Usability | Principles and Methods


Usability User-Centric Design Principles and Methods in Practice

A rule we design all websites using the following iterative schema;

  1. Planning & Requirements
  2. Analysis & Design
  3. Prototyping
  4. Testing
  5. Evaluation
  6. Repeat

We use this method because it ensures that we keep all stakeholders in mind while designing a website and test our results to ensure the success of our design. For user-centered design it is necessary that time is taken to understand the end user. The user's goals are examined, and preliminary designs are drawn up. These preliminary designs are then advanced into lo-fidelity prototypes. The prototypes are then tested with users to uncover design errors. The results of the user-tests are evaluated to determine to the best way to correct errors discovered by users. Then the whole process is repeated until the user goals and experience goals that had been defined are met. The majority of this process is done with lo-fidelity prototypes to allow us to go through numerous iterations in a short amount of time, without requiring any investment in programming time.

User-centered design means understanding what your users need, how they think, and how they behave - and incorporating that understanding into every aspect of your process."

-Jesse James Garrett

Planning and Requirements

Some of the methods used during the planning and requirements stage of the website design process.

  • Ethnographic Interviews- A method of data collection done mainly consistent of observation, but with key questions asked to ensure an understanding of the type of work done by the client.
  • Questionnaires - A great technique for generating demographic data on users.
  • Interview - Often these session are open-ended or unstructured interviews at this stage of the process.

Analysis & Design

Some of the methods used during the analysis & design stage of the website design process.


  • Affinity Diagrams - A method that encourages brainstorming and helps to organize ideas and information collected.
  • Workflow Diagrams - Visual diagrams of the sequential steps taken to complete tasks, interactions, and relationships.
  • Storyboarding - Sketches of how tasks will be completed. Think comic-book.
  • Card Sorting - Index cards with ideas are organized by category to identify solid categories.


Some of the methods used to prototype the website to be design.


  • Paper Prototyping- A method of prototyping in which the website is composed of hand drawn web pages.
  • Website Wireframing - An electric representation of a website without all the graphics, content, and functionality of a real website.
  • Simulation Software - Similar to wireframes, simulated prototypes are generated using simulation software.


Some of the methods used during the planning and requirements stage of the website design process.

  • Think Aloud Protocol- A method of testing that encourages users to say what they are thinking and why they are taking certain actions while working through defined tasks.
  • Co-Discovery - Similar to think aloud protocol, except with two users interacting with each other to complete tasks.
  • Screen Capture and Eye-Tracking - All of the users mouse actions comments and eye movements are recorded while they complete tasks. This can be done in combination with any other testing method.
  • Heuristic Evaluation - Experts check a website to determine if it follows established usability guidelines.
  • Cognitive Walkthroughs - Members of the design team work through predetermined tasks to test the usability of the website design.
  • Checklists - Usability experts work through the website design to ensure that it meets a pre-determined set of goals.


Results of the user and expert testing are reviewed by the design team to discuss the design errors uncovered. And there are always design errors found.




Repeating the process is necessary to make sure the website design improves. This process normally goes through 3 cycles for each website design. More complex designs can result in far more design cycles.

Our Vision

aU is dedicated to using accepted usability practices and principles to make a small portion of the internet a better place. Our dedication ensures that visitors to your website with have a great user experience, and keep coming back for more. Our job is to make sure that your visitors do not find a usability related reason not to buy your product or service.