Learn why we should create a human friendly design by default. Human centered design as part of a new product development strategy explained.
Gone are the days of soulless designs and dull experiences! By placing the human element at the core of the new product development process, engineers and manufacturers can ensure that their hardware solutions are not only efficient and functional but also intuitive and enjoyable to use. In this article, we explore the concept, core principles and benefits of Human-Centered Design.
What Human-Centered Design is
Human-centered design (HCD) is a framework for creative problem-solving that prioritizes the needs and experiences of people throughout the design process. By empathizing with individuals and their behaviors, HCD aims to create effective solutions that match the needs and capabilities of the people for whom they are intended.
The concept of HCD acknowledges that the ultimate success of any design is determined by the level of satisfaction and impact it has on the end-users.
According to Don Norman’s renowned book "The Design of Everyday Things", the importance of HCD lies in its ability to address the deficiencies in human-machine interaction that often arise from a lack of understanding of people. Engineers, who are typically experts in technology, may underestimate the complexity of human behavior and assume that logical explanations and instructions will suffice. However, human behavior is not always logical, and people often struggle with everyday technologies due to their increasing complexity. By focusing on the needs and experiences of users, hardware developers can create products that minimize confusion, errors and frustration.
It is important to note that HCD goes beyond collecting surface-level feedback and seeks to uncover the underlying reasons behind user behaviors. Instead of simply gathering product feedback through surveys, involving customers actively in the new product development process, creating prototypes, and testing enables designers to fine-tune it to the reality of its use.
Human-Centered VS. User-Centered Design
According to ISO (International Organization for Standardization), there is no explicit difference between human-centered design and user-centered design. The ISO 9241-210 standard for human-centered design emphasizes the need to involve users throughout the design and development process to achieve desirable and usable outcomes.
However there can be a subtle difference in how these terms are understood:
- Human-centered design (HCD)
- User-centered design (UCD)
HCD typically refers to a broader approach that considers the needs, goals, motivations, and behavior of all stakeholders involved, which includes users, but also other individuals impacted by the design. The focus is on creating a holistic experience that integrates the human-friendly design element at various levels.
UCD is a subset of HCD that specifically emphasizes the needs and preferences of the end-users. It focuses on gathering insights from users to inform design decisions, creating solutions that are tailored to their cognitive abilities, physical constraints, and usage contexts.
While there may be a slight difference in scope, both human-centered and user-centered design aim to ensure that the design process revolves around the understanding and inclusion of human factors for creating effective, efficient, and satisfying experiences.
Principles of HCD
Empathy and emotional engagement:
HCD recognizes the importance of starting the design process with a thorough understanding of people and their needs. This understanding is achieved through observation and active engagement with end-users. By observing users in their real-life situations, designers can uncover insights into their challenges and identify opportunities for improvement.
Empathy helps to bridge the gap between what users say they need and what they truly require, as people are often unaware of their underlying needs and the difficulties they face. In "Seductive Interaction Design" Stephen Anderson explores the concept of using seduction as a design strategy. In dating terms, it’s easy to think, “People will like me for who I am.” The truth is people have to be interested just enough to get to know you (your product) in the first place. That is why it is so important to consider the aesthetics and overall sensory experience of the product, making it visually appealing and pleasing to touch.
By adopting an iterative approach, designers can develop a series of prototypes or solutions that are progressively refined and aligned with user needs and preferences. Through rapid tests and feedback loops, designers can gather valuable insights and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their ideas.
The iterative development can be combined with the complication and improvement of the technical system, with the increased readiness of the product for market release. For example, the TRL methodology can be used, where at each stage the product becomes closer to mass production, while allowing you to make changes to the design and test it. In our article “Technology Readiness Levels: Assessing Technological Maturity” you will find more information on the topic.
Holistic thinking refers to perceiving everything as a system. It means that you should always keep the big picture in mind: what users want to accomplish with your product. To adopt holistic thinking, designers incorporate a range of methods and tools, such as empathy mapping, journey mapping, design thinking and a job to be done framework. These techniques help designers gain a deeper understanding of the people they are designing for, their motivations, desires, and pain points.
The job to be done approach emphasizes discovering and addressing the fundamental job or task that customers are trying to accomplish, rather than focusing solely on the features and attributes of a product or service. The JTBD framework helps to get as close as possible to the true desires of the user and, based on these desires, create products that are more likely to be in demand on the market. It also helps them map out the entire user experience, identifying touchpoints and potential areas for improvement.
By considering the holistic picture, designers can also uncover hidden relationships and dependencies within a system. They can identify root causes of problems rather than addressing symptoms, leading to more impactful solutions. This way, designers can avoid creating isolated fixes that may generate unintended consequences or neglect other important aspects.
Good design must meet all the necessary requirements and solve the problem most comprehensively, rather than symptomatically. However, how captivating the solution to the problem will be depends on the designer.
Human-centered design strives to unleash creativity and innovation in designers, urging them to think in fresh and imaginative ways. While the phrase "thinking outside the box" may be a cliche, it does not diminish its significance. However, thinking outside the box can be challenging for several reasons. Firstly, our brains naturally have a cognitive bias towards patterns and familiar solutions, making it easier to rely on established ways of thinking. Additionally, mental obstacles such as procrastination, stress, or burnout can impede creativity.
Thankfully, there are numerous frameworks and methods, such as TRIZ, SCAMPER, and Six Thinking Hats, that individuals and teams can apply to produce creative outputs.
At EnCata we successfully apply TRIZ, which stands for “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving”. TRIZ is a problem-solving methodology that encourages creativity and innovation and helps designers think outside the box by challenging traditional approaches and finding new solutions. An inventive solution is obtained by identifying and resolving the contradiction underlying the problem. Thus, the root cause of the problem is identified and eliminated. Whereas with traditional (template, routine) thinking, a template solution is obtained, in which a compromise is always sought, trying to slightly improve some parameters and unwittingly worsen others. Therefore, the main difference between inventive and template thinking is that with inventive thinking, a contradiction is sought, and with template thinking, a compromise.
Improved user satisfaction
When hardware is designed with users in mind, it is more likely to meet their requirements and expectations. This leads to higher customer satisfaction rates, fostering brand loyalty and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
Reduced development costs
Incorporating human-centered design into a new product development strategy can help identify potential issues and mitigate risks. This can lead to shorter development cycles, lower costs associated with rework or recalls, and ultimately, improved efficiency.
Reduced errors and accidents
Human-centered design focuses on understanding the limitations and capabilities of humans and tailoring the design accordingly. This can involve simplifying complex processes, incorporating clear instructions and warnings, enhancing visibility and feedback, and providing fail-safe mechanisms. By applying these design strategies, human errors can be minimized, leading to improved safety, reliability, and user satisfaction.
Increased market success and maximized Return on Investment
Human-centered design enables the creation of hardware that resonates with users and addresses their needs effectively. This leads to increased adoption of the product as users find it valuable and relevant. By incorporating innovative features, adopting an intuitive and user-friendly interface, and employing a visually appealing design aesthetic engineers can create products that provide unique and enjoyable experiences. Differentiation through human-centered design creates a competitive advantage by building brand loyalty and attracting and retaining customers.
How to implement HCD principles
The implementation of human-centered design transcends traditional design practices and embraces a collaborative and inclusive process, integrating diverse perspectives throughout the development stages. Whether it involves creating user-friendly digital interfaces or designing hardware the underlying goal remains constant: to understand and address the desires and aspirations of people.
That’s why the first step is conducting thorough user research to gain insights into their behaviors and motivations. Once these insights are gathered, designers define the problem accurately to create a solution. The next step is to generate ideas through brainstorming and prototyping, allowing creativity to flourish. Promising solutions are tested and refined based on user feedback, like molding clay to perfection. Finally, the design is implemented and launched, ready to captivate and improve users' lives.
Now you see that human-centered design is a fascinating journey. In our upcoming article, we will provide an in-depth examination of each stage of Human-centered Design. Stay in touch!
Human-Centered Design (HCD) is a crucial framework for engineers and manufacturers to ensure that their hardware solutions are not only efficient and functional but also intuitive and enjoyable to use. By prioritizing the needs and experiences of people throughout the design process, HCD aims to create effective solutions that match the needs and capabilities of the end-users. HCD goes beyond surface-level feedback and seeks to uncover the underlying reasons behind user behaviors to create products that minimize confusion, errors, and frustration. The benefits of implementing HCD include improved user satisfaction, reduced development costs, reduced errors and accidents, and increased market success and return on investment. Ultimately, HCD enables engineers to create hardware that resonates with users, providing unique and enjoyable experiences, and building brand loyalty.