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User-centred design (UCD) is widely regarded as the best way to design a great user experience (UX), with most UX professionals following the international standard ISO 9241 part 210. 

As project leader for this standard, I realised that some of the principles which underlie UCD can be applied to whole organisations, so I am pleased to be project leader (with Tomas Berns from Sweden) for a new ISO standard which aims to make businesses as a whole more human centred.

To encourage interest in the new standard, we have drafted an executive summary which can be downloaded and freely distributed and would welcome input from Econsultancy readers.

This new standard aims to engage the ‘hearts and minds’ of executive board level people by explicitly presenting how eight main principles of UCD can apply to organisations. 

In this post I look at these eight principles and link them back to user experience with examples (good or bad) on the web.

1. Turn individual differences into an organisational strength

Being human-centred means appreciating that people differ in their capabilities and needs and not treating everyone the same. Being able to customise your web experience builds loyalty and encourages repeat visits.

This post shows how Tesco and others are using customisation effectively.

2. Make usability and accessibility strategic business objectives

I guess this is (or ought to be) a no-brainer for digital marketeers. Competitors are never closer than on the web so customers are unlikely to be patient about bad design. 

Making ecommerce websites accessible is not only a legal obligation in the UK but opens up a share of an £80bn market as this article on the business disability forum explains.

3. Adopt a systems approach

This might sound a bit 'academic' but what it means in the digital marketing context is looking at the total 'system' from the users point of view and making sure that different channels - mobile, web, bricks and mortar - work together seamlessly, as this post on multichannel marketing explains.

4. Ensure health, safety and wellbeing are business priorities

This is not usually a concern with websites unless you count stress from badly designed experiences. However, flashing screens can make people feel nauseous (remember the 2012 cartoon?) and TV companies know to warn viewers about flash photography coming up. 

Usually it's digital staff wellbeing which is the issue and the law says that screen users should have proper workstations and regular breaks.

The next two principles are also primarily aimed at staff.

5. Value employees

The human-centred organisation provides individuals with meaningful work and with opportunities to use and develop their skills in a stable employment environment.

6. Create a meaningful work environment

The organisation works to ensure that employees at all levels share the vision of the organisation and are encouraged to contribute at an appropriate level.

Attracting, retaining and motivating the right staff is a major challenge and so treating staff well is particularly important in customer service and creative industries – although sometimes the effect is more ‘gimmicky’ than useful.

7. Openness

The organisation communicates openly and effectively to staff and to the outside world.  When difficult decisions are necessary, they are addressed in a timely and equitable way and communicated sympathetically. 

Trust is a vital element in successful ecommerce and dealing properly with bad news is particularly important as BP has found to its cost.

8. Social responsibility

The organisation behaves ethically and instils pride and confidence in its employees, customers and the local community.

Clearly this is good practice but organisations need to be careful that the claims they make on their corporate websites are credible, as recent coverage of practices at G4 has exposed.

If you would like to know more or comment on the standard as it develops, please download the summary and get in touch.

Tom Stewart

Published 6 January, 2014 by Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart is Executive Chairman at System Concepts, and a guest blogger at Econsultancy. System Concepts can be followed on Twitter here, and Tom is also on Google+.

35 more posts from this author

Comments (1)

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Paul

Hi Tom, its great to know about user centred design. Thanks for sharing this useful information. Would love to follow your tips.

over 2 years ago

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