User-Centric Design (UCD) is an iterative design process in which designers focus on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process.

Haven’t We Always Done This?

The concept of ‘User Centric Design’ is something that won’t sound particularly earth-shattering to most people. Isn’t it just common sense to design a product, service or software application that focuses on the user? Haven’t we always done that? The answer is both yes and no.

Yes, every good design process starts with placing the user at the centre and considering their needs. However, it is rare that the user remains a pivotal focus throughout the entire process, from concept to design, testing through to prototyping and development of the final product. This is usually not the design team’s fault. In any project, there are many competing interests at play such as budget constraints, deadlines and a flawed desire to do things “the way we’ve always done it”. The true adoption of User Centric Design requires belief, passion and commitment backed up by tried and trusted techniques and tools.

User Centric Design in Action

We’ve all used products where it’s abundantly clear that the designer crafted the experience through the eyes of the user. Below are two examples we all recognise and one from our own archive.

Netflix – The runaway leaders in the streaming services industry, Netflix is all about delighting the user and making the experience of watching television or movies as fluid and effortless as possible. Episodes auto-play to facilitate binge watching and new shows continuously get recommended based directly on your own tastes. You can even skip intros at the click of a button.

Spotify – Is it the library of music that makes Spotify so successful? Or is it the focus on delighting the user – offline downloads, playlists, social sharing, multi-device use, song recommendations. Spotify is more about the user than the music itself.

Ireland’s Online Passport Renewal System – Have you renewed your Irish passport recently? Was it a very smooth and easy process? Well, you can thank Design Thinking for that. Renewing your passport can be a frustrating and overly complicated experience. When we designed the DFA renewals system, our goal was to delight the user and transform the renewal process into an efficient, smooth and free flowing experience. Did focusing on the user work? Just ask any of the record 400,000+ Irish citizens that renewed their passport online in 2019. It now takes approximately 8 minutes from start to finish to renew your passport online and you will receive it in the post within 7 days. We have even heard stories of passports arriving to citizens within 48 hours. You can read more about the the project here.

How Can Your Organisation Engage in User-Centric Design?

When it comes to producing inspiring and engaging software applications, focusing on the user is a winning formula. If you want to create a user-focused product, you can engage in some of the techniques we employ here at ActionPoint. Below are two user-centric design models we’ve utilised in the past.

‘The Design Thinking Process’

Design Thinking is exactly that, thinking like a designer. And before you ask, coming into work in a black polo neck and designer glasses doesn’t automatically qualify you as a design thinker. However, placing the user at the centre of your thinking and using techniques, tools and concepts that are the stock and trade of world class designers does. Fundamental components of design-thinking include:

  1. Using techniques, tools and design concepts that have been used in the design process of products such as the iPod, iPhone, Dyson, Spotify and Netflix.
  2. Divergent Thinking – The goal of divergent thinking is to generate as many different ideas about a topic as possible in a short period of time. Ideas are formulated in a free-flowing, spontaneous and non-linear manner.
  3. Journey Mapping – This involves mapping out the exact process a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal. For Netflix this goal could be as simply as sitting on a couch and enjoying a few hours of entertainment. For your software product, journey mapping might involve the steps a user takes to go from seeking out to using your product, and on to successfully completing a task.
  4. Ethnography – This is an analysis of your users’ backgrounds, social habits and objectives. This helps you to step into the shoes of your user and gain perspective.
  5. Empathy Mapping – This simple tool helps you to consider how a user is feeling and thinking.
  6. Prototyping and Wireframing – At a more advanced stage in the design process, wireframing and then prototyping allow you to really get to grips with how your product will be used in practice.

‘The Kano Model’

Another perspective that informs our thinking and approach at ActionPoint is the Kano Model. The Kano model is a theory for product design and user engagement which categorises customer preferences into having threshold, performance and excitement attributes.

  • Threshold attributes are ‘must-have’ features. These are simple features which must be included in your products, but you don’t get any special kudos for having. These are essentially the bare bones features or the components that make up your minimum viable product.
  • Performance attributes are “nice to haves”. These are not strictly necessary but do give the customer varying degrees of incremental satisfaction.
  • Excitement attributes are the really interesting ones. These are the ‘Delighters’, these are the features that make your product or service offering stand out from your competitors. A product’s excitement attributes turn users into fans and fans into fanatics. These features not only make your customer want to use your product but also tell everyone about it. Only by adopting true user centric design can you expect to uncover the Delighters and wow your users.

Want to Delight Your User with User-Centric Design?

You can only delight your user when you understand their needs, experience their emotions and identify with them. User-centric design allows you to this. If you’ve come this far, and the process of user-centric design is something that really resonates with you, ActionPoint might be your perfect software partner. We firmly believe in placing the user at the centre of our new software design projects.

If you are undertaking a software development project, you can build something and hope your customer enjoys it. Or, you can build a product that’s designed specifically for your customer, that delights, excites and satisfies their needs. Contact us today at and find out how.

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