Human-Centered (Re)Design – UX Planet
Human-Centered Design (HCD) has been at the forefront of the discipline and practice of User Experience. An important UX framework, it aims to develop solutions to usability challenges by involving the human perspective throughout the entire problem-solving process. The scope of the human involvement, as part of the product development process, is of particular interest. This equally applies to digital and physical products, as well as services.
The next iteration of the HCD framework will address usability challenges at a more granular level. Product functionality considerations and the scope of technology offerings will be based on thorough understanding of the usability challenges discovered during the early stages of the product development process. Read more on this topic in my article Product Development — a Creative Process.
As described by Wikipedia, the human-centered design “is an approach to interactive systems development that aims to make systems usable and useful by focusing on the users, their needs and requirements, and by applying human factors/ergonomics, usability knowledge, and techniques. This approach enhances effectiveness and efficiency, improves human well-being, user satisfaction, accessibility and sustainability; and counteracts possible adverse effects of use on human health, safety and performance.”
Developing the most appropriate solutions, as part of the HCD framework is largely dependent on constant human involvement, including during the brainstorming, research, concept development, and the implementation cycles.
The human-centered design approach aims to improve the overall user experience of the human users of products or services. An overarching goal of human-centered design framework, improved user experience can provide a broad scope of benefits to human users, including reduction in stress and discomfort. It can also deliver added usability for individuals with greater accessibility needs. In addition, the human-centered design principles can enhance users’ productivity, in turn improving the organization’s operational efficiency.
The applications of the HCD framework may also significantly reduce the training cost, often associated with the introduction and the implementation of new products or services. In an ever-diverse competitive landscape, such approach may also provide companies and organizations with added competitive advantage. Additional benefits, specific to the organizational structure, systems and/or operations may also be evident over time.
From Neurons to Narratives
Brian Little, a renowned scholar in the field of personality psychology, defined a human persona as a holistic continuum of “neurons to narratives.” As humans, explains Little, we are “like all other people, like some other people, like no other person.” Little’s eloquent description highlights the importance of understanding the audience for which a product or service is designed. Applying the principles of human-centered design to the product development process benefits the human user, and ultimately results in more useful and usable products.
Technology and the Human-Centered Design
A product development cycle can be complex in its scope, and rigorous in terms of required deliverables at each stage of the development process. Driven by technology considerations and other factors, an effective product development approach seeks to continuously incorporate the HCD framework throughout the entirety of the product development process. This in turn helps to avoid the disconnect between the product’s technological requirements and its human user-friendliness and usability.
Driven by the need to maintain competitive advantage, products and services undergo continuous technological improvements and redesigns. In the digital products landscape such improvements often include the need for additional product functionalities and technological capabilities. To maintain the overall continuity of efforts, as well as to ensure effective application of the HCD framework, product development teams collaborate closely with user experience, technology and other project groups.
Human-Centered Design, circa 2020
The next two years will see an increase in the application of the HCD framework across the broad product development landscape. The greatest positive impact will be particularly evident in the service industry, which, in my opinion, has been slower in adopting the human-centered design framework, as compared to the digital products industry. In addition, federal, state and local governing bodies will continue to understand and embrace the benefits of human-centered design principles, in turn applying them in their service offerings.