Paul Hill by Paul Hill

How can you apply the human-centred design process in your organisation?

  • Design Capabilities
  • Design Process

For a long time, success was centred around being first to market. Companies wanted to pack as many features into a product as possible so they could pat themselves on the back and call themselves innovative. 

The problem? No one was thinking about the user.

It’s all fine and well offering innovative features, but if those features aren’t addressing the user’s needs, then they won’t be used. You’re just wasting time, money and resources on a vanity project rather than looking at what your users really need.

This is why many companies are switching to a human-centred design process.

Human-centred design (HCD) places humans ー the actual people using your product ー at the core of your design process. The process asks your design team to re-imagine your product by bringing the needs of the user to the forefront. 

This design philosophy looks to uncover the user’s needs, behaviours, characteristics, pain points and motivations. Allowing the team to create products with an empathetic viewpoint, resulting in a product that truly addresses the user’s needs.

Human-centred design process in action during a Thunk design workshop

How to run the HCD process

The HCD process can be broken down into five easy to follow steps. 

While these steps are listed in a specific order, it won’t always be a linear process.

As you work through each stage, you may uncover further knowledge that requires the team to go back to a previous phase. This can feel counterproductive, but every step back is actually one step closer to creating something that addresses the user’s actual needs.

Step 1: Discover

This phase looks to uncover insights that can help your team design and better the product in a way that improves the user experience. This phase can also identify opportunities to innovate, but the user must be at the core of innovation. 

The Discover phase is key to building empathy. This is crucial to a human-centred design process as it allows the team to put aside their own assumptions and gain valuable insight from real-life end users.

Step 2: Define

In order to address a customer’s needs, you first need to define what they are.

This involves looking through the insights you uncovered during the Discover phase and identifying patterns to see what a customer really wants from your product. This will be fed back to the users to validate your finds while also informing stakeholders of the key needs of users.

Step 3: Design

Now you know what your users want, it’s time to figure out how to address their needs.

The Design phase will differ depending on what type of product you’re building, but the core purpose will stay the same. The team need to go from rough ideas to detailed designs.

To do this, the team will come up with as many concepts as possible, with a focus on quantity over quality. As the Design phase progresses, concepts will be considered, refined or thrown out until the team finds the final design.

Step 4: Prototype & Test

This stage takes the low-fidelity concepts from the design phase and turns them into workable, high-fidelity prototypes that can be tested.

The prototype will be shared with users and stakeholders to gain fresh, contextual feedback. This may create a loop between the design and prototype phases which runs until the team lands on the final design.

Step 5: Plan & Implement

The final step in the human-centred design process is to create a plan for the implementation of the final design. 

This step will look different depending on the type of product you are building. It may involve creating a project roadmap, or it may mean heading straight to development.

Businesses can use the HCD process to fully understand their users and the root cause of their pain points. This knowledge can allow teams to confidently build products that improve the users’ lives.

Why your business should adopt a human-centred design process

The HCD process takes a holistic view in order to identify the real needs of your users. Customers may come to you with a feature suggestion or problem, but they won’t always understand the exact cause of their issues. 

Businesses can use the HCD process to fully understand their users and the root cause of their pain points. This knowledge can allow teams to confidently build products that improve the users’ lives.

At Thunk, we put the user at the core of our design-led approach to product building. We don’t just create a product, we create an experience that drives customer satisfaction. 

We can help you refine your design teams by incorporating the human-centred design process, resulting in great products that offer real customer satisfaction.