User-centered design, or UCD for short, entails taking into account the interests of your users when devising plans, strategies or concrete approaches. This is one of the trickiest things to get right when administering an online business, but if you do get it right the organization itself is likely to become successful as well.
Most business owners care only about a few indicators that they feel exhaust the definition of success. KPIs (key performance indicators) and ROI (return on investment) are usually at the top of the list.
However, obviously these two do not directly delimit whether a given business is doing well. The main things an organization should be able to do are offer novel additions to the industry and provide users something they did not previously have access to.
UCD is a subset of user centeredness in general. If you take into account how the users will be affected by your work in different areas, UCD itself is likely to be far more effective. Try to look at your company and its services as a whole package. It is obvious that if various parts of it cohere better together the service itself is going to be more complete.
Time and resources
A lot of organizations ignore things like accessibility, ethics, usability and UCD because they think it will just suck up the resources and take up too much time, while not offering much in return.
The way things actually stand is quite the opposite. Each of the mentioned disciplines will help you save time as well as resources. We can take UCD as an example. Dealing with problems straight away, on the first stages of development, is a great way to avoid wasting time or resources. The deeper you are in development, the more costly it is to deal with various problems.
Whenever companies disregard these, they have to keep answering the same questions, denying certain requests, and quite often, they lose segments of their target audience.
This does not come across as a surprise though, it is quite rare to come across a company in Georgia that does not offer a clunky and janky UX to their users. Which is why offering an actually finished product is an important step in terms of gaining their trust.
Note, that trust plays an incredibly important role in terms of KPIs or ROI. People rarely look for obscure or unknown brands when trying to shop, they usually lean on, at best, several brands in a given industry. That only really changes whenever some company disappoints them or they are looking to buy in an industry they have not previously had any interactions with.
So, even for those who only care about profits, making the interests of your users the cornerstone of your business seems to work out quite well. Even something as specific as navigation is applicable for showcasing this. The faster and the smoother the navigation the easier it is for a visitor to buy your products and services. If you want your navigation to be fast or smooth it has got to be tested on actual humans (who are not already familiar with it) and it has to provide them with the means of dealing with obstacles should they come up.
The first steps
First and foremost, we must underline the fact that UCD is a team effort. As soon as one group starts slacking off the rest have to deal with additional problems, and the product suffers for it, too. Which is why you should include designers, as well as developers in the process from the get go.
Additionally, you should start collecting as much information as you can. Usability testing should be your top priority. Otherwise, you can conduct surveys or use social media posts, emails for similar reasons, etc. At the very minimum, you ought to find at least several people to take a look at your website with a fresh eye.
Also, we recommend noting every single issue that you come across during the initial stages. They might seem unimportant now, or you might not have the tools to deal with them, but in the future there may be convenient opportunities to deal with them.
And lastly, if brainstorming and sketching have been useful with regard to some sizable obstacle, then instead of committing everything you could try prototyping at first. The latter is also useful whenever you are unsure of efficacy of the solution.
UCD is not a one-off process, that you work on a bit and then are finished with it for the time being. It is more of a cyclical activity, which necessitates looking at problems from a certain point of view, with intensified focus.
Whenever you try to fix something, you are likely to create new problems, too. Which means that your work is almost never done.
But, that does not mean it has to be a drag. These cycles will help you create a more accessible website, since you will regularly be monitoring it for possible difficulties.
Everything else aside, UCD is one huge step in terms of creating a user-centered organization, which will, in turn, help you be more of a positive influence in the online lives of others. While at the same time allowing you additional means to grow professionally and develop your brand.