Importance of User Centered Design
When building an application, it’s important to consider the user interaction elements of your design prior to starting development. When starting down the design path for a mobile application, there are a number of steps to consider for proper UX/UI processes.
Developing a Persona
The first step in good design is understanding the target audience for your application. A Persona is a representation of that target audience, as a single individual. For example, if you’re designing an app for construction workers, then the persona would be Bill the construction worker, and the profile would include habits and day-to-day tasks to help establish a personality behind Bill that will be representative of the target audience as a whole. This begins with first identifying the types of people that will fit into your use cases, and then build the persona to represent specific user types. An app should have only one primary audience, and no more than two secondary audiences.
The next step, once you’ve defined the persona, is to build wireframes that outline what these interactions will look like at a very basic level. This begins the process of internalizing how this target group will interact with the application, and highlight any interaction issues prior to doing full-blown mock –ups. These can also be used to talk through design ideas with focus groups, or target individuals to make sure it’s clear to them how to go about interacting with key features and functions in your application.
The next step is developing mock-ups, based on the wireframes. This will form the basis of the front end development assets that will be used in the application, and should take all of the lessons learned in the wireframe process to begin and develop representations of the front end experience to incorporate color and design elements to validate the interactions in the wireframes.
The next step is entirely optional, but may save time further down the road. Depending on how complicated the application is, developing a rapid prototype will help develop a greater understanding of how the target audience will interact with the application, and can be used to validate findings earlier on in the user experience process, as well as begin to think through how the application will operate as a whole prior to diving into deep programming. Undoing or changing features or functions in a rapid prototype is much easier than when you’re 70% through building an application, and the user acceptance or beta testing is showing poor user interaction results.
By following some or all of these processes, you’ll ensure the right considerations are included up front in the design process, and will lead to a better mobile application. It’s always best to consult with experts in this space though, as the field is constantly changing, as mobile development becomes a more populated area. If you’re really hard-core about these areas, schools such as Carnegie Mellon and the University of Washington have Human Computing Interaction departments that cover areas such as Information Architecture, Human Interaction Design, and other related areas as it pertains to UX/UI. There are of course, great books and resources online as well.