All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips

The power of Customer-Centered-Design
August 13, 2009, 4:18 am
Filed under: customer-centered-design, usability testing

No matter how well you know your customers, there’s always insight to be gained by watching them actually try to interact with your designs.  Using the iterative Customer-Centered-Design (CCD) approach lets you rapidly test different designs with customers, find out what works and what doesn’t, and quickly iterate to a final successful design.

The basic approach is as follows:

  1. Create several different design mockups for the pages/functions you want to test.  These can be as crude or polished as you like, but should all have the same degree of “finish”.  (They should also at least have some basic amount of visual design — don’t test a black-and-white sketch and believe it will accurately represent what the customer will ultimately see).  We try to make sure that at least one or two of these early design concepts are radical departures from what we normally do.  This keeps our designs fresh and helps us continually push innovation.
  2. Have 5-10 customers try to do typicaly tasks on each of these mockups.  We usually do this in one-on-one phone/webex sessions, where we have the design team listening to the interview while a moderator takes the customer through tasks and probes.
  3. Consolidate the feedback and update the mockups.  Usually one or two of the original design directions emerges as a winner at this point, so we focus the new designs around those winning approaches.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 a few more times, iterating on the design each time to get closer and closer to a final successful design.  Depending on the complexity of what we’re designing, we’ll do 3-6 design/testing iterations.

Note that this doesn’t have to take a long time.  We’ve done up to two iterative rounds in a week:  finalize mockups monday, test tuesday, incorporate findings into new designs wednesday, retest thursday, conclude friday. 

If you follow this approach, you’ll end up with a design that the entire team is highly confident will work well with customers.  You can then follow it up with pre-release and post-release task-based testing to get the quantitative metrics to prove it.


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