Applying Customer-Centered Design
Over time we have evaluated the best practices to use when designing powerful, compelling, and useful interactive Web sites. We realize that designers need concepts they can quickly integrate into their Web site design practices, as well as a process that can be applied universally, from entertainment sites to e-commerce sites, from sites for informal clubs to sites for large corporations. On the basis of our experiences, research, and discussions with other Web designers, we have refined our ideas on customer-centered design into three parts: principles, processes, and patterns.
Principles · These high-level concepts guide the entire design process and help you stay focused. For example, as we state in one of our key principles, you must acquire a deep understanding of your customers' needs. Another major principle is to design your Web site iteratively, moving from rough cuts to refined prototypes, before creating the production Web site. These principles, described in Chapters 3Knowing Your Customers: Principles and Techniques and 4Involving Customers with Iterative Design, can be applied to any design problem and are the foundation for the patterns we describe in the second half of the book.
Processes · This is how you put the principles into practice. In Chapter 5Processes for Developing Customer-Centered Sites, we describe our Web site development process, a guide that explains the major steps and milestones for developing a Web site. We also provide a collection of how-to tips, such as how to conduct a focus group, how to run a survey, and how to do a usability test (most of these tips are included in the appendixes). If your firm has similar processes, use Chapter 5 to update your process so that the key principles of customer-centered design are supported.
Patterns · Design patterns solve recurring design problems, so you can use pattern solutions to design your sites without reinventing the wheel. Patterns are a language, a common vocabulary that allows you and your team to articulate an infinite variety of Web designs.
These patterns let you focus your energies on solving new problems, rather than problems that have been worked out hundreds of times before. But design patterns do not make cookie-cutter sitesfar from it. Because no two businesses are the same, we created the design patterns for you to tailor to your particular business needs. This book shows you how to create an overall solution that works for your customers and your business.
Using the Principles, Processes, and Patterns
Design is about making informed trade-offs between competing constraints. Customer-centered design tries to make these trade-offs clearer, but only you can solve the problems. The principles help you decide between different process activities at a particular step of your project. For example, when deciding between iterating on a paper design one more time versus building a high-fidelity version of the design, you might decide to stick with paper because you can easily bring in potential customers to evaluate the design.
You can also use the principles to help you decide among different design solutions you developed using the patterns. Say, for example, that you are not sure whether your branding is prominent enough during checkout on your site. You could use online surveys, a common tool of market researchers, to quickly see what potential customers think.