Unfortunately, though, the Southern European market comprises mainly small firms who use the Web to support their traditional businesses and, therefore, have neither the budget nor the time for ideally conceived projects. So I accepted the engagement—and my partners are still furious with me.
The site was online after three weeks. Though the project was not perfect, it turned out well. How did we manage this, considering that we followed all of the usual design phases? Our success was primarily the result of four factors that we were able to exploit and manage during the design project, which enabled us to make design decisions quickly and move on with great agility.
1—The best designer for a project is one who knows the product domain.
To carefully weigh any design decision, you need to consider all of the goals, tasks, functions, information, and the context that should factor in the shaping of a Web site. On an ideal project, you could deliberate upon these elements for weeks. Neglecting some of them could lead to the wrong design decision, which would likely entail changes at a later stage of the project.
However, you can more quickly understand a problem that you need to solve when you involve one or more users in defining the problem, because the users already know the domain and the best way of working from past experience. Therefore, we requested that someone from our client's team—who had a better understanding of users’ needs—be present on our premises throughout the entire design stage. Thus, we were able ask him questions directly, at any time, and involve him in making decisions.
2—All activities in a UCD process are useful, but some more useful than others.
In the process of user-centered design, many activities can help us reach a better understanding and enable us to achieve a more efficient design. Nevertheless, depending on the product you are designing, some of these activities matter more than others—at least as regards efficiently reaching usability goals. In our experience, performing just 30–40% of these activities substantially ensures the usability of 70–80% of the product, while the remaining activities merely add polish.
On an agile project—when time is limited—it is, therefore, vital to know how to identify the activities on which to concentrate your efforts. But such decisions are not obvious, because they are not based on objective information. You have to rely solely on the team’s experience. You reach decisions according to each member’s know-how.