I recently attended an STC conference where one of the topics discussed was user-centred design. I met with usability experts and interaction designers whose sole job is ensuring that a product is intuitive and easy to use from a user’s perspective, and not from the business’s.
At the conference, I met someone who visited Intuit’s usability lab in California. It’s a multi-million dollar facility where they exhaustively test usability, bringing in many different typical users of their products. You can see the results in their software: TurboTax in the U.S. and QuickTax in Canada. I have QuickTax and I can say it is one of the most well-designed, user friendly and intuitive products I have ever seen.
So, if you want to create well-designed, user-centric documents, then study, use, and analyze well-designed, user-centric products. For in the end, the document is as much a product as the product itself.