September 15, 2004

UCD in Plain Language

An oddly titled article in Technology Marketing magazine - "Headline" - does a good job of describing key tenets of User Centered Design for web sites without getting into a bunch of usability lingo.

"Most sites are built backwards. They start with content. They organize the content. Then they publish the content and tell the audience it's there. This approach could be summarized in this way: 'Content, architecture, audience.' This is the most common process, and it results in sites that are impossible for you to manage and for your customers to navigate.

"Instead, try to start by defining the audiences for your content, then list the actions they want to take, and then you should develop the content that supports those actions. In summary: 'Audience, actions, content.' The audience and their actions determine the content. ...

"You already know whom you're trying to reach. Interview them to find out what actions they want to take and the content that will support those actions. What you learn will result in sites that are refreshingly intuitive for your audiences.

"The bad news? If you design your sites around the audience and their actions, the resulting content set will not include some of your favorite Content Babies. We all have them: that white paper we wrote until the wee hours of the morning, the brochure that took us a year to get approved, etc. We can't stand the thought of leaving our Content Babies out of our content set. But if they don't fit into the "Audience, actions, content model," you'll have to let them go, and replace them with the content that your audience actually wants."

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