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Usage-centered design is an approach to user interface design based on a focus on user intentions and usage patterns. It analyzes users in terms of the roles they play in relation to systems and employs abstract (essential) use cases[1] for task analysis. It derives visual and interaction design from abstract prototypes based on the understanding of user roles and task cases.

Usage-centered design was introduced by Larry Constantine and Lucy Lockwood. The primary reference is their book.[2]

Usage-centered design methods

Usage-centered design is largely based on formal, abstract models such as models of interaction between user roles, UML workflow models and task case and role profiles. Usage-centered design proponents argue for abstract modelling while many designers use realistic personas, scenarios and high-fidelity prototypes. The techniques have been applied with particular success in complex software projects, some of which have been reported in case studies.[3]

Usage-centered design and activity-centered design approach

Usage-centered design share some common ideas with activity-centered design. It is concerned more with the activities of users but not the users per se. Constantine (2006) presents an integrated framework where the models of Usage-centered design are enriched with concepts from the Activity theory.



  1. ^ See Constantine (1995) and Constantine and Lockwood (2001)
  2. ^ Constantine and Lockwood (1999); see also Constantine (1996)
  3. ^ See, for example, Windl (2002) and Strope (2003)


Further reading

Usage-centered design FAQ