UCD or user centered design, is probably the most go-to method today in UX/UXD or user experience design. In fact these terms are ofter interchanged and bundled up as the same thing. They are indeed very different. UX is the discipline that embodies what we do, experience as an objective. UCD is the, well a, process, how we do it.
The UCD process is easy to define. Step one is research into the “users” world to gain an understanding of what they do and how they do it, the most important step. Next, is the conceptual stage of ideation where we address the needs found in the research stage. Once we have that idea or concept we move on to prototypes and evaluation. Lastly we test and repeat the process. Obviously this is a crude and to the point explanation but it provides an idea of what current UX designers are doing. With that said UCD is not the only process, its just widely used and highly supported, in my opinion its just another catch-all term.
The are also development processes that we go though while prototyping/building a ux, like PE or progressive enhancement. Now there was a very supported method called graceful degradation that actually resembled print designs process, it called for building the layout first and making it degrade throughout devices. Smartphones are responsible for killing that processes and then we all got on the mobile first approach, this was based on early phones that did not support JS or media queries. Mobile-first is creating a bare bones site and enhancing it for smart phones and PC. Then came along RWD or responsive web design largely due to advances in mobile tech. RWD lead to the process known as PE or progressive enhancement. It shares all the processes that preceded it. We design a bare-bones site for the lowest supported device and enhance up, the opposite of graceful degradation. PE allows the site to actually ask the device what it can do and then loads supported features, it can be seen as layering of technology to improve the look/function of a site. This creates UX’s that span across users and technology.
I am going to paste in something I wrote a few weeks ago because this process seems most related to your research.
The current most trend is that of the persona method, originally used to develop IT systems, it has adapted to fit many other contexts. I honestly think it takes the back burner because it is near impossible to explain. A persona is a description of a fictitious person. As readers we engage with characters, we have a complete description of a “human” that we relate to. This evokes empathy. Empathy leads us to create solutions based on the needs of the user. This is the benefit of persona descriptions, we gain understanding and empathy outside of our realities. It is the balance of data and knowledge that make the persona method a “defense against automated thinking” in design. These personas evoke empathy with users and prevent designers from projecting their own needs and desires. A persona is only successful when the reader can imagine the person, understand their needs and desires, and predict their actions. This makes the persona a form of storytelling with a focus on evoking empathy for the purpose of identification.
Experience to me is an incident that we as viewers try and gain understanding in, extract meaning from. So a narrative in a sense is organized meaning. Organization can be seen like a story, organized sequences using linear or logical structures. We create narratives from story elements. Understanding like most things is a matter of perception, it is an inter-subjective process of creation. A great example of this concept: “The woman takes the knife. The man hits the woman. We infer a causal connection between the two elements of action, and we assume that the two actions will spur further action. The narrative becomes different if the story-elements are the same, but are presented in reverse order, as in this example: The man hits the woman. The woman takes the knife.”
In a sense the persona method is a humanistic psychological approach, this is your phenomenology, or meaning and value. I was reading the other day about personas and the article lead to the question, what is usability? And the author stated that it was as complicated as asking what is beauty? In a nutshell usability is a catch-all concept that embodies years of designing with the intent to make tech easier to use.
Now a “shared experience” or co/group-experience to me are experiences that are socially constructed and adaptable. I mentioned personas because of its ties to storytelling. Stories grab our empathy or attention by the elements the reader resonates with, a shared experience. This puts a great deal of weight on the research stage of the process. It is putting a human face on cold heartless data. So personas need to look at the similarities of stories and group them. This shows actions, behaviors, motivations, conflicts, and overall puts the data or research into a human context specific with your users. User stories spark solutions and thus experiences.
I could go on forever but I will leave it hear and await your response to say more!