User-Centered Design is a process in which usability engineers, designers and others participate to design a product or service. The premise being that the calculated and structured involvement of users in the process from start to finish will maximize the likelihood that the businesses goals will be met or furthered through a solution that meets the users wants and needs in a way they would expect.
The part that most designers either don’t get, are in denial of or simply ignore is the context of business goals. In fact lots of designers will read what I just wrote and ignore that too.
Now I know what you’re thinking, Challis, doctors, lawyers and other professionals straddle the fence between a code of ethics and the pressures of western capitalism. So why can’t we designers focus on making the world a better place and still find our place within the context of business. I believe the simple answer to this question is really at the crux of what designers are trying to figure out.
Designers do not have the social, cultural and political backing for the type of ethical standards that a doctor owes her patients or a lawyer owes his clients. There is no pressure on business, short of basic safety concerns, to support the making of usable products.
(See also: Do We Need Another Design Organization?)
I believe solving this problem requires a simultaneous top down and bottom up approach. From the top, the formation of an umbrella organization to facilitate lobbying, marketing, etc. ( The American Medical Association). And from the bottom up, some smaller organizations to represent the specific interests of information architects, art directors, interaction designers, usability engineers, etc. (The Association for Real Estate Law or the American Association For Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus).