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UX Design and Beyond: Shifting the Focus From User-Centered to Use-Centered Design

September 26, 2019   DESIGN

By: John Flach, PhD & Michael Heroux

Mile Two is committed to going beyond a user-centered perspective to consider the wider scope reflected in a use-centered framework. Use-centered design focuses on the user, the domain, and the interface and surveys the work domain to identify the field of possibilities or conversely, the constraints that bound the field.

A Use-Centered Perspective

Twenty-five years ago, Flach and Dominguez (1995) introduced the term “USE-Centered Design.” The goal of that article was to advocate for an expansion of the then prevailing focus on user-centered design to give more consideration to the larger context of work. The point was not to de-emphasize the role of human users or to deny the role of internal cognitive constraints, e.g., working memory capacity, mental models or expectations, but rather to consider these internal constraints relative to the functional demands and constraints associated with work domains. For example, when we are designing interfaces for a specific work domain like aviation, it was not sufficient to only understand how the minds of pilots and air traffic controllers worked—it was also important to understand how aircraft worked and the implications for managing airspaces, e.g., understanding the constraints that determined potential safe fields of travel.

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