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User-Centered Design by Travis Lowdermilk

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Chapter 3. Working with Users

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Henry Ford

I realize that involving users can be a scary thing. Let’s face it: users have a tendency to muddy up our development processes; they don’t understand what’s required to build an application; and most of the time they have no idea what they’re asking for. Sometimes, their requests are unrealistic and unhelpful. How could they possibly lead us to any sort of meaningful breakthrough on a software project?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the job of a developer exceeds the realm of writing code. We have to be more attuned to our users’ needs, and the only way to do that is to spend time with them. We have to constructively guide our users so they provide us with (whether they realize it or not) the information we need to make a successful application.

This requires us to do more listening by remaining observant and inquisitive.

What If I Don’t Have Access to Users?

Many of you could be reading this and thinking to yourself, “I don’t have a group of users that I’m directly working with.” Maybe you’re building something for the mass market, like a smartphone application or website. If that’s the case, you may be confused when I start talking about engaging users and actively working with them.

Here’s my advice: if you’re not building an application for a specific client or group of users, then I’d encourage you to find some. Perhaps this seems obvious, ...

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