10 KEY PRINCIPLES OF USER CENTERED DESIGN

1. Design for the users and their tasks

Isolation does not work for interactive computer systems since they have to support those using them to perform what is required. Centered for support to the users which is key in making them user-centered and task-oriented. During development and this includes the whole period, it is important for the developer to consider the characteristics of the user population, the tasks involved in the real world and the specified environment.

2. Maintain consistency

The users need a system that is easy to learn with minimal and understandable requirements. The behavior of interface elements should be consistent. In fact, consistency will start at the designing phase so as to integrate with the existing components in a computer system. You can have a new design approach to counter interaction but what is most important is for you to look at how well it contributes to consistency issues. This will determine how users will view your approach and the time taken to learn.

3. Use simple and natural dialogue

The core application of a system should be incorporated with proper interaction to enable a dialogue with the user. The user should see only the relevant information that is essential for task completion because each time irrelevant information is added, it puts the user in a more complicated situation. It is advisable for the developer to use plain English and use vocabulary that is relevant to the targeted audience. Define the terminology so that it carries the same meaning.

4. Reduce unnecessary mental effort by the user

Users like to concentrate on the task at hand and worry less or not at all of the tool and its interaction with the designed application. They are more frustrated with complicated interaction with the computer or any other mobile device compatible with the application. Why? They are distracted from the main work.

Too much effort invested in learning the operation part makes them less efficient and prone to errors. This can certainly cost a business that heavily relies on the outcome of a task. The frequency of tasks is necessary since users don’t have to memorize information from a previous part of the system that is to be used in the next part. Instructions on how to use should be clearly defined and can be retrieved when needed.

5. Provide adequate feedback

Users need assurance that their actions have been successfully executed. This can be made evident by a change in appearance when completion is achieved successfully. If it takes longer, an indicator is useful to show that processing is still in progress, and this keeps the confidence of a user in shape. What is kept away is the information providing status about the internal affairs of the system.

Various levels of interaction should be backed up by feedback. At a lower level, confirmation can be received when a control operation is successful. A good example is a button appearing somehow pressed in to indicate that the user has already pressed it. Long operations can be verified by the system upon completion.

6. Provide adequate navigation mechanisms

Users being able to navigate with ease are another vital principle for them to know their position. This is made possible by the application of an efficient and consistent mechanism that assigns titles to the current windows and use of indicators like page numbers and bars for scrolling. Other things that can be included are an overview, history of visited areas and a navigation map.

You need to provide clear routes between the different windows that the user is engaged in. The form of provision should be appropriate for the user while at each stage of the intended task.

Sometimes, users can find themselves in areas that they do not intend to be in. There should be a clear emergency exit that can be used to leave an unwanted state without having to go through it like a Cancel button.

7. Let the user take charge

The user knows what he or she needs, and the developed system provides the solution. For the user to do what is required, they should be able only to take what is required and leave the rest to support an individual request. Constraints evoked by the system should as minimal as possible which prompts the developers to provide easy ways to achieve what is frequently needed.

8. Present information clearly

The arrangement of information is essential to the user while on-screen which enables the user to single out the different elements and data groups. This can be achieved by using boxes, spaces, and visual coding proficiency. Again, developers should not provide more than the necessary information to process a task.

9. Offer Assistance

A user should get all the help needed from a system with minimal use of the document provided. In other words, they should be self-explanatory. Information provided on the window should be in line with the user’s tasks. It is important for you to provide tooltips for icon-labeled buttons.

Online help should be related to whatever interaction is provided on the window. Task-oriented should be the tone with a list of steps to be followed.

10. Error-free

Minimize errors by directing the users towards the right way to achieve their goals. Feedback from users should be constrained to prevent error, were necessary to the task. However, this shouldn’t apply in situations that will end up limiting your users’ the choice in how to accomplish their tasks. Ensure that the system validates data entry as close as possible to the point of input.

Consider expressing error messages in plain language to avoid the use of codes, point out the exact problem, and offer a solution suggestion to the problem.

How to Maximize Usability

To maximize usability, you can employ iterative design, which gradually enhances the design through assessment from the early design stages. These steps enable you to incorporate feedback from the user and client until the system attains an ideal usability level.

The preferred approach for you to ensure usability is by testing actual users on an operating system. For you to achieve significant levels of usability, it necessitates you to focus on the design efforts for the specified system end-user.

Some of the methods to determine the primary users, how they work, and what duties they should accomplish, include user testing on system prototypes, a usability audit performed by specialists, and cognitive modeling.

Author: Richard Soares

Director of Software Development & Senior Technical Project Manager