I'm still having problems to classify User Centered Design. When you talk about Usability Engineering you probably heard of terms like "Usability Engineering Lifecycle","Contextual Design" or "Goal Directed Design" which are all UE-Models, right?

So, can it be said, that UCD is also an UE-Model? Or does it stand in contrast to Usability Engineering?

I'd love to hear your opinion :)

  • Welcome to UX.stackexchange. I think you're overthinking this. Think about how HCI "grew-up." The rise of IA in the 1990s (Jakob Nielsen) and the reaction to that and the rise of UX. UCD overlaps a lot of disciplines and cannot be easily pegged as a result.
    – Mayo
    May 11, 2015 at 21:21
  • While this is an interesting question to consider, the fact that it is directly asking for an opinion might cause it to be closed...
    – Michael Lai
    May 11, 2015 at 23:13

2 Answers 2


I think you'll find that different people will have different opinions about this, so while this is probably just my opinion, I will try to explain it in the most objective way I can think of.

When you approach design from an 'engineering' perspective, it is about providing a solution to a problem that comes from first principles. That is, you come up with a solution based on facts and ideas that you already know and create a solution around it based on known constraints. When you approach design from a 'creative' perspective, it is about experimenting with ideas and see which of the possible solutions best fits the requirements.

However, the term that you used (usability) covers only one aspect of what is considered a multi-faceted challenge that is user experience design. And the term user centered design is only one perspective is what is considered a multi-disciplinary challenge that is part of customer experience and/or service design.

For me the best way to think about it is that UX or UCD are design philosophies, and that UE is one particular model that solves one aspect of the user experience design problem domain.


UCD and UE are different for one reason: products are dynamic. They can be in tune so long as the directive of the product doesn't change. That rarely stays. Because products, and the features that make them up, change regularly, the way that they are developed changes too. It's rare that the UE and UCD remain in tune the whole time unless the team making the product knows exactly what the product is and how they want to build it, and changes nothing.

Any team that does that is a bad team or perfect.

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