User First or User-Centered Approach is a term widely heard of in the product design industry but you can see it appear a lot in the software development process as well.

This approach reminds you that YOU are not the user. It is often easy to get distracted and make assumptions about what the end-user wants in the piece of software you’re developing, but when we take time to talk to and understand the user, a lot can be realized.

Although it can be a daunting task to try and understand users’ needs since every user is different, there are methods that have been put in place to ease this approach. This has been divided into 4 steps or phases, and it’s a repetitive process

1. Understanding context of use: It is very important to understand what the product will be used for, and the scope of its application in the real world, this gives a clear view and paint a better picture of what needs to be implemented, this is also the first point of contact and also a subsequent meeting point.

2. Gather user requirements: This phase involves gaining/gathering insight into what the user’s pain points are and what they expect from the product in order to solve those pain points and how users wish to use the product, this helps build a roadmap that will ensure speedy development and prevent bottlenecks, because all functionalities have been understood

3. Implement the solution: Now this phase is very conscious and void of assumptions, seeing that you have gathered the required information to reach this phase, you get to start implementing the solution with higher speed, you could break your development into sprints with certain goals to achieve and certain functionalities to implement and only be subjected to the next phase.

4. Test & evaluate solution against user requirements: This phase is the last and determines whether you need to go back to any of the steps, this can be done as a form of “Review” or “Retrospective”, you basically compare what has been implemented and see if it fits requirements (both design and user) and if not, you go back to any of the three-phase to see where things went wrong, as nobody is above mistakes or things could get lost in translation especially when working with substantial team size.

In conclusion, these four phases constitute the User First or User-Centered Approach in product or software development, and guarantee;

• Better results (better software)
• Fewer resources are wasted (fewer bottlenecks)
• Faster development speed and more.