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I'm currently designing a prototype for a dashboard UI, where the data come from the available tracking activity logs that are currently displayed in tabular form.

Due to time constraints, I have designed the UI dashboard without involving the users in the requirement analysis. I have not conducted any survey but I did evaluate my design by presenting a prototype to the target users.

Can I still claim I have conducted a UCD process despite the absence of users in the beginning? Is there any paper or article that explains the required extent of user involvement in UCD ? Is benchmarking part of UCD? Finally, does the targeted design need to be analyzed with a direct involvement of users or the designers could propose requirements by themselves in a UCD process?

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User-centered design, as its name suggests, is based on an explicit understanding and implication of users throughout the design process.

It does imply that decisions at every step are backed with explicit knowledge about the users. It does not imply to start from scratch with a blank page every time a UCD process is conducted.

If the step you chose to do on your own (requirements gathering) due to time constraints led you to skip a requirements gathering exercise and use your own assumptions, chances are high that you based your design on a set of representations that does not reflect what would have come from your user base. Having the users test your prototype is indeed a step in the right direction but cannot change the above as it is equivalent to ask them if they like what you suggest rather than asking them first what they need. This is not UCD. Note that it can still be the optimal way to go given your objectives and constraints.

However, if you skipped the requirements gathering phase because you already owned relevant evidence about what your users need (based on past studies or requirements gathering exercises for instance), then it was more than ok to do so and you can still claim that your approach has been user-centered.

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UCD is an approach or perhaps philosophy if you will, rather than a prescribed method for doing design. Due to various reasons it is not always possible (or appropriate) to involve users in every step of the design and development process.

The important thing is what the basis of your design and development addresses, the needs of the users of the needs of the business? And it is not even about leaning one way or the other, but finding the best balance between business, technical and user constraints to come up with a viable product. After all, you shouldn't design something that can't be built, something that the users can't use or something that won't be sold. UCD processes simply aims to address one aspect of the balance that the UX designer should think about.

On the point of skipping users during the requirements phase, I think it is still important to state the assumptions you have made about the users in the design so that you are able to validate them when you do your testing later down the track. Remember that it is possible to involve the users at any stage, as long as you can clearly define and work out what it is that the users are trying to accomplish.

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