Articles & research papers


A UX process diagram

A UX process diagram that maps software development life cycle (SDLC) and user centered design (UCD) activities together.

A UX Process diagram

Download IDEO’s Human Centered Design Toolkit

Their Human Centered Design Toolkit is a free innovation guide for NGOs and social enterprises.

Human-Centered Design is a process used for decades to create new solutions for companies and organizations. Human-Centered Design can help you enhance the lives of people. This process has been specially-adapted for organizations like yours that work with people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Human-Centered Design (HCD) will help you hear people’s needs in new ways, create innovative solutions to meet these needs, and deliver solutions with financial sustainability in mind.

The Toolkit is divided into four sections that can be downloaded individually or together:

  1. The Introduction will give an overview of HCD and help you understand how it might be used alongside other methods.
  2. The Hear guide will help your design team prepare for fieldwork and understand how to collect stories that will serve as insight and inspiration. Designing meaningful and innovative solutions that serve your customers begins with gaining deep empathy for their needs, hopes and aspirations for the future. The Hear booklet will equip the team with methodologies and tips for engaging people in their own contexts to delve beneath the surface.
  3. The Field Guide and Aspirations cards are a complement to the Hear guide; these are the tools your team will take with them in order to conduct research.
  4. The Create guide will help your team work together in a workshop format to translate what you heard from people into frameworks, opportunities, solutions, and prototypes. During this phase, you will move from concrete to more abstract thinking in identifying themes and opportunities and back to the concrete with solutions and prototypes.
  5. The Deliver guide will help catapult the top ideas you have created toward implementation. The realization of solution includes rapid revenue and cost modeling, capability assessment, and implementation panning. The activities offered in this phase are meant to complement your organization’s existing implementation processes and may prompt adaptations to the way solutions are typically rolled out.

IDEO’s Human Centered Design Toolkit
Download individual sections

Adapting Usability Investigations for Agile User-Centered Design

When the authors company chose to adopt an Agile development process for new products, her User Experience Team took the opportunity to adjust, and consequently improve their user-centered design (UCD) practices. Their interface design work required data from contextual investigations to guide rapid iterations of prototypes, validated by formative usability testing. This meant that they needed to find a way to conduct usability tests, interviews, and contextual inquiry— both in the lab and the field— within an Agile framework. To achieve this, they adjusted the timing and granularity of these investigations, and the way that they reported their usability findings.

This paper describes their main adaptations. They found that the new Agile UCD methods produced better-designed products than the ‘waterfall’ versions of the same techniques. Agile communication modes allowed them to narrow the gap between uncovering usability issues and act on those issues by incorporating changes into the product.

Adapting Usability Investigations for Agile User-Centered Design

Evaluating for Accessibility

A key aspect of successful User-Centered Design (UCD) is evaluating early and throughout the UCD process. The Background: Accessibility & User-Centered Design (UCD) chapter introduces the User-Centered Design process.

This section provides information on incorporating accessibility into the following evaluation methods:

  • Importance of Comprehensive Accessibility Evaluation
  • Standards Review
  • Heuristic Evaluation
  • Design Walkthroughs
  • Screening Techniques
  • Usability Testing

Evaluating for Accessibility

How to introduce UCD into an organization

If no usability or user centred design methods are currently being used in the organization

  • Assess and list the potential costs and benefits.
  • Relate the benefits to the business/organisational objectives.
  • Consider what concrete differences UCD could make to the system. Find good and bad examples of similar systems, and show these to the decision-makers.
  • Cite big names or similar organisations to yours that already use UCD.
  • If at all possible get involved at the feasibility or requirements stage. If this is not possible, use the benefits of later involvement to justify earlier involvement next time.
  • IAI may be a useful case study.

If your organisation already has some experience of usability testing:

  • Assess and list the potential costs and benefits of earlier involvement at the feasibility or requirements stage
  • Consider how you can contribute not just to the ease of use of the interface but to customising the design and functionality to meet business and customer needs. Relate the benefits of usability to the business/organisational objectives.
  • Cite big names or similar organisations to yours that already use UCD.
  • Inland Revenue may be a useful case study.

Introducing User Centred Design

Justifying user centred design: Calculating cost benefits

For organisations already committed to user-centred design a cost-benefit analysis is not essential but it can provide a valuable input when formulating a usability plan.

The technique can be used repeatedly as a development project progresses to reassess the importance of various activities. The process can also be used to compare different usability methods and so aid selection of the most cost effective method.

Justifying user centred design: Calculating cost benefits

The Power of Personas

If you are designing a UI, you should consider creating personas to guide you. Personas are one of the basic tools of User Experience (UX) design. A persona is a description of a fictional person representing a user segment of the software you are developing. Of course, the word “fictional” applies to the person not the description; that should be as grounded in reality as possible.

The Power of Personas

User-Centered Design at IBM

User-Centered Design (the focus of this section) is a well-established process that is used by IBM and many other organizations to deliver products that meet users’ expectations. This process has been supplemented by the Outside-In Design approach (see the book on this subject), which brings a focus on business value, and by the Agile approach to development, which is a set of best practices that can be used to support iterative development to improve time to market and stakeholder value.

This section includes:

  1. What is User-Centered Design? An overview of the User-Centered Design process.
  2. User-Centered Design principles The six principles at the heart of User-Centered Design.
  3. User-Centered Design process The six stages of the User-Centered Design process.
  4. Adopting User-Centered Design Strategies for adopting User-Centered Design practices in your organization.
  5. Getting started – Staying committed
  6. Cost justifying ease of use The financial benefits of making products easy to use.
  7. User-Centered Design FAQ Frequently asked questions about User-Centered Design.
  8. IBM User-Centered Design labs A look at IBM User-Centered Design Labs.
  9. Recruiting participants Methods and resources for recruiting representative users to participate in User-Centered Design activities.
  10. Get involved: An invitation to participate in user studies for IBM products.

The User Centered Design page at IBM Design

UCD Process/ Generic Work Process

Generic Work Process

About this toolkit (version 1.0)

This toolkit offers an overview of the methods and techniques which can be used throughout the user-centered design process.

Note: this site is still under construction, for more information contact Bas Leurs (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences,

This toolkit was created by: Bas Leurs, Peter Conradie, Joel Laumans, Rosalieke Verboom.