How a human-centred design approach can help overcome challenges and elevate the customer experience

November 24, 2023

How a human-centred design approach can help overcome challenges and elevate the customer experience

November 24, 2023

people in an office setting

How can you use human-centred design to fully meet the needs of your customers and gain a competitive advantage? Discover five steps to help you get started.

Brian is a manager on MNP Digital’s Experience Design Team. A certified Design Thinker, Brian uses human-centred design tools and techniques to solve complex problems in unexpected ways, believing the world would be a better place if people dared to transform.

You need to deliver solutions that fully meet the needs of your customers to stand out in today’s marketplace. The products, services, and systems that you’ve worked so hard to develop will eventually end up in the hands of real people. This makes it necessary to keep their needs in mind as you envision, design, and build your products to help elevate the customer experience. How can you prioritize real users to ensure that your end-product achieves those goals?

A human-centred design approach prioritizes the customer experience throughout every step of the design process to deliver intuitive products that provide meaningful experiences. Understanding what human design involves, how it works in practice, and the benefits it provides can help you create high-quality solutions. Discover everything you need to know about human-centred design below — as well as five steps to help you put this approach into practice.

What is human-centred design?

Human-centred design is a problem-solving approach toward the development of products, services, or systems. It aims to understand the perspectives and experiences of the people who will use the product to create solutions that fully meet their needs.

Human-centred design uses observation, engagement, and immersion throughout the process to achieve its goals. These three key tools help designers in a variety of fields including software development, healthcare, and engineering meet the needs and expectations of end users.

How does human-centred design work?

Human-centred design envisions, designs, and builds solutions with real users in mind. This involves immersing yourself in the user’s experience to gain empathy and develop a greater understanding of their needs. For example, if you are designing a platform to help delivery drivers manage their daily work, you might shadow a driver for several days to identify opportunities to meet their needs and address potential challenges. 

After immersing themselves in the user experience, human-centred designers will define the problem that the product is trying to solve, ideate ways to solve that problem, and develop prototypes of solutions. These prototypes will be tested by real users, who provide feedback to the designers. Designers use this feedback to refine the product through an iterative prototyping process until the solution is ready for launch in the marketplace. After the solution is implemented, human-centred designers will continue to monitor it to ensure it continues to meet the needs of users and make improvements as needed.

What are the benefits of human-centred design?

Adopting a human-centred design approach can offer many benefits to both users and businesses across a variety of industries. It can increase innovation through encouraging out-of-the-box thinking by involving diverse user perspectives throughout the process.

Human-centred design also enables developers to identify potential problems earlier by involving users from the beginning of the design process and iteratively testing prototypes. This helps to decrease the risk of failure, reduce costs, and improve efficiency.

This approach can also help increase customer satisfaction and loyalty through prioritizing the needs of end users throughout the design process to elevate the experience with the product. This helps enhance the competitiveness of your product or service in the marketplace.

Five steps to get started with human-centred design

These five steps can help you get started on adopting a human-centred design approach throughout the design process to create products and services that address the needs of your end users:

Adopt a beginner’s mindset

Adopting a beginner’s mindset involves having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a lack of preconceptions when studying a subject. This helps you explore out-of-the-box possibilities and gather fresh insights without preconceived biases or assumptions. A beginner’s mindset is an essential part of human-centred design and allows you to imagine new solutions and truly understand the needs of your users.

Question everything

Curiosity is an essential element of human-centred design. It is vital to maintain a sense of curiosity about the experiences and motivations of the real people who use your products. This helps you to identify needs that may not be readily apparent and deliver solutions to meet those needs. Always ask questions — even if the answer seems obvious. Consider applying techniques such as the Five Whys throughout the design process to gain a greater understanding of your end users and the problems that you are trying to solve with your product.

Record video

Immersion is critical to understand the experiences and perspectives of the people who will use your product when it is released in the marketplace. Immersion often involves placing yourself in the end-users’ shoes and using your prototype to navigate the real-life problems that you are trying to solve. However, recording video footage of these experiences and how your prototype performs in these situations can also help you fully immerse yourself in the design process. This helps to provide a reference point that you can return to and re-immerse yourself in at any time throughout all stages of product development.

Bring a prototype

Testing prototypes in real-life situations is an important part of the human-centred design process. Walking through a prototype in a real situation will help you validate or invalidate your proposed solution and provide additional insights into your project. Additionally, always having a prototype readily available to test will help you evaluate how it performs in a variety of situations. Information gained from these experiences can help refine the product to meet the needs of your customers.

Make it a team sport

Considering a problem from a variety of different perspectives can help you create innovative solutions for your end users. Bringing one or more of your team members along with you during the immersion process can provide several benefits throughout the human-centred design process. It helps ensure that you have somebody available to document your immersion experience. It also provides a fresh set of eyes to identify challenges that you may have overlooked. Their additional perspectives may also help you solve those challenges.

Take the next steps

Human-centred design seeks to understand and prioritize the real-life experiences of the end user to develop innovative products, services, and systems that meet their needs. Adopting a beginner’s mindset, questioning everything, recording video, bringing a prototype, and making the process a team sport can help you elevate the customer experience and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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