The best project focuses on people, always.
Repeatedly, human-centered design (HCD) has shown that by going through the four phases – inspiration, idea, implementation, and validation – each person or team can design a solution that meets the needs of the end-user facing these challenges.
This blog will provide a detailed overview of the human-centered design process and how it differs from design thinking.
What is Human-Centered Design?
Human-centered design is designing products in a way that puts people first. Using the HCD approach, product developers try to find solutions to problems by involving a human perspective at all the problem-solving process stages. The strategy focuses on understanding the people who use the products, their needs and behaviors, and their life situations.
It can also be defined as:
- A process that ensures products, services, and/or system changes under development improve the quality of life of those for whom the solution is designed
- An attitude that begins with the belief that solution(s) exist in people who experience the problem
- A framework that provides transparency on how individuals and organizations can work together to find answers, even when there is no obvious path
The four phases of the human-centered design process
Human-centered design aims to find the right solution to people’s problems, and inspiration plays a crucial role in this process. Inspiration is getting to know people, their needs and desires, and finding the issues you need to solve to make their lives better. In the design process, inspiration comes from discovery – finding the people you want to build a product for and asking them questions, trying to find out what problems they are facing (usually by observing the situation in the context of its use).
This phase includes an in-depth analysis of the problem space. Design teams conduct brainstorming sessions to develop ideas on solving problems and conceptualizing ideas (creating design models). Together, they evaluate each idea and select the most promising ideas that will later be developed and tested. A mind map can be handy during an idea-building session as it helps you visualize a system or process quickly.
Implementation is the process of creating concrete solutions using ideas. At this stage, product teams spend time creating prototypes. Depending on the ideas’ maturity, prototypes can be anything from low-fidelity clickable mock-ups to fully functional, high-fidelity solutions that look and act almost like finished products. The key idea behind prototyping is to simulate interactions with the design, and this simulation helps with the overall design evaluation.
Validation is where the product team tests their prototypes with real users. Validation will help the team bridge the gap between what people say they need and what people need. Testing prototypes in real life (namely, providing a prototype to your users and asking them to perform specific tasks as they would naturally do if they own the product) will help you see what works for your users and what challenges they face during interaction with the product. This way, you can identify friction points.
The four fundamental principles of Human-Centered Design
Concentrate on the people.
No matter your product design, always think about the people who use it. These people are not abstract “users.” They are real people who will be interacting with your product. Remember that your product is just a tool that helps them achieve their goal.
Find the right problem.
Not all problems are worth solving. There are two types of problems – the underlying problems and the problem’s symptoms. It’s essential to fix the underlying problem first, as this will fix other root causes.
Think of everything as a system.
Don’t focus solely on one part of the user’s journey (local experience), forgetting other parts of the journey. Improving the local experience doesn’t mean you’ll have an overall excellent user experience. Always look at the big picture – what do you want to achieve with your experience, what effect do you want.
Always check your design decisions.
No matter the time you spend creating ideas and prototyping your design solution, you should always test them with real people. Feedback from the test session will help you understand which part of your project needs improvement.
“User comes first” is a fundamental principle of product design. If you want to create the right solutions for real people, it’s crucial to adopt the mindset that allows us to solve people’s problems.
In this saturated digital environment where people have become demanding and ingenious, human-centric design is almost mandatory to quickly gain their trust, ensure their loyalty, and build brand recognition.
Want to know more about this? Reach out to us, and many of our expert designers will be more than happy to you.