Learn the benefits of humanized design and uncover the methods of bringing it to fruition. Dive in to make a successful product launch.
Hardware industry has traditionally followed a technology-driven approach, placing more importance on technical specifications and capabilities. However, growing consumer expectations and desire for seamless user experiences revolutionized the way engineers and designers create solutions. Human-Centered Design (HCD) has emerged as a guiding principle for creating exceptional products that enhance the human experience. If you're eager to dive deeper into the concept and discover the core principles of humanized design, don't miss out on the first part of our guide.
In the second part of the HCD guide, we continue our journey through the various stages of HCD implementation, where innovation meets empathy and creativity. Typically, the implementation of Human-Centered Design involves a series of key stages: research and user-analysis, ideation, prototyping, testing, and finalizing the design. However, it's important to note that HCD is by no means a rigid, inflexible process. Teams may encounter unexpected leaps and shifts along the way, deviating from traditional linear progressions.
Research and user-analysis
Defining user context
When it comes to designing a user-centric product, the first step is conducting user research. Without understanding your users, you would be blindly guessing their needs. By analyzing user data, you can gain valuable insights into the obstacles, goals, and motivations of your specific audience. These insights then inform the following design phases. To define the user context effectively, it is essential to begin by asking yourself a set of straightforward questions:
- Who are the users?
- What do the users need to do?
- How are they currently doing it (if at all)?
When we ask who the users are, we try to think beyond the basic population category (i.e. video game players, office workers, young parents). By going beyond the surface-level definitions of our target audience, we open ourselves to a world of diverse backgrounds and identities. It is within these unique characteristics that we find the keys to truly connect with our users and uncover design considerations that may have previously gone unnoticed. But it doesn't stop there. We must also explore the subpopulations and segmentations within our user base. Are there groups that may have distinct preferences or needs? Don’t be afraid to be very specific. By understanding these differences, we can ensure that our product caters to the needs of all users, leaving no one behind.
You can see some segmentation examples in the following table.
Now, let's delve into what our users are actually trying to achieve. Are they seeking professional success or pursuing their passions and hobbies? Are they in search of entertainment or looking to express their creativity? These fundamental questions shape the very essence of our product. Whether we aim to make their lives more efficient or enhance their leisure time, it is by understanding their goals that we can deliver true value.
Equally important is understanding how our users currently accomplish their goals. What tools or solutions do they rely on? What frustrations or challenges do they face? By identifying users’ pain points and areas for improvement, we have the opportunity to create something revolutionary. And even in cases where a problem has yet to be solved, it is through this imaginative lens that we can uncover new solutions to meet their needs.
Qualitative and quantitative research design methods
To provide more precise answers to the aforementioned questions or to test various hypotheses, conducting user research is essential. There are two main types of research design: qualitative, for in-depth understanding, and quantitative, for measuring trends.
Qualitative research is focused on gaining an understanding of users' thoughts, emotions, and motivations. This type of research involves asking open-ended questions and conducting in-depth discussions, which provide valuable insights into user preferences and needs. It is a useful method for both early and advanced stages of product development. The main objective of qualitative research is to gather, analyze, and interpret non-numerical data. Examples of qualitative research methods include in-depth interviews, focus groups, and direct observations.
On the other hand, quantitative research aims to collect numerical data from a specific group of people and then apply those findings to a larger population in order to explain a particular phenomenon. Quantitative research is typically used when researchers want to obtain objective and conclusive answers to well-defined questions, particularly in the advanced stages of research. It is not commonly used in the early stages of research when the goal is to explore a question or identify a problem. Common quantitative research methods include surveys, analysis of usage data, and other statistical techniques.
Throughout your research process, it is important to ask naive and unbiased questions. It is necessary to discard any preconceived notions and transform them into confirmed knowledge. Believing that you already know everything will not contribute to achieving this outcome.
Here are some best practices for conducting user research:
- Start by determining your research objectives and the main questions you want to address. This could include understanding user frustrations, testing a new feature, or exploring user behavior and motivations.
- Craft user personas or segments that will guide your participant selection. These personas will help you define the characteristics and criteria of your target users, ensuring that your research findings are relevant to your user base.
- Employ a systematic approach to analyze and interpret your research data. This could involve organizing and categorizing qualitative responses to identify common themes and patterns. Alternatively, for quantitative research, you may employ statistical analysis to identify trends and correlations.
- Produce a concise and visually impactful report that highlights the main findings, insights, and recommendations from your research. Incorporate visuals, like charts and infographics, to illustrate your data in a way that is easy for stakeholders to understand.
- Establish a feedback loop that connects your user research findings to your product management process. This feedback loop could involve utilizing your insights to update user personas, inform product roadmaps, or guide feature prioritization.
The ultimate goal of this stage is to overcome cognitive fixedness (a mindset in which you consciously or unconsciously assume there’s only one way to interpret or approach a situation) and generate as many ideas as possible to address the identified user needs. This stage encourages thinking outside the box and encourages collaboration among team members. Techniques such as brainstorming and brainwriting are commonly used to generate a wide range of concepts.
Brainstorming, a concept coined by advertising executive and author Alex Faickney Osborn, is a dynamic and spontaneous technique used to find innovative solutions to problems. In his book, How to Think Up, Osborn emphasizes the importance of two key principles: deferring judgement and generating a large quantity of ideas. These principles form the foundation of successful brainstorming sessions.
To make your brainstorming sessions more effective and engaging, consider the following tips and steps:
- Be selective with the number of participants: Instead of having a large crowd, gather around 5-7 individuals. This allows for better collaboration and ensures that everyone's ideas have a chance to be heard.
- Embrace diversity: Invite people from various backgrounds and disciplines to participate. This diverse mix of perspectives will offer a wider range of experiences and knowledge, fostering innovation. Avoid having too many like-minded individuals, as this can lead to a lack of originality.
- Appoint a moderator: Designate a skilled moderator who can not only record ideas during the session but also guide the conversation and keep everyone focused.
- Set a time limit: Before starting the brainstorming session, establish a time constraint. This can range from 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the preferences of the session leader. Setting a time limit promotes efficiency and prevents the discussion from becoming stagnant.
By implementing these strategies, your group brainstorming sessions will become more dynamic and productive, leading to the generation of innovative and valuable ideas.
The concept behind 6-3-5 Brainwriting involves six participants who each write down three ideas on a worksheet within a time frame of five minutes. The name itself, 6-3-5, reflects this specific structure. Once each participant has had a turn to jot down their ideas, they pass the worksheet on to the next person who can either contribute to the existing ideas or start fresh. This process is repeated six times, resulting in a total of 108 ideas being generated within a span of 30 minutes.
Afterwards, the next steps involve removing any duplicate ideas, organizing similar concepts into clusters, and identifying the top chosen solution of the group. This can be achieved through methods such as dot-voting, where participants mark their preferred choices.
After generating ideas, group similar ones together to identify emerging themes that will guide your design principles. These principles should be concise and memorable, representing the core aspects of your solution. Your design principles will then contribute to your product concept, a more comprehensive solution that can be tested with customers in a co-creation session. Feedback from this session will help you decide what to prototype in order to address important questions and guide your next iteration.
We are passionate about transforming ideas into reality and understand that you share the same desire. However, before diving in, it is crucial to test and validate the technical feasibility of your idea.
When it comes to prototypes, there's a crucial rule to remember - they should only demand as much time, effort, and investment as necessary to gather valuable feedback and drive an idea forward. Prototyping isn't about creating a perfect working model; it's about visualizing an idea and assessing its strengths and weaknesses. Initially, prototypes help us determine if an idea has functional value.
Prototyping can involve creating prototypes of varying fidelity, using either simple materials or advanced tools and software. Fidelity refers to how true-to-life something is, with low fidelity being less realistic and high fidelity being as close to reality as possible.
Low-fidelity prototyping, also known as low-fi prototyping, is a fast and straightforward way to transform high-level design concepts into tangible and testable prototypes. Low-fi prototypes can be made from various materials: paper, cardboard, sculptural clay. The primary purpose of low-fi prototypes is to assess and evaluate functionality or to test different hypotheses rather than focusing on the visual appearance of the product.
In our prototyping process for the Actuator mechanism spinner, our team decided to take a low-fidelity approach. To determine the best mechanism, we developed prototypes for various concepts, including the humming-top, ball screw, air drive, and magnetic drive. After careful evaluation, we ultimately selected the ball screw mechanism.
High-fidelity prototyping aims to create a prototype that closely resembles the final manufactured and sold product. It is a more refined version that allows for a more accurate representation of the end result.
The true test lies in gathering feedback from the intended users of the final product by taking the prototype into the real world. At this stage, it becomes crucial to address any surface-level flaws in the prototype. This is essential to prevent potential customers from being distracted by rough edges or unresolved details, enabling them to concentrate on the core idea of the product.
We’ve showcased some high-fidelity prototypes on Kickstarter, including our Smart Cup Kitchen Kettle IoT device, which brews coffee, tea and makes baby formula. Through a highly realistic prototype, we were able to exhibit not only the sleek design of the device but also its smart features, underscoring our meticulous attention to detail and dedication to providing a seamless user experience. Additionally, we’ve presented a prototype of our Smart IoT 5-in-1 Air Purification Device, designed to enhance indoor air quality. The prototype emphasized its advanced functionality and ergonomic design.
Testing and iteration
The testing and iteration stage is where designers validate their prototypes with users through usability testing and feedback sessions.
Usability testing plays a crucial role in the design process as it ensures that a product not only functions well but has good usability for real-life users. By observing end users in real-time as they perform realistic tasks, we can pinpoint any issues they may encounter. Users are encouraged to think aloud while completing these tasks, providing valuable context and raw, honest feedback. Unlike interviews, where thoughts can be filtered, the constant flow of "think-aloud" data offers a deep understanding of the user's thought process. By combining observation with think-aloud data, we can gain invaluable insights into the user's perspective in a relatively short period.
In hardware design, it is essential to test prototypes in conditions that closely resemble real-life situations. What may attract users in a demo setting might not work well in actual use. Factors such as inconvenient storage, unstable communication in urban areas, and challenges for suppliers or disposal can emerge during usability testing. By considering these real-world conditions, we can ensure a product's effectiveness, convenience, and overall user satisfaction.
Finalizing the design
After several rounds of testing and iteration, the final stage of HCD is finalizing the design. This stage involves fine-tuning the prototype based on user feedback and incorporating the enhancements identified during testing. The designers ensure that the design is aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly, and aligned with the users' needs and goals. This stage may involve further collaboration with stakeholders, such as engineers or marketers, to ensure the design's feasibility and market fit.
You are probably expecting a conclusion generated by the Gpt chat, but we are forced to disappoint your expectations. We only want to say that HCD is an approach that will help you stand out from the competition in the market. Each of the HCD stages – research and user analysis, ideation, prototyping, testing and iteration – is an important milestone, and the better you work out your concept at the initial stage, the higher the chance that your first prototype will be successful. Thus, you will launch the product much earlier than you could.