Software is only as good as the user experience it delivers. And user-centered design is the key to a great user experience. Drawing lessons from thought leaders and my own experience, I have developed a process based on fundamental user-centered principles, adaptable to various situations, and proven.
It takes a variety of skills to execute on this process. Of course it takes creativity in the usual sense of the term, i.e. imaginative use of a medium. Even more, it requires creative problem solving which in turn implies a fair amount of analysis. This is especially true in complex content domains.
User-centered design also presupposes skills such as careful listening, proactive communication, organization, flexibility and planning--in a word, collaboration. Some years ago it dawned on me just how critical healthy collaboration is to creating quality software. As a designer, I am usually not the foremost domain expert on a project. So I have learned to seek input and feedback from wherever the expertise may be. In any case, all roads lead back to the user, and design prototypes must be user tested to prove their success.
Before getting involved in software, I had background in visual arts and an admiration for great tools. Aesthetically, I strive for simplicity and elegance, keeping all that is essential, removing all that is not. Along with a user-centric process, this approach produces intuitive experiences allowing users to feel confident in their tools and stay focused on their work. It enhances productivity, promotes attention to higher-level objectives, and ultimately justifies investment in the user experience.