Concepts of User-Centered Design


One idea, but two different outcomes

When designers come together to create a design, product, website, or anything else, there is a process that happens. In this process there are times where they can go back to square one and start over, need more user testing, and do what they need to do in order to make the product easy to understand and to use and to get people to buy and use it. 

MENTAL MODELS

The mindsets of users is completely different than those of designers. While everyone thinks, creates, and uses things in different ways, having two separate groups putting their inputs in the same product can reveal completely different ideas of what it should look like and do. Kathy, Catherine, and Kelly includes an image in their book Understanding Your Users: A Practical Guide to User Research Methods, that shows what different groups of people saw as what the desired product (a tree swing) should look like from the designers, the marketing team, the development team, and even the users. With each team of people the final product looked completely different than what the user wanted.

Based on how each person was brought up and their experiences they will tend to describe what they want to see in a product and how it should work differently than the next person. This is so true in that as a graphic designer myself, as I describe a design or my ideas to someone who isn’t a graphic designer, they don’t understand what I’m trying to describe and in return they envision something completely different and are shocked at the final results since it wasn’t what they thought it was going to be. They also have a hard time understanding some of the technical aspects of the design, but to me it’s all simple and easy to understand but that’s only because I was taught it and they were not. Jakob Nielson states, “Because designers know too much, they form wonderful mental models of their own creations, leading them to believe that each feature is easy to understand. Users’ mental models of the UI are likely to be somewhat more deficient, making it more likely for people to make mistakes and find the design much more difficult to use.” How many times have you tried to explain something you are passionate about or know a lot about to someone who doesn’t know anything about it? It’s hard isn’t it? So while everyone has all these ideas for products it always comes out very different to accommodate everyone’s ability to use and understand it.

PRODUCT LIFECYCLE

Just like how the mental models creates a product completely different than what was originally thought of, a products life cycle yields similar results. It’s definitely not a linear process where each step of creating a product happens and the designers never go back to recreate something. Instead, as the creation of a product happens, people (whether they are users brought in to test it or other people in higher authority) gives their critiques and feedback. At this point, those creating the product may need to go backwards to rethink and redesign something or start completely over based on the feedback. A product life cycle is definitely something to get used to for many people. How many times have you re-written or changed an essay? How many times have you changed the design of something? The answer is probably a lot, and it may have been difficult to do. Many of us work so hard on the first draft of whatever we were working on, and then we have people who haven’t worked with us since the beginning coming in and wanting to change it. This process can be challenging for many of us since we may not like change or think that changing it will make it worse, but for the most part we can’t get attached to the first draft of anything since the feedback will make it ten times better. In fact, it relates to the mental models that was mentioned before, in that what was created wasn’t what the user thought or envisioned it to be so it needs to be changed and altered until it satisfies the users and the creators. 

Therefore, the mindset and mental models that users and designers have are completely different and work in different ways in that this needs to be considered as a product is going through the product’s lifecycle. The first draft of a product is never the final design. Creating a product that is successful and around for a long time will have gone through the life cycle numerous times.

RESOURCES:

Baxter, Kathy, et al. Understanding Your Users: A Practical Guide to User Research Methods. Second ed., Morgan Kaufmann, 2015. 

Nielson, Jakob. “Mental Models and User Experience Design.” Nielsen Norman Group, 17 Oct. 2010, http://www.nngroup.com/articles/mental-models/. 

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