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User-centered design is a term used to talk about processes that address user characteristics, habits or preferences in the design of a product. In a sense, user-centered design is what it sounds like – people design the product around the user's needs, rather than making the user conform to the design.
Some of the confusion around user-centered design hangs on the perhaps more popular term “user experience.” User experience (UX) has become a buzzword in IT to talk about improving how the user experiences software or other products. Many people talk about user-centered design and user experience interchangeably, but others point out that the user-centered design is more of the concept plan and the user experience, an improved or customized user experience, is the result. However, many IT professionals use the term “user experience” as a process term, which creates some lack of clarity.
User-centered design is really about anticipating the users' needs. It can be applied to any product, but in IT there is a big emphasis on intuitive graphic user interfaces and other tools that are user friendly and easy for end users to master.