Using the user – developing content in 2015

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago endorsing the building of personas as a tool for content creators. I had a number of positive responses to the post, from people in the academic world as well as people from the creation side of the content business. Since a major reason I got in touch with personas as a tool to begin with is our close relationship with the User Experience laboratory at MediaCity Finland, I thought I’d share another tool – or, rather, method – that is very common in a number of fields, but to my knowledge not yet to any greater extent in the content creation field, not even when talking about multiplatform or transmedia projects.

User Centered Design is – to quote Wikipedia – a method or framework of processes in which ”the needs, wants, and limitations of end users of a product, service or process are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process.

This is obviously a very handy process when producing, say, a web shop, as these criteria are of the utmost importance for your users and your customers to have as smooth and intuitive an experience as possible.

I would strongly recommend anyone actively involved in creating and developing content for an audience to investigate UCD processes in greater detail. What I’ve found is that it complements the more traditional development processes in a very good way. For me, the greatest benefit about adapting a UCD-based approach to my projects is that it forces me to narrow down the options and the possibilities to the select few that are the very best ones when it comes to reaching an intended audience, enganging them in the intended way, validating their participation and following up with the scope of the long tail.

This can of course be done in a number of ways – co-creationally, or with the help of deep interviews and so on. The ISO standard for the design of interactive systems has six key principles to ensure the design is user-centered:

  1. The design is based upon an explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments.
  2. Users are involved throughout design and development.
  3. The design is driven and refined by user-centered evaluation.
  4. The process is iterative.
  5. The design addresses the whole user experience.
  6. The design team includes multidisciplinary skills and perspectives.

Now, if we translate this into content creation and development, we start to approach interesting areas. As these are methods infinitely suitable for the interactive and transmediated concepts and projects of today, when we need to make sure the narrative on all platforms not only fits logically together but also approaches and entices the audience in a way that achieves precisely the right reaction and engagement, involving the target audience – the end user – from the very beginning is a powerful tool.

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