W3C Web Accessibility Initiative logo > WAI Web site redesign project

Notes on User Centered Design Process (UCD)

Version: 2004.04.01

NOTE: This page is a collection of notes on user-centered design process (UCD). It is not intended to be comprehensive, and listing of any information here does not imply endorsement by W3C.

UCD in a Sentence

User-centered design process (UCD) is also called human-centred design process.

Human centred design processes for interactive systems, ISO 13407 (1999), states: "Human-centred design is an approach to interactive system development that focuses specifically on making systems usable. It is a multi-disciplinary activity."

In UCD, all "development proceeds with the user as the center of focus." (Jeffrey Rubin, Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1984) Rubin depicts the User-Centered Design Process as follows:

"User-Centered Design (UCD) is a user interface design process that focuses on usability goals, user characteristics, environment, tasks, and workflow in the design of an interface. UCD follows a series of well-defined methods and techniques for analysis, design, and evaluation of mainstream hardware, software, and web interfaces. The UCD process is an iterative process, where design and evaluation steps are built in from the first stage of projects, through implementation." (Shawn Lawton Henry and Mary Martinson, Accessibility in User-Centered Design)

UCD Principles

From Jeffrey Rubin, Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1984:

  1. Early focus on users and tasks
  2. Empirical Measurement and testing of product usage
  3. Iterative Design


The goal of UCD is to produce products that have a high degree of usability. ISO 9241-11 (1998) defines usability as the "extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use."

Jeffrey Rubin describes usability objectives as:

UCD Process Steps

While the basic principles and techniques are the same, different variations of user-centered design processes exist. The following example is typical of a UCD process for designing Web applications.

  1. Analysis
  2. Design
  3. Evaluation (iterate back to Design)
  4. Implementation
  5. Deployment

More Information

There are myriad resources resources on usability, UCD, and related topics available on the Web, in books, etc. Usable Web is a thorough list of resources on Web usability. It is no longer updated, yet does include other usability resource lists.

Justin Thorpe compiled a short list of UCD and UT Resources, which provides links to on-line resources.

Document Information

Please send comments to: wai-site-comments @ w3.org

Editors: Carol Smith, Justin Thorp, Shawn Lawton Henry. This Web page is under development by the WAI Site Task Force of EOWG. Last updated $Date: 2004/04/01 14:54:39 $ by $Author: shawn $

Copyright 1994-2003 W3C (MIT, ERCIM, Keio), All Rights Reserved. W3C liability, trademark, document use and software licensing rules apply. Your interactions with this site are in accordance with our public and Member privacy statements.