User Experience & Design

How User Centred Design Can Help Us Build Great Products

February 21, 2018

Stuart Arthur

Chief Technology Officer

Consumers are inundated with ads, so it’s vital that your ad catches the eye and immediately grabs interest.

There’s a lot to consider when creating a product your customers will love. Agile helps us to deliver quickly, but we also need to build the right thing — what people need and love to use, which is why user centred design matters.

Our goal is to gather some data, probably make some assumptions, build something and get feedback. Then we can iterate, but firstly, let’s understand the cost of making changes. If we create sketches on paper we can change things very easily and quickly but as we increase fidelity things become more expensive (and take more time!), and when we start creating software this is multiplied by a significant factor. I’m not saying to design everything upfront, but there’s a runway needed, and that should be considered.

So, with that in mind, we need to do some research into the market and with potential customers to inform any design work. This can involve talking to people, surveys, showing people sketches etc. and we need to capture this data and dialogue in a format (user stories) we can work with before we start to move into creating designs or prototypes. It will also help inform personas and the key functional areas that make up a product or system.

User stories are an effective format because they keep the focus on the ‘what’ not the ‘how’ and are effective challenges to be solved. Now, one of the problems with writing stories and turning them into a backlog is that that ends up being a long unstructured list, which is where a technique called user story mapping can really help, which involves creating a big picture view of the product and helps identify key activities, themes, epics, and stories. You can then identify gaps in your stories and also define potential releases, which should be end-to-end slices or iterations through the key activities, so your first release or MVP would be a very simple working version of the product.

The key takeaway is to ensure the scope of the product is defined and understood before design or development activities take place and whilst it will involve it keeps the cost of change low and enables you to deliver a simple prototype to test your idea. A cracking example of this is a startup business who could use WhatsApp groups or chats to offer a service and gain customers before they even begin thinking about offering a native app, MVPs can be a lot simpler than we all might think.

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