. In fact, these standards do not outline how each phrase should be carried out. For instance, specifying the context of use can be done by surveys, observations, interview and many other methods. Advantages of User Centred Design
Norman (1999) first suggested UCD is essentially a series of procedures that simplifying difficult tasks through exploiting natural properties of people and of the world, simplifying the structure of tasks, making both execution and evaluation sides of an action visible, exploiting natural constraints and designing for error. Aesthetics is not considered as a need in his original definition of UCD. Needs of end-users in study during a UCD process should not be only those associated with functions of a product, but also users' unexpressed needs including, but not limited to, needs for aesthetics. Norman (2004) introduced three levels of user centered design namely Visceral design, Behavioral design and Reflective design. Visceral design is about the appearance of the product which aims at capturing people's attention that they would never forget it or replace it with others. A design that people love it when they see it the first time is a successful visceral design. The Muji Bath Radio is essentially a radio which is designed to be used in bathrooms and it fits in with the bathroom with a playful element. This product is designed by Industrial Facility. It is fun only when it gathers with the Muji refillable shampoo bottle, they appear to be a family; the bottle itself and even the label of the shampoo are of the same size with the speaker of the radio. Using it is very straightforward, simply turning the top to adjust the volume and on or off while the AM and FM tuning section is at the bottom. The radio is sealed to ensure it is water resistant to protect the radio due to the environment that it is being used (Fig. 1-3). (Industrial Facility, 2009) Behavioral design is the functional part of a design. The product needs to be functional and easy to use. Norman suggested that even some products are complicated and...