A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

User Centered Design

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User-centered design is a philosophy and a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of the end user of an interface or document are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process. It is often seen as an offshoot of the usability movement, and a progenitor of the experience design and interaction design movements.



404 Page on a Static Site

Here’s a very quick, but very useful trick. You can catch 404 errors (page not found) on a static site and serve up a custom 404 page with a one-liner in your .htaccess file.

Coyier, Chris. CSS Tricks (2008). Design>Web Design>User Centered Design


A Participatory Approach to Developing User-Centered Communications  (link broken)   (PDF)

Participatory communication is most often applied to development communications--a field of practice rooted in the modernization efforts of the U.S. post World War II. Similar to participatory design, popular definitions and models of participatory communication provide a lens through which the efficacy of user-centered communications may be viewed. At Indiana University, we have had success in increasing the usability and usefulness of communication products by including end users, their advocates, and related stakeholders in cross-functional teams. The adoption of new systems used at Indiana University was fueled by communications strategies, plans, and products that resulted from a participatory approach.

Fitzpatrick, Christine Y. and Gregory A. Moore. STC Proceedings (2005). Articles>User Centered Design>Methods>Participatory Design


About Personas and Scenarios  (link broken)

Personas are an extremely powerful design tool, which help you to visualise an end-product that you can be confident will suit your users' needs by helping them achieve their goals, and help you test your success.

Hunt, Ben. Web Design From Scratch (2005). Design>Usability>User Centered Design>Personas


Accessibility Humanized: A User-Centred Approach to Web Accessibility

Most web developers act in blindness when they design accessible websites, since they know next to nothing about disabled people and the technology they use. Accessibility guidelines and validation tools doesn't provide this insight. Accessibility should rather be approached from a user centred perspective.

Olsen, Henrik. GUUUI (2004). Design>Web Design>Accessibility>User Centered Design


Accessibility in User-Centered Design

A brief introduction, with linked resources, for those unfamiliar with accessibility and/or user-centred design.

Henry, Shawn Lawton. UIaccess (2004). Articles>User Centered Design>Accessibility


Accessibility in User-Centered Design: Personas

Personas are "hypothetical archetypes" of actual users. They are not real people, but they represent real people during the design process. A persona is a fictional characterization of a user. The purpose of personas is to make the users seem more real, to help designers keep realistic ideas of users throughout the design process.

UIaccess (2007). Articles>Web Design>User Centered Design>Personas


Accessibility Meets Usability: A Plea for a Paramount and Concurrent User-Centered Design Approach to Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility for All   (PDF)

This paper identifies challenges for a user–centered design process with respect to infusing accessible design practices into electronic and information technology product development. Initially, it emphasizes that when user–centered design is paramount and concurrent with accessible design, electronic and information technology can be accessible for all. Next, it provides an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Section 508. Last, it provides basic accessible design heuristics that can be integrated into the design process. It concludes with recommendations for a paramount and concurrent user–centered design approach to product development.

Reece, Gloria A. STC Proceedings (2002). Articles>User Centered Design>Accessibility>Usability


Accessibility Redefined  (link broken)   (PDF)

Accessibility has come a long way. Not only most public places but even many private areas now claim to be 'accessible'. However, this term usually implies that a person in a wheelchair is able to get to the inside of a venue. This is not enough. If I am using a wheelchair, I would like to be completely autonomous and move around freely. I don’t want to have to go along a long dark corridor to use a service lift in order to get to another floor. Although I always appreciate it, I don’t want to have to count on the generosity of passersby to help me open a door or push my wheelchair up a slope. My only wish is to blend in with other people, and enjoy life as much as anyone else.

Vais, Fabien. STC Proceedings (2003). Design>Accessibility>User Centered Design>Universal Usability


Accessibility to the Face

Empathy is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We have an ability to imagine things the way that others see them and how it makes them feel. We don’t even have to have a disability ourselves. Accessibility is NOT a checklist. Accessibility is about usability. Accessibility is a paradigm shift. Accessibility is a personal issue.

Foster, Rob. northtemple (2009). Articles>Accessibility>User Centered Design>User Experience


Accessing Information: Not Everyone Does it the Same Way

As some in our profession have come to realize, social media and use of the Web in general have changed (and are still changing) the way in which people access and use information.

DMN Communications (2008). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>User Centered Design


Activity Modeling: Toward a Pragmatic Integration of Activity Theory with Usage-Centered Design   (PDF)

Activity modeling is a systematic approach to organizing and representing the contextual aspects of tool use that is both well-grounded in an accepted theoretical framework and embedded within a proven design method. Activity theory provides the vocabulary and conceptual framework for understanding the human use of tools and other artifacts. Usage-centered design provides the methodological scaffolding for applying activity theory in practice. In this Technical Paper, activity theory and usage-centered design are outlined and the connections between the two are highlighted. Simple extensions to the models of usage-centered design are introduced that together succinctly model the salient and most essential features of the activities within which tool use is embedded. Although not intended as a tutorial, examples of Activity Maps, Activity Profiles, and Participation Maps are provided.

Constantine, Larry L. Constantine and Lockwood (2006). Articles>User Centered Design>Methods


Adapting the Design Process to Address More Customers in More Situations

While user-centered design (UCD) is a commonly used process for designing mainstream hardware, software, and web interfaces; design for accessibility is relatively uncommon in education and practice. As a result, the scope of users and the situations in which they operate products is not as inclusive as it could be. Designing for accessibility does not require a whole new process. Accessible design techniques fit well into established UCD processes for designing a range of products, from a handheld device, to office software, to a government web site. By integrating accessibility into the design process, designers can efficiently create products that work effectively for more people in more situations.

Henry, Shawn Lawton. UIaccess (2001). Articles>Web Design>User Centered Design


Adopting User-Centered Design Within An Agile Process: A Conversation   (PDF)

eXtreme Programming and other agile processes provide a middle ground between chaos and over-elaborate processes sometimes referred to as 'death by documentation'. A particular attrtactive aspect of the agile approach for many teams is its willingness to accomodate change no matter how advanced development might be. However, this very flexibility can cause user interface design issues and ensuing usability problems. Adopting a user-centered approach to user interface design can address these issues, as the following simulated conversation between a user-centered design consultant and an XP team leader will explain.

Hudson, William. UIaccess (2002). Articles>User Centered Design>Agile>Project Management


Advanced Toolkit for Experienced Technical Communicators: Using a User-Centered Design Process to Overcome Challenges in Implementing a User-Centered Design Process   (PDF)

Technical writers have known for years that a good explanation for a bad software interface may be better than nothing, but that it’s not as good as a usable software interface. With ‘usability' gaining greater visibility, this is a good time to implement a usercentered design process. This article looks at ways that the approach and techniques of such a process can be applied to the task of introducing a new process.

Quesenbery, Whitney. STC Proceedings (2001). Design>User Centered Design>Usability


Advantage of a Rainy Summer  (link broken)

This article deals, despite the title above, with aspects on handling and checking of technical documentation. I consider these aspects as part of the functionality of documentation besides more conventional functionality such as factual correctness, layout, combination of figures and text.

Rullgård, Åke. TC-FORUM (2000). Articles>Documentation>User Centered Design


The Aesthetic Imperative: Four Perspectives on Aesthetics to Impact the User Experience

Aesthetic value can and should be part of the total design effort, including the information architect's perspective to achieve a 'total integrative experience.' Here are four ways to think about aesthetics and beauty to structure and focus the dialogue with UX peers: visual designers, programmers, content producers, strategists, etc.

Gajendar, Uday. IAsummit (2004). Design>Web Design>User Centered Design>Aesthetics


Affordance Theory: A Framework for Graduate Students' Information Behavior   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study seeks to apply ecological psychology's concept of "affordance" to graduate students' information behavior in the academic library, and to explore the extent to which the affordances experienced by graduate students differed from the affordances librarians were attempting to provide.

Sadler, Elizabeth 'Bess' and Lisa M. Given. Journal of Documentation (2007). Articles>Information Design>User Centered Design


Afraid So: Horrible Web Monstrosities

Here they come. Nightmare web sites that, from a usability perspective, are horrid monsters. When you're tired and in a hurry, you want a web site to quickly and easily provide relevant content to you, so you can solve a problem or perform some task. Discover common hideous impediments to web usability. WARNING: Not for the faint hearted!

Streight, Steven. Blogger.com (2004). Articles>Web Design>Usability>User Centered Design


AIGA Experience Design - Past, Present and Future

At the end of April 2002, the AIGA Experience Design SIG will hold its first joint Forum as part of CHI 2002. Intended to be the first of several collaborative ventures to bring the Experience Design communities of practice together, the success of the forum marks a milestone in the life of the AIGA ED group.

Malone, Erin. Boxes and Arrows (2002). Design>Web Design>User Centered Design


All About Users

A blog from Bangalore based on everything related to the user experience and interaction.

Monteiro, Percy. Blogspot. Resources>Usability>User Centered Design>Blogs


The Alternative Guide to Technical Communication  (link broken)

This guide summarizes alternative resources relevant to people in Technical Communication. 'Alternative' refers to the unconventional types of resources on this list as well the diversity of topics that are covered -- none of these resources talk about 'technical communication.'

Wei, Carolyn. University of Washington-Seattle. Resources>TC>User Centered Design


Alternatives To User Requirement Gathering  (link broken)

Of all the disciplines that go together to create a 'usability strategy', user requirement gathering is undoubtedly the most frequently misunderstood. Many product managers or webmasters will believe that they already know their users, perhaps because they have conducted some form of market research, or have a formal complaints and customer feedback programme in place. However, these techniques, discussed below, although similar in aspiration, should not be relied upon as a replacement for a full user-requirement gathering programme. That isn't to say that they do not have their uses of course, but rather that in terms of assisting in application or site design they can be unhelpful or even misleading.

Farrell, Tom. Frontend Infocentre (2001). Articles>Usability>User Centered Design


Altruistic vs. Narcissistic Web Sites

Users are repulsed by web sites that are narcissistic, egotistic, corporate-speak, hard to understand, and difficult to use. Users are attracted to and enjoy web sites that are altruistic, user-prioritized, user-focused, easy to understand, easy to use, and full of fresh, relevant content.

Streight, Steven. Blogger.com (2004). Articles>Web Design>User Centered Design>Usability


Ambient Findability: Findability Hacks

Findability is one of the most thorny problems in web design. This is due in part to the inherent ambiguity of semantics and structure. We label and categorize things in so many ways that retrieval is difficult at best. But that’s only the half of it. The most formidable challenges stem from its cross-functional, interdisciplinary nature. Findability defies classification. It flows across the borders between design, engineering, and marketing. Everybody is responsible, and so we run the risk that nobody is accountable.

Morville, Peter. List Apart, A (2005). Design>Web Design>User Centered Design>Search


Analysis of the Behaviour of the Users of a Package of Electronic Journals in the Field of Chemistry   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The purpose of this research is to analyse the behaviour of the users of a package of electronic journals using the data of consumption per IP address. The paper analyses the data of consumption at the University of Barcelona of 31 electronic journals of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 2003. Data of sessions, articles downloaded and abstracts viewed were analysed.

Borrego, Angel and Cristabal Urbano. Journal of Documentation (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>User Centered Design



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