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What is Human-Centered Design?

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What is Human-Centered Design?

Human-centered design, as the name suggests, sets out as its core purpose the fulfilment of a human need. When it comes to digital customer experiences, this means that the end goal is to create a useful, seamless product, along the way constantly thinking of the end customer you are serving. As a problem-solving approach, it intends to deeply understand the perspective, desires and problems of its customer. An intelligent HCD (human-centered design) strategy should be iterative, and focused on a quantifiable, customer-focused end result.

Understanding the Human-Centered Design Process

Just as human desires, decisions and differences are not always chronological or linear, so a HCD process must be fluid and adaptable. The design journey should first of all focus on truly understanding the challenge your product or service will solve, via communication and research into the people experiencing the problem itself. Empathy and knowledge is essential, and fact-finding before beginning the design process will ensure a full grasp on the challenge at hand. Engaging your potential user from the very first instance, and allowing them to offer opinions, is the best way to build this first-hand knowledge.

After carrying out customer-centric research, human-centered designers define their problem by centering in upon the action they want to accomplish. Differently to other problem solving processes, an HCD approach always asks why a company should fulfil the action they intend to. Finding the reasons why an action is needed will allow for a more creative approach to solving the problem. By assessing the reasons that a need exists for your product or service, you can more accurately define the problem you are solving and work towards a truly useful solution.

The ideation process, brainstorming a solution, will grow from the depth of research put in earlier in the process. At this point, drawing up as many ideas as possible will be the most productive strategy, before later whittling suggestions down based upon their viability and merit. Following this, prototyping and putting the product through multiple phases of testing will ensure that it is as near-perfect as possible; again, involving end-customers in the testing process will efficiently cut out flaws and refine the end result.

Human-Centered Design is Empathetic Design

Importantly, human-centered design is an inherently empathetic process. Matt Kressy, founding director of the MIT Integrated Design & Management Master’s degree and expert in innovation and product development, believes empathy to be key to innovative product design.

“We define empathy as being able to relate to what someone else is experiencing,” he says. “To be able to feel their emotions that they’re feeling, or to have sensitivity to what they’re experiencing.” Matt believes that “human centered design is that process that you can practice that will build out that quality of empathy in oneself,” and greatly advocates for an empathetic approach to design in all strands of customer experience.

To learn more about Matt’s expert viewpoint on empathetic, human-centered design, check out his appearance on the LiftOff podcast where he discusses how “Human-Centered Design is Empathetic Design”.


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