Originally Published: October 7, 2009
User-centered design is just a methodology
An assumption made among many Web development teams is that user-centered design is essential to building successful websites. This is not necessarily true. Many profitable and useful websites have been developed without a single user test or thought about what users will do.
In fact, user-centered design is really just a methodology. It’s an approach we can take to developing products, websites, etc, but it’s not a law of design.
You might be asking, “Well, what other kind of methodology is there?” One alternative is business-centered design in which an organization develops products and websites that meet its goal with profits. In fact, when business goals align with user goals, that can be an incredibly profitable channel.
Most people talking about user-centered design actually make plenty of compromises that fly straight against the face of what they espouse. True UCD would mean creating interfaces that are completely about the neds of the user.
Have you ever put an advertisement on a website? How did you justify it?
To me, the real takeaway from UCD is the value of observation and user research. We need to uncover experience and mental models, then use that insight to create websites that effectively persuade users to buy our product or use our service.