We stop listening when words and ideas become omnipresent – “disrupt,” “unicorn,” and “curate” may be overused words in the start-up and design space. It becomes tiresome. We identify these hot words as meaningless buzzwords.
However, that isn’t always the case. It’s not all hot air. So, if you’ve heard the phrase human-centered design (pretty much synonymous with user-centered design) lately in the news or from colleagues or friends, try not to tune out. It’s worth it to stop, listen, and find out more.
Over the past few decades, human-centered design ideas, concepts, and processes have been at work. Read on to find out what human-centered design is and why it still matters today.
In our opinion, human-centered design is hyper-relevant today due to the following four reasons.
Human-Centered Design is Empathy-Based
There’s been a lot of discussions recently about how people don’t seem empathetic enough, especially in a world of nasty Twitter wars and divided political agendas. Most of us can agree that we need empathy more than ever.
We need to see the world through the eyes of others, and empathy is what enables us to do that. (To be clear, empathy is not the same as sympathy, which is feeling sorry for someone. Psychiatrist and researcher Helen Riess describes empathy in the book The Empathy Effect like this: “We must understand the situation from the other person’s physical, psychological, social, and spiritual perspectives.”)
People are at the center of human-centered design.
Human-centered design and empathy – what’s the connection? It’s right there in the words. Human-centered design starts and ends with people. The end-user perspective is used to design products, processes, or experiences.
Usually, this takes the form of starting any project or initiative with a deep dive into your users’ lives; typically, human-centered designers conduct user interviews to understand the perspective and needs of the people they’re designing for.
“While people are generally pretty well-attuned to their own feelings and emotions, getting into someone else’s head can be a bit more difficult. The ability to feel empathy allows people to “walk a mile in another’s shoes,” so to speak. It permits people to understand the emotions that others are feeling.” — from the article “What is Empathy?
Human-Centered Design Embraces a Learner Mindset
Moreover, human-centered design encourages people to adopt a “learner mindset” as opposed to a “fixed mindset”. In the article“The Importance of Human-centered Design in Product Design,” Miklos Philips says: “Central to the human-centered design approach is the adoption of a learner mindset; a learner is optimistic and seeks understanding as a way to guide their actions.”
“Central to the human-centered design approach is the adoption of a learner mindset.” — Miklos Philip
A learner’s mindset enables you to discover new things, challenge biases, and think differently about business or design challenges. An initial attempt to categorize or place blame is counterproductive to a judgmental mindset.
The article “7 Ways to Develop a Learner Mindset at Work” puts it this way: “Psychologists suggest that there are two ways of responding to any situation — judging and learning. With a judgemental mindset, you tend to want control of situations and focus your energy on placing responsibility on others. On the other hand, a learner tends to observe situations rather than making any judgments until after they have been fully understood.
You can discover new things, challenge your biases, and think differently when approaching a business or design challenge with a learner mindset.
An open, non-judgemental approach to human-centered design is based on building empathy by listening and talking with users. We believe that thinking like a learner will enable you to come up with better, more innovative solutions.
Human-Centered Design Helps You Get It Right More Often
As mentioned above, an essential component of human-centered design is user testing. Not only should you talk to your customers at the beginning of a project, but you should also engage with them as you test ideas throughout the whole process.
Users should never assume anything about how they will perceive our designs or what they will like or dislike. As part of a human-centered design process, a team would talk with users early and often about any designs or ideas being considered. Teams that possess this valuable information can quickly iterate and get new ideas or products out in the world in a way that works for the customer.
The article “A Comprehensive Guide To User Testing” explains why user testing so critical. It helps you identify any design issues before investing significant amounts of money in design and development: “[User testing] helps you identify any design issues before you get to the costly part of the process when you reach the final build. Leaving user testing until after you have built your product is too late – and too expensive. Changing the product after its build is expensive.”
Human-Centered Design Drives True ROI
Human-centered design isn’t just the better way to work, it’s why companies and teams do it. Human-centered ways of working lead to better business outcomes, as well. Usability.gov cites these fascinating stats: “Dr. Susan Weinschenk notes that of those IT investments, up to 15% of IT projects are abandoned, and at least 50% of a programmers’ time during the project is spent doing rework that is avoidable. Following UCD best practices, helps to identify challenges upfront so that a solution can be found early.”
Additionally, the article “How To Calculate The ROI Of Your UX Activities” gives some real-life examples of companies who found incredible business returns from human-centered design activities: “For instance, Walmart’s redesign of its e-commerce site resulted in a 214% increase in visitors. Bank of America increased its online banking registration by 45% after a UX redesign of the process. IBM’s report on User-Centered Design notes that “every dollar invested in ease of use returns $10 to $100.”
Are you interested in learning more about human-centered design?
As relevant and compelling as ever, human-centered design offers the following four reasons. If you’re curious to learn more or apply human-centered design to your work, get in touch.
Now it’s your turn
Now that we have gone into why human-centered design is important and why it is as important as ever. Get in touch with the Stich Creative team to find out how we can support you on your UX UI journey.