What is User Centered Design

User centered design


User Centered Design (UCD) is a product development philosophy that focuses on the needs, wishes and limitations of the end user in all phases of the design and development cycle. Products that have been developed using the UCD method are optimized for end users and include them in the development process. With user-centered design, emphasis is placed on how the user needs or wants to use a product, rather than forcing them to adapt their behavior to use the product.

User-centered design is a common process in software development. The international standard ISO 13407 provides the basis for UCD. This standard defines the processes during a development cycle, but does not specify precise methods for user-centered design or for how an optimal user experience can be achieved.

Benefits of user centered design for users and developers

The aim of UCD is to manufacture products that offer a high degree of usability and an optimal user experience. ISO 9241-11 (1998) defines usability as the extent to which a product can be used by users in order to achieve certain goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specific context of use. Products designed and designed in accordance with the UCD philosophy thus enable the user to meet his needs in the simplest possible way. The optimized usability of an application reduces working hours and thus improves the productivity of users. It also leads to fewer errors that need to be corrected later.

Furthermore, with products designed with UCD, less training and documentation are required by the publisher. An optimized usability and user experience also lead to a lower fluctuation due to the higher satisfaction and motivation of the users. In addition, the user-centered design simplifies the maintenance of the product and the costs for the future redesign of the architecture are also reduced.

Process phases of user centered design

Illustration: User Centered Design - Author: Seobility - License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Although the basic principles of user-centered design are always the same and it is basically an iterative development process, there are different variants of the specific design of the design process. Typical of a UCD process for designing web applications with an optimal user experience, however, are the process steps of analysis, conception, implementation / design, evaluation and optimization.


This phase ensures that all business and user needs are considered before the design phase begins. Specific tasks during this phase are the stakeholder, user and target group analysis including the assessment of the experience and skills of future users, the development of personas and the definition of user scenarios. Furthermore, the definition of the usability goals, the definition of measurements and test goals as well as the implementation of field studies are part of the analysis.


The conception phase of user-centered design is a synthesis phase that aims to transfer the understanding of the users and their needs with regard to the user experience to the design of the user interface or the website. The purpose of this phase is to define the user interaction with the future system without designing it. The various application scenarios that were already developed in the analysis phase are described in detail in task flows and storyboards. In addition, wireframes are often created that can be delivered in the form of a clickable prototype and tested by end users to ensure that the proposed application meets their needs.


In user-centered design, the design phase is not an end in itself. Rather, it should be viewed as a way to solve problems and ensure an optimal user experience. A consistent, appealing, and clean graphic design helps strengthen a brand, present information in a meaningful way, and improve the user experience by creating an intuitive interface.

Evaluation & optimization

After the product has been created and shortly before its release, usability tests are carried out with users to evaluate the success of the product and the user experience. Success can be measured, for example, with the Usability Key Performance Indicator (KPI). Effectiveness (i.e. how well the system enables the user to achieve his goals) and efficiency (how much effort and time is required to carry out tasks) are tested. In addition, depending on the product, there are further tests that show how high the safety of use is, i.e. to what extent an environment including the devices, software, facilities or people is free from hazards. Last but not least, the satisfaction of the users, their subjective perception and their reactions are determined.

If deficiencies are found during the evaluation, the design is revised accordingly and the product is evaluated again. If the requirements and quality requirements are met, the product can be delivered. If it turns out that the level of information in this regard is insufficient, further analyzes may have to be carried out. With user-centered design, this approach helps to avoid errors that are otherwise only discovered after the product has been delivered to the user and can then only be remedied with considerable additional effort.

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