Review of the book 'User Centered Design'

User-Centered Design I was recently lucky enough to have the chance to review the new O'Reilly book on User-Centered Design. As someone who has a career more on the technical side of projects, with roles such as Technical Development Lead, Subject Matter Expert, Senior Developer etc, it was a chance to review and refocus on the fact that the delivery side is all about the clients, where we as Developers are merely using our talents to facilitate an improvement in what the client does and how they do it.

The initial chapter provide an overview of the common terms that are banded about in this space, HCI, UCD, UX etc and reminds us that if we factor in these elements to our development activities then the final solution will be a much better and more accurate solution for our client and their business scenarios. This is something that everyone involved in a project should be engaging on and not leaving it to the people in roles such as Business Analyst, Technical Architect or User Interface Designer etc.

The rest of the book focuses in more detail on an aspect of User Centered Design that the author has found to be beneficial in enhancing the work that he and his colleagues deliver to their client. There are several real world examples of where adopting a user focussed approach has helped enhance their offerings, reduce the complexity of their code and help them get a better understanding of the business that their solutions are being created to assist.

These quotes and anecdotes are used to reinforce the content of the chapter and keep the reader focussed on the fact that the solution is the goal, not the technology used to get there - as that is actually irrelevant to the majority of end users, such as the smartphone story on page 59.

One of the other conversations, which reminds me of my age, found on pages 69-70, illustrates that to what one person with a certain age, background, experience etc is an obvious icon to represent something may not mean as much to someone else. In this case, the use - in many - applications of the icon for a 3.5" floppy disk for Save, something Generation Y may have only seen in history classes, and as such does not convey the same meaning to them as those of my generation - who I am sure were equally confused by punched card, paper tape and the link ;).

Many people will have come across, and used the concepts in the book during the course of their education and careers, but it is always worth refreshing and updating our knowledge, as we often do on the technical side, to ensure that the focus of software is the user who use it.

Overall, I found the book a really enjoyable and worthwhile read and a valuable addition to the technical books in my collection.

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