Paul Rouke
Founder & CEO of PRWD
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  • User-Centred Design

31st Jul 2008

4 min

What is User Centred Design?

In broad terms, User Centred Design (UCD) is a design philosophy and a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of the end user of an interface or document are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process. This helps to put┬ácustomers at the heart of the online experience. By designing for users first and foremost, not only does the user experience improve (and thus, profit), but so does development efficiency and cost – designing based on user’s requirements means less redevelopment work is needed further down the line.

We have noticed that the label used to describe this type of design can differ across the internet; whilst ‘user centred design’ is seemingly the most commonly used label, synonyms include both user-driven development or human centred design. These labels all largely fall under the same top-level category of UX, so if you’d like to learn more about the various buzzwords and industry terms┬áthen please check out our guide to UX design.

User Centred Design Process

In this post, we will discuss each phase of the UCD process, along with a summary of the services which are delivered during each phase.

Please note, some of the terminology used may not be too familiar to some readers, but rather than describing each service we wanted to keep this post more to the point. Feel free to call us for further information on a particular service or terminology used.

The 4 phases of User Centred Design

Summary: Here are the four phases of the user centred design process

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Deployment

You will notice that there isn’t an order assigned to the 4 phases, as UCD is a process of continual improvement.

For the development of completely new business systems, applications and e-commerce platforms, the process would start with the analysis phase and work through the remaining 3 phases, but during the deployment phase on-going evaluation of the system and the users does mean that the process can then be continued, back in to the analysis phase (but to a lesser extent).

The Analysis Phase

User Centered Design Analysis Phase


This phase ensures all business and user requirements are taken into consideration, prior to the start of the design phase.

PRWD Services

  • stakeholder analysis
  • competitor benchmarking
  • persona development
  • defining user scenarios
  • conducting field studies
  • defining usability goals

The Design Phase

User Centred Design Design Phase


This phase provides a comprehensive approach to the design of the system, ensuring the design meets all user and business requirements.

PRWD Services

  • navigation models
  • screen flow samples
  • information architecture
  • card sorting
  • paper prototyping
  • wireframing
  • interaction design
  • user testing

The Implementation Phase

User Centered Design Implementation Phase


This phase takes the user tested system and interaction designs and implements them into working systems ready to go live.

PRWD Services

  • object orientated design
  • user interface integration
  • server implementation
  • heuristic evaluations
  • user testing
  • documentation

The Deployment Phase

User Centred Design Deployment Phase


This phase involves continuous evaluation of the new system, monitoring the performance against usability objectives.

PRWD Services

  • user/customer surveys
  • field studies
  • performance analysis
  • improvement scoping
  • continuous analysis

Further User Centred Design resources

Below are a range of links which will provide additional information on User Centred Design:

  1. What is User Centred Design – from the Usability Professionals Association
  2. Adapting Usability Investigations for Agile User Centered Design
  3. PRWD’s User Centred Design services

Variations in UCD methodology – what are yours?

There will always be slight variations in the process with other usability and software development agencies, and I’ll be interested to hear comments on these differences.

On saying this, one thing is for sure – when following User Centred Design principles, users need to be an integral part of the complete design and development process.