The Three Phases of Human Centered Design

Jun 28, 2019


People like things that can be done simply, and something that can help dissolve their pain points. From the offline to the online, user experience, or more widely known as UX Design - is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility and desirability provided in the interaction with a product. One framework that hasn’t been in the limelight, but is still highly important for any start-up or company looking to innovate - is Human Centered Design or HCD. 

The term “human-centered design” was a term invented by IDEO, a design organization that makes community-orientated projects to combat poverty and create a more sustainable world. 

“Human-centeredness is a creative approach to problem solving - one that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions tailored to meet their needs. When you understand the people you’re trying to reach, and understand from their perspectives, not only will you arrive at unexpected answers, but you’ll come up with ideas that they’ll embrace.” - IDEO, Global Design Company 

Human centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re providing for. The process allows to creatively come up with industry relevant ideas, building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for. In the era of the customer, human beings are involved in the design of products and services right from the start. It is a process where the end product is based on human-centric design solutions for people’s problems, goals and needs. 

“The customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him. One reason for this is, of course, that nobody pays for a ‘product.’ What is paid for is satisfaction. But nobody can make or supply satisfaction as such—at best, only the means to attaining them can be sold and delivered.” – Peter Drucker, the father of Modern Management Theory.

Introduce yourselves to the three pillars of Human Centered Design - Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation. 

Phase 1: Getting inspiration from your target audience and users

Paying heed to the needs of your users will bring you to the best solution. Through conversation and observation, the inspiration phase is all about understanding your user’s needs and challenges, and dropping any preconceived notions you might have about them. It is important to note that at this stage in the HCD process, remove any specific outcomes in mind, and instead open yourself to a wide variety of possible solutions. 

To extract inspirations, frame a pre-crafted design challenge that would form the basis of your research and conversations with your chosen communities and personas. Some common methods used in this phase will be to conduct interviews and secondary research, followed by planning the steps and milestones for your work. For example, if you want to create a product or service, it should align with the way the client conducts the business - not make the client change their practices to meet the constraints you have placed within your product. This phase allows you go deeper in understanding your project and produce an informed solution. 

Phase 2: Create, ideate 

After consolidating your research and findings, this phase is about visualizing, retargeting, brainstorming and discussing all the potential solutions. Penning down your ideas in front of you  - regardless of how flawed or impractical - helps you and your end-user hone in on what’s going to work and what’s not. At this stage, you don’t want to start off with expensive prototypes - all you need are some basic sketches, lists or small scale models to tap into your creativity without the pressure to produce a polished final product. What’s important about this phase is that once you’ve gotten feedback early, you can reiterate your best ideas until you’ve made your way to a well-developed concept that works for everyone, and is aimed at impacting your user in a positive way. 

Phase 3: Testing and implementation

The first two phases were meant to set the ground for you and your team to find a concept that feels right, before moving forward and setting aside money to build and run rapid prototypes. In this phase, this contains the tail end of the pre-production phase, where a high fidelity prototype is put together for your users to try out, as well as the actual production of the object (or coding, for web and app-based projects). This is a good time to create a business model around the concept, make necessary partnerships and prepare your product for real-world use. 

Why should you implement HCD into your process? 

In a saturated digital environment where people have become demanding, technology reliant, and savvy, applying human centered design is mandatory to quickly gain your audiences’ trust, encourage loyalty and build brand recognition. With even multi national corporations like IBM adopting and creating their own Enterprise Design Thinking Framework that aligns multi-disciplinary teams around the real needs of their users, it is no doubt that businesses are fast adopting and executing such scalable methods to stay relevant and deliver differentiated outcomes. 

Let’s sum up with another quote: 

“It unifies everyone around a very clear approach. One that is oriented around the customer, as opposed to different people’s objectives.” - James Galassi, Head of Marketing Strategy and Operations, Virgin Money 

Got an idea or a story on how to implement your own ways of design thinking? Get onto the Interchange Network to share! 


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