How About We Design Software for Humans?

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People ignore design that ignores people.” Frank Chimero, Visual artist

Among the golden mantras of product designing, a great product experience is all about understanding the user’s needs and their perspective. In today’s market, a successful product is no longer simply about an array of product features and technologies. Product companies are moving from a technology-centric design to a people-centric design that focuses on the user’s needs and wants.

This is the core principle that is driving the adoption of Human-centric design (or HCD), which focuses on designing products with its users in mind. As a design philosophy, HCD effectively empowers a product development team to design and develop products or services that can resolve the core problems experienced by the consumer.

How does Human-centered design work and how does it offer business value to product companies adopting it? Let us look.

What is Human-centered Design?

Simply put, human-centered design is not a recent brainwave and has been evolving since the 1960s. In this 2002 TED talk, David Kelley of IDEO talks about “human centeredness as an approach to design – that involves building behaviors and personality into products.”

As an enabling technology, HCD can be defined as the technology used in products (or services) that are aimed to alleviate problems faced by the end-user. This could be in the form of a user-friendly mobile app or a health product that improves accessibility for users with physical disabilities.

How is HCD different from other problem-solving approaches the influence product design? For its most effective part, the intended user (or consumer) for whom the product is designed is now an integral part of the product designing process and development team. In his article on HCD, Dave Thomsen of Wanderful Media talks about “channeling user feedback into the feature iteration and gain end-user validation.”

Next, let us discuss the business value (or benefits) that the HCD approach offers during software product development.

4 Benefits of Human-centric design in product development

How does a human or user-centric design help in software product development? Here are a few of its business benefits:

  1. Addresses the correct user problem.

Best known for his book, “The Design of Everyday Things,” Don Norman talks about why it is important “to solve the fundamental problem at first as it is the basic root from where the rest of the problems are coming from.” Product design and development should identify the underlying problem that it is trying to address. 

On its part, HCD enables product designers to research and identify the right end-user problem, which can then lead to the release of a successful product.

  1. Reduces the development time.

The “human-centric” approach to product creation can reduce the overall development time by enabling focused efforts. It can also reduce last-minute changes to the product design. Human-centered development also adds to the future-ready architecture for making more usable products.

Further, with the HCD approach, software products can be tested at the initial stage, such that product-related issues can be detected during development instead of being reported by the end-user. This allows easier product development that is cheaper to implement. 

  1. Enables a customized approach to the user’s needs.

Human-centered designing enables companies to focus their efforts on developing a product (or service) for real consumers with individual needs. This consumer-centric approach enables them to customize their offerings for a specific customer base and market. 

With the right questions, product companies can now take a deeper dive into their customer expectations and design an improved user experience. This is a marked change from the “one-size-fits-all” approach that was previously followed.

  1. Reduces the costs of providing customer support. 

On their part, customized applications developed using the HCD model improve the accuracy, thus reducing the costs of product rework or constant upgrades. Further, a human-centric approach strengthens the brand relationship with the consumers, thus leading to customer loyalty and sales.

Overall, HCD is effective in reducing the costs of customer support and product training, along with the time and resources required to perform these functions. Through a continuous feedback system, end-users are fine-tuned about how the product meets their requirements, thus lessening the burden on product development and customer support.

How can companies adopt human-centered design into their products? Let us discuss that in the following section.

How organizations must adopt HCD

Business organizations looking to adopt a human-centered design must inculcate the following three elements:

  • Empathizing or the ability to care about the end-users or consumers.
  • Being creative or the ability to solve users’ problems using creative means.
  • Meeting business needs or the ability to build a successful and commercially viable product.

To adopt the HCD approach, product developers or designers need to implement the following phases, namely:

  1. Empathize phase

As the foundational element, this phase typically includes activities like:

  • Asking direct questions to the end-users about the problem they are facing.
  • Adopt a “learner’s mindset” that can work for designing the right solution.
  • Engage the end-user in research, brainstorming, and modeling.
  1. Define phase

The next phase is to define the problem to be solved, along with defining “why” this problem needs to be addressed. This phase typically includes the following tasks:

  • Focus on the key activities that the product team is trying to accomplish.
  • Define a range of feasible solutions to the problem.
  1. Ideate phase

Also referred to as the brainstorming phase, this phase typically comprises of the following activities:

  • Involve multiple teams to suggest ideas that can address the defined problem.
  • Include stakeholders directly impacted by the problem in the brainstorming sessions.
  1. Prototyping phase

This is the phase where product teams develop their ideas into feasible products using product prototypes. The objective of this phase is to check if the prototyped product can solve the defined problem. Typically, it includes activities like:

  • Build a model prototype with actionable steps.
  • Simulate a workflow through role-playing or in the real world.
  • Design multiple prototypes to check which is best suited to meet consumer needs.
  1. Test & Iterate phase

This is the final phase in HCD where product developers test and identify any product flaws or problems through iterations. Besides the product team, end-users also participate in the prototype testing to check its feasibility. Typically, it answers many questions like:

  • What do they like (or dislike) about the presented prototype?
  • What are its limitations (if any)?
  • What improvements do they want to see in the prototype?

Conclusion

Software companies can gain a competitive advantage by adopting human-centered design for their products. As its core philosophy, HCD puts the focus on the customer needs and uses continuous feedback to improve the offered product.

Do you have many creative ideas that can potentially develop into a great product? Over the years, Forgeahead has enabled its customers to build successful products using technologies like DevOps, Serverless computing, and no-code application development.

Interested in knowing how software products can be designed for humans? Contact us today.

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