Human-Centred Design: A Game Changer in UX
Many organizations and individuals are adapting to digital products and services to go about their everyday life. Tasks such as grocery shopping, banking, bill payments, studying, booking tickets, scheduling appointments and planning formal and informal meet-ups have all migrated to various online digital platforms. This surge in online products/services demands a user-centric approach in designing to make the users feel comfortable and understood. Here arises a need for a Human-Centric approach in UI and UX Designing.
What is Human Centered Design?
Human-centred design is an approach that aims at developing a design for a product/service in a usable and comfortable manner for its users. Factors like safety, convenience, adaptability, and understandability of the user are the soul of the design effort. The human-centred design focuses on the cognitive, psychological, ethnic, and physical aspects, making a product/service suitable for a wide range of people.
The first and foremost point to be noted in human-centric design is that the designer should never ‘assume’ that he/she knows the customer. This is because people are different from each other. We need to observe and learn from how people behave rather than question them. Often, we end up solving the symptoms of a problem rather than solving the underlying problem. Sometimes, it is completely fine to do so. Human-centred designing believes that one size doesn’t fit all and is a continuous learning and evolving process.
Phases of Human-Centered Design
Human-centred design can be outlined by the following key phases:
- Empathize: Empathizing means imagining ourselves in the user’s shoes. We need to understand the needs and problems from the user’s perspective. This phase requires a learner’s mindset. This can be carried out by talking to the targeted community, observing their environments and tasks, and engaging in participatory actions such as brainstorming and prototyping.
- Define: Once we are done with the observation part, we need to define what we have understood from our study. The statements should be defined as problems initially to find a solution later on. This must be carried out with a diverse team because each individual has a different perspective of what they observe. For instance, two people may define the same problem in different ways. So, it is advisable to note down all the statements first and then filter out the problems which we can solve.
- Ideate: Once the actionable problems are identified, we need to come up with as many possible solutions to the problem. At this point, there are no bad or good ideas, just creative ideas. Sometimes an idea that sounds impractical might just turn out to be the perfect solution for your problems!
- Prototype: No amount of design thinking will yield more amazing results than the action itself. The designers often think that it takes time to come up with a proper prototype, but there is an alternative approach to that. The prototype can be a ‘look alike’ of the actual product. When the users access the prototype and interact with it, many aspects of the problem seem to be solved and we may also end up deducing new requirements. The designers can choose to have multiple prototypes so that they can experiment and zero in on the best one.
- Test and Iterate: The ideas and prototypes are put to test. In this phase, the flaws and gaps in design are identified. This is an improvisational phase, hence being defensive about the idea/prototype isn’t going to help. It helps us to learn more about the customers and their needs so that we can step up our design game now and later on.
Hurdles in Adopting Traditional HCD in Modern Industries
As good as the steps of human-centred designing sound, it is almost difficult to follow them in a modern, fast-paced industry. The team is often bounded by time constraints and limited resources, so on-field observation at the beginning of the project isn't possible. There is a huge pressure on the designers to release a viewable, usable product or at least a prototype as soon as possible. In this case, the Human Centered design team can start with a basic problem statement, release a basic, functional prototype to the targeted audience and learn from their interactions with the same. The observations can be evaluated by quantitative and qualitative research methods such as polls, affinity mapping, eye mapping, service safari, research synthesis etc.
A well-known example of this mechanism would be the Beta Testing program in Google Play Store. A certain number of people are allowed to sign up for the Beta Program, where they are granted access to the latest update of an application, which is yet to be released to the general audience. Based on the reviews and interactions of these users, the application is improved, fixed, and finally released when it meets the development standards.
Practical Example of Human Centered Design
Spotify is one of the live products that is designed using a human-centred design approach. The application is designed to cater to the needs of people with different language preferences. Spotify features music search based on the user’s mood, preferred genre, and activity. The simplified interface of the application allows the user to search for his/her music or podcasts without much hassle. The advertisements appear only once every thirty minutes so that the users can enjoy uninterrupted listening for 30 minutes straight. This makes Spotify immensely popular and a go-to option for music streaming.
Users can control the music/podcast playback from the notification bar so that they do need not to open the application every time. The app generates a customized playlist based on the songs which we listen to. The playlist can be shared with other people, which is a unique feature of Spotify. Spotify has made streaming music easier than before with budget-friendly downloads. The premium version provides Ad-free music, song downloads, and group sessions. The group sessions allow the users to invite up to 5 friends and play music and podcasts together, via a scannable code or an invite link. This feature of the app gives a real-time experience in listening to music. These features make the design human-centric.
Human-centred design is an approach that would at times make the UX design process easier but also unearths hidden issues and touchpoints. The human-centred design optimizes resources and guarantees higher rates of product success. Nowadays, there is a wide range of products for every need. This leads to people choosing the product which they are most comfortable with. A successful human-centred design is convenient, understandable and easy to use, and at the same time, does not bypass the original purpose of the product/service.