Design thinking is a method and approach that solves tricky design problems. However, human-centered design is not mere design thinking but a philosophy that keeps human needs at the forefront of design. It encourages design systems and motivates digital product designers to cater to all possible requirements of the person/human at the other end of the screen. And, this is what makes it stand out from other problem-solving design approaches! Yes, you may call it obsessive when it comes to focusing and understanding the needs of people using a digital product. It’s so because, unlike many other design approaches, the human-centered design also concentrates on whether the solutions provided solve the issues efficiently.
Over the years, human-centered design has taught us to minimize the chances of errors when people have control. Furthermore, human-centered design demands designers to anticipate ‘human’ needs in the design system. All in all, apart from creating aesthetically pleasing interfaces, human-centered design endows designers with the responsibility to tailor a more humanized version of the user experience.
Human-centered design is a design approach and philosophy that solves problems for people with a deep understanding of the problems they face. It offers sustainable and impactful solutions that truly meet the needs of people.
The core principles of human-centered design
Human-centered- The design process has a special focus on people and their contextual needs. That way, it serves to satisfy the appropriate needs of the people and doesn’t settle for anything less.
Deeply understands and solves problems- Human-centered design is meant to hit the root cause of the underlying rudimentary problems. Designers aim to understand the issues and then solve them so that their signs do not become recurring.
Interlinked approach- As the central aim of human-centered design is to make people’s lives easier, it views every aspect of the design process as linked. The interlinked approach offers the designers a bird’s-eye-view for holistic problem-solving.
Design interventions should be steady and simple- As they say, good things take time! The human-centered design approach supports iterative interventions to be steady but effective. Furthermore, the slow and simple interventions allow designers to learn from them gradually. A gradual but smart approach allows the designers to refine what they’ve created and boost its efficacy.
“The challenge is to use the principles of human-centered design to produce positive results, products that enhance lives and add to our pleasure and enjoyment. The goal is to produce a great product, one that is successful, and that customers love. It can be done.” -Don Norman, “Grand Old Man of User Experience”
Phases of Human-centered design
Empathize with people- Getting into the shoes of people who experience problems is the first step of the human-centered design process. The designer has to immerse themselves into the problems of people in order to empathize with them truly. So, designers have to be curious during this design phase to learn the issues instead of simply assuming them. They have to engage with the people, ask them what’s troublesome, and seek guidance from experts to finally reach a successful problem-solving design.
Target the problems- Once the designer gathers all the information about the problems, defining those problems to solve them comes next. Here comes the mighty “why” that manifests the bang-on solution without wasting much time of the designers. Instead of jumping on to “we should..” this phase of human-centered design makes the designers introspect “why should we….” This phase allows designers to build a thesis that acts as a beacon light for the rest of the design process. Also, the exact targeting of the problem and its appropriate definition allows the design team to cross-check if they are moving towards the correct solution.
Brainstorm ideas- After unraveling the accurate description of the problem, it’s time to come up with the ideas for solutions. Brainstorm and brainstorm! During this phase of human-centered design, designers are free to conduct as many team meetings as possible, talk to people directly, or run surveys, but come up with as many ideas as possible. Here, they have to keep their judgmental mindset aside and aim for more and more ideas. Designers never know; sometimes, the most impractical ideas turn out to be the most novel solutions.
Prototype- Prototypes are nothing but low-cost replicas of the actual design. And, the next step of human-centered design is to create these prototypes and test them with people who experience the problems. Prototypes are built for interfaces, design systems, processes, and more. Although they are just replicas and not actual designs, designers should incorporate practical steps in the prototypes so that they can simulate them in real-world designs.
Test and iterate- After gathering ideas and executing them into prototypes, the final phase of human-centered design is to test them. Here, designers address the shortcomings of the design to refine it. So, instead of being defensive for their design solutions, designers should scrutinize them during the testing phase. Through testing and iteration, designers can observe what their design and solutions will look like to those who need them. Ultimately, designers will upgrade the design to offer efficient solutions, practical for real-world needs.
The phases of human-centered design involve empathizing with the people who experience the problem, addressing and defining those problems, brainstorming ideas to solve them, building prototypes to practically view those ideas, and then finally testing those prototypes and iterating them to come up with the best and effective solutions.
It’s no knack of a task to ace human-centered design. One can take them as the basic building blocks of a design that makes the interface or design systems more welcoming. So, even if some designers create a design that may knock your socks off, it remains simply inefficient without the human-centered design principles. Human-centered design features are no flattery but just some sympathetic design essentials that embed effective solutions for problems of people. They are highly imperative as any design that doesn’t reflect empathy and humanity loses its appeal for the purpose for which it was created in the first place, i.e., usability. Thus, in a world full of developing technical intricacies, the human-centered design reminds us to incorporate the fundamental human aspects.