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Head of Design, Chris, talks about the importance of user centred design and how it is integral to the design process.

A common question that we must repeatedly ask ourselves, as designers, is ‘who are we designing for’? It seems so simple, yet without this as a central consideration of everything we produce, then we would fall at the first hurdle. If we head off in the wrong direction from the outset, without asking this, then the end product will be flawed, and our Users would find it difficult to interact with. Ultimately, no matter how pleasing it is aesthetically, we would have wasted time and resource on something that fails our target audience.

Involving the User

So, the best way to please our audience is to identify it, and to include them in the planning and development stages. The requirements of a design (in Knit’s case, a website, interactive installation, app…) are always discussed in detail with the client to give insight into their exact requirements. The interpretation of these requirements into a successful product will rely on a combination of experience, and consultation. It is, however, vital that we include User Testing in our schedule of work to guarantee that a selected audience is consulted throughout the planning, production and testing stages. Why? Well, who better to give honest feedback than those people we expect to use it. We promote this approach to work, and strongly believe this to be the best way to get results. The most effective digital design will involve input from a variety of people and, as we are all prospective Users, full involvement of the team is important when making sure that a design will work. This can mean that the entire Knit team are called upon for user testing and quality control before launch.

Responding to the User

Design proposals will trigger user responses that help us to guide the project in the right direction. If a prototype is tested sufficiently, then a detailed list of observations can be fed back to the design team, and will help to ensure that functionality is effective for all users. This could be done before the visual design phase, using accurate wireframes, or can be slotted between two phases of design. By making this process iterative, we can guarantee that the end product will suit the Users’ need. In other words, they tell us what they like, and what they don’t like… and the designer makes a series of amendments and improvements to rectify and perfect it during a further design phase.

Although discussing this as a digital designer, the principals of User Centered Design are the same throughout all disciplines. It certainly reminds me of my days working in architecture, where the use of complex plans, 3D models and photo-montages would be issued for public consultation during the planning phase. When there were concerns about access, for example, the design would be tweaked and re-issued – an iterative approach to guarantee happy clients, and even happier users!  


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