The 5 U's of Usability and User-Centered Design:

The 5 U's ofUsability and User-Centered Design

1. User-centered Design

User-centered design is a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of end users of a product, service or process are given the primary focus of attention at each stage of the design process.

The main difference from other product design philosophies is that user-centered design tries to optimize the product around how users can, want, or need to use the product, rather than forcing the users to change their behavior to accommodate the product (aka. Engineering-Centric Design).

See also:

2. Usability Testing

Usability Testing involves observing users while they perform tasks with a hardware or software system, such as a desktop application, website or mobile phone app. The product may be a paper sketch, a wireframe, a storyboard, a display mock-up, a product in development, a working prototype, or a completed product.

Usability Testing can also be conducted on competitive products to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

3. Universal Design

The principles of Universal Design are applicable no matter the context, or device. The Center for Universal Design, at the North Carolina State University at Raleigh, has defined Universal Design as:

The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation of specialized design.

Universal Design is a well-established approach to solving design problems that leads to solutions for the largest number of people. The goal of Universal Design is not to create a single solution that applies to everyone, but to follow a systematic process that produces appropriate design solutions for specific people, in specific situations.

See our blog post Responsive and the 7 principles of Universal Design.

4. User Interaction

There have been a number of blog posts opining about the differences between User Interaction (UI) and User eXperience (UX). User interaction refers to the specific behaviors that are required by the visitor to your site (or application) in order to complete the task. The behavior patterns presented in the UI need to be familiar, or easy to figure out. The specific controls or “widgets” that are presented to your users represent the UI.

5. User Experience

User experience (UX) involves a person's behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. The User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership. Additionally, it includes a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.

The User Experience is associated with the entire set of engagement and experience with your project from the user’s point of view. The user doesn’t read the source code, and to them, the experience that is provided to them IS the application (or site).

The most important “U” in Usability and User-centered design is YOU.

You can make a difference in your organization by advocating for the real users of your product.

You can make a difference by only purchasing products that are “easy-to-use” and don’t just say that on their packaging.