What is user-centred design?

User-centred design (UCD) is about putting people at the heart of service design and delivery. It is a framework of processes in which the needs, wants, and limitations of the end users of a product, service or process are central to each design phase.

UCD is not about surveys and questionnaires, it’s about gaining a deeper qualitative understanding of who your users are, what motivates them to use your service and what their experience with using the service has been. Unlike market research, you need to work out how your users think and behave rather than find out what they like or think they want.

Why use a UCD approach?

Adopting a UCD approach ensures each member of your multi-disciplinary team understands your users’ circumstances, motivations, influences and expectations when they use your service.

Developing empathy for your users ensures any pre-conceived ideas about the problem and solutions are removed, and your team designs and builds the right thing in the right way. Putting the user at the centre of the process and using the agile operating model, enables the team to continuously learn about what does and doesn’t work, reducing risk and development effort.

The team starts small, learns fast and provides value to users as soon as possible.

The UCD delivery process

The UCD process consists of 6 phases: 2 planning and 4 delivery.

The 2 planning phases focus on typical project planning aspects such as problem space, resources, agency readiness, team logistics, governance, etc.

The 4 delivery phases see the team in action, talking to users to understand their real needs, prototyping potential solutions, and building the minimum viable product ready for public use.

The 6 UCD phases


Summary of Premobilisation phase. Links to page about Premobilisation phase.

Summary of Mobilisation phase. Links to page about Mobilisation phase.


Summary of Discovery phase. Links to page about Discovery phase.

Summary of Alpha phase. Links to page about Alpha phase.

Summary of Beta phase. Links to page about Beta phase.

Summary of Live phase. Links to page about Live phase.

UCD Tools and References

The following tools and references can be used to support the UCD process:


The Department of the Premier and Cabinet acknowledges the Commonwealth Government for the material used in the UCD Toolkit. Content for the UCD Toolkit has been adapted from the Digital Transformation Agency's (DTA) Service Handbook.