A brief introduction to user-centered design
January 14 2018

In January 2014, Dinnr - an exciting new recipe delivery app - officially shut down after raising £60,000 in investment funding. Despite looking like the next big thing in food delivery, Dinnr saw but a trickle of orders coming in during the first week. It failed to grow its user base substantially whilst continuing to haemorrhage cash, and was eventually forced to close. 

The problem with Dinnr was that people were perfectly happy with the way they currently shopped for and prepared food. It was, in the words of its founder, "a classic case of a solution looking for a problem". Dinnr got carried away with the possibility of its business and failed to put the user at the heart of its design. It failed to be user-centered.

What is user-centered design?



They serve their user's needs because the user was instrumental in the conception, design and development of the app. This is the essence of user-centered design. Without the input of its audience, a user-centered app would never have been born. 

In practical terms, this means involving your user with as many stages of the build process as possible. Firstly, your user and the challenges they face should be crucial to the conception of your app idea. As you continue through each layer of design and development, user feedback should be the driving force for the decisions you make. User-centered design makes few assumptions, preferring instead to take something to market fast, test it with real users, then make changes based on feedback.


When it works

User-centered design, when done really right, can be a fast track to rapid acquisition by your target market. If there is a real problem in the world, and your application provides the only real solution to that problem, then frequent use becomes a no-brainer for users. 



or even totally pivot the platform according to user needs. Your team should watch user behaviour very closely and layer focus group time into each development phase.


When it doesn't


Seeking feedback at every stage can significantly slow down your app's build. Too much feedback can also overwhelm your decision-making ability and provide conflicting sources of guidance. Being able to balance different viewpoints and find optimal solutions is a skill that you'll need to develop.

Also, mistakes in your feedback sessions could lead you to fatally erroneous assumptions. Individuals are often the worst judges of their own behaviour and tend to bias assessments towards an ideal image of themselves and their habits. If an app seems beneficial users are likely to respond positively towards it, even if, in practice, they would never actually use it. 

All these issues can stifle development or even lead you in totally the wrong direction.


Asking the right questions 


There is a significant difference between asking for a user's opinion and asking questions that give indications towards their actual behaviour. Consider the difference between the following questions:


"Would you buy this product for £20 if it was on the market tomorrow?"


"Would you like to buy this product now for £20?"


The first question elicits an imaginative response from the user; they must picture themselves making the decision to buy in the future. The second, however, is much more immediate and gives a clearer indication of your user's actual response to your product. 


So, is your app user-centered? How much have you involved your users throughout its development?  Get in touch with us if you'd like to hear more about our approach to design.

Blog Weight