The best design often comes out of a fun process. As a designer I enjoy what I do. I will readily admit that not every single second of design is going to be fun, those long hard slogs after the initial excitement of coming up with a great idea come to mind. However at the end of a project I like to think of it as a pleasant struggle, I love to able to look back with a sense of pride and smile about what I have achieved.
Below is some thoughts on how I believe a user-centred approach to design can create a more engaging experience for the audience. I hope you enjoy reading it.
“People should not have to think about an object when they are using it. Not having to think about it makes the relationship between a person and an object run more smoothly. Finding ideas in people’s spontaneous behaviour and realizing these ideas in design is what ‘Without Thought’ is about.”
Naoto Fukasawa, Without A Thought
I use empathic design techniques throughout my process in order to reveal the values and aspirations of users.
Everything has potential to be interesting and influential and observing everyday interactions often reveals subtle details about how we relate to the designed and natural world. By going into to context and observing people, using ideas such as contextual interviews and workshops and by keeping our eyes open to thoughtless acts designers can start to connect and empathise.
When we do this I believe that the things we design start to become intuitive to use, they become ‘without thought’.
Following An Iterative Design Process
An iterative design process goes hand in hand with using empathic design techniques. As designers we shouldn’t be afraid to go back in our process in order to achieve a more suitable final design.
Techniques such as personas and task models are great to measure solutions against, but designers should start to prototype early. Early prototypes don’t have to be flashy either, a white board full of post it notes or sketches is just as effective (often more so) and most of the time you will come to the same conclusion.
I try to involve the end users in the process as often as I can, this way you aren’t second guessing your audience. Often what people say and do is completely different, this is why observation and testing is important.
If I am creating a site map, I get the users to help using methods such as card sorting, then I test it. By doing this you are making your solutions intuitive to use. The earlier you test ideas the easier they are to re-engineer and adapt. Sometimes this might mean doing more research, or running more workshops, but the final design benefits hugely, and you will be happier as a result.
Often the problems we need to solve are complex and more than one skill set is required to really solve them. Design now days is often about being a hybrid thinker. We need to be able to connect the dots between what’s culturally desirable, technically feasible, and viable from a business point of view
A design team could spend months designing the perfect user focused website, but without a basic understanding of coding, how does anyone in the team know if what they are trying to achieve is remotely possible?
I have worked on a varied range of projects so far in my design career. My degree is in product design and I have often had work to understand different design methods. The great thing about this is that you discover how different disciplines approach design. A graphic designer, for example, will think about a project in a different way to a user experience designer.
“Innovation demands that you see the world through multiple lenses at the same time, and draw meaning from seemingly disparate points of data.”
Dev Patnaik, http://www.fastcompany.com/
As a junior designer it has been of real benefit to work in house and really get to grips with how businesses work and function. This has given me an understanding of how a company could actually implement what I am suggesting through first hand experience.
Finally, sometimes you can stuck in your own bubble, and being able to look at what you are doing from a different point of view can help bring new ideas into the open. Thats why workshops work, because you are involving people who have different educations, backgrounds and skills sets.
As designers we should not be afraid to use our intuition, sometimes we can do as much observation and user testing as we wan’t, but it is that one intuitive thought that makes a design great. After all designing things is what we do for a living, so we should be pretty good at it.
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