Institutionalizing User Centered Product Design – Understand Your Audience


When developing a strategy to institutionalize user-centered product design within an organization, it is important to understand your audience. There are many different roles within an organization however, when it comes to product development there are 2 main groups you need to work with when institutionalizing user centered product design.

The first group includes those individuals who have directly contributed to the development of the product (developers, architects, designers, and project managers) and those who have indirectly contributed (product managers, QA, executives). This is important because their perspectives are different.

When evangelizing usability to folks who directly contribute to the creation of the product, consider their perspective. These individuals physically put the time in and commit to deadlines and deliverables. From their perspective, they are directly responsible for the outcome. They have an emotional bond to the product developed over time from hands-on experience. They feel it.

When evangelizing usability with these folks utilize generative approaches. Include them in competitor analysis, persona creation, cognitive walk through, and ad hoc usability tests. Change the language you use when evaluating time on task and error rates. Consider terms like product evaluation over usability test. Avoid producing reports. Video sessions with users and review those sessions the product team. This puts comfortable distance between the target audience of the product and the designers of the product allowing opportunity to agree on problem areas through shared observation.

Moving forward, consider collaborative sketchboard workshops that tactfully include techniques like, assumption personas and use cases. This will foster collaboration and iteration up front. Usability assessment then becomes an added value and validation of the work.

When evangelizing usability to folks who indirectly contribute to the development of the product, consider their perspective. These folks set the goals. They have opinions on usability however they are more interested in outcomes.

When evangelizing usability to these folks, utilize an evaluative approach. Consider open, remote moderated usability sessions. These sessions allow stakeholders to see the product in-use and understand the direct impact of design decisions and the success of the product.

It’s important to quantify findings and outcomes for this audience. Be sure to publish summative findings. Remember, outcomes are important here, not so much how or why.

As always, I hope this was helpful. When developing a strategy for the institutionalization of usability, your tactics should be tailored to your audience. After all, understanding your audience is what user centered design is all about.