An Introduction to Human-centered Design (HCD) Process

Design for People with a Human-Centered Design (HCD) Approach

Human-centered design (HCD) is a mindset used to design experiences for people. The point of a human-centered design approach is to co-create solutions with the people who require it most. Involving target users, while we design solutions to make their lives better, is an essential part of the human-centered design process.

The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. – Steve Jobs

What (exactly) is Human-Centered Design?

According to product design lead and design educator Francesca Sciandra:

“Human-centred design is a framework that considers human perspectives throughout the design process.”

IDEO, a global design company, launched the Human-centered Design Toolkit, an innovative toolbox that guides designers. IDEO’s HCD Toolkit has over 150,000 copies downloaded by designers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and analysts – who use it to improve their products and systems with a human-centered approach.

Human-Centered Design Principles

Human-Centered Design vs Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a process where we discover a problem and design solutions to solve it. This includes ideating, testing, and prototyping. On the other hand, HCD puts focus on people for whom you are designing a product.

The amalgamation of a human-centric approach and an out-of-the-box solution to deliver an incredible user experience is the key to a successful product or platform.

It is equally essential to understand how you can create a human-centric design with human-centered design principles. Let’s take a look at the process.

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The Human-Centred Design Process

Human-centered design and engineering is divided into three fundamental principles – Observation, Ideation, and Implementation.

Three Stages of Human-Centered Design

Let’s get right into it.

1. Observation:

Also known as the Inspiration Phase, identifying the challenges at hand is the first step. You need to be clear about the obstacles your human-centered product design will be addressing.

Ask yourself questions like, “Who will use this product?” or “What goals are we helping our customers achieve?” Consider the environment, context, and aspirations of your users.

Here’s how you can do that.

Market Research: You can start by researching what your competitors are up to and how their customers feel about them. What do their customers love about their solution? What customer expectations are your competitors failing to meet?

Your ideas don’t have to come from the drawbacks of your competitors, but market research is an important aspect of the Observation (Ideation) Phase.

2. Ideation

The Ideation Phase helps you make sense of what you’ve learned in the Inspiration Phase. Its time to identify opportunities, and create high/low fidelity prototypes.

The best way to start is by gathering your team for a brainstorming session. Educate your team to make them think from a user’s perspective. The main focus should be to get to the one-in-a-million idea through collaborative efforts.

Look into the following tactics that can help build a positive and interactive ideation session.

Let everyone participate: Allowing everyone to speak up and come up with ideas is the best way to rediscover and innovate. One of the benefits of user centered-design is co-creation. The co-creation approach makes everybody on your team feel included, relevant and leads to innovative human-centric thinking

The gallery of ideas: This is where you put everything you have (customer expectations, competitors’ approach, challenges, questions, solutions) on post-its and stick them on a wall. Let your team walk around the room at their own pace, contemplate the information, and absorb the needful insights to come up with innovative ideas.

Remember, the goal of this phase is to find the right problem that you can solve with a unique solution.

3. Testing

Testing is a vital part of the human-centered design process. Now that you know what needs to be done, it’s time to start testing. You need to be sure if the product is useful to the users, so test with people. Focus on questions like, “Do the targeted users understand how to use your product?” “Is the user satisfied?” “Does it solve the problem it was designed to address?

Real people will provide you with genuine feedback that can help you improve your prototypes iteratively before launching the product.

The goal is to: Test, assess, improve, and repeat until you get it right.

Human-Centered Design Examples


Have you ever thought about how Spotify disrupted the music industry? Why does it still stand out when there are tons of applications mimicking its services?

Here is the answer: Spotify made it easier and cheaper to listen to music.

Spotify is the first primary streaming service that allows people to collect and stream music instead of buying it. Thanks to Spotify, people don’t have to buy $0.99 or $1.99 songs anymore – with a monthly subscription model that gives millions of songs on Spotify, we can search a song and play it.


Colgate had a monopoly back in the 1990s for electric brushes. But they lost their grip on the market. Their market research discovered that their target customers were below 20 who were looking for a slimmer toothbrush. Their research led to a solution that took their “Acti-Brush” from number four back to number one.

Human-Centered Design Tools

HCD tools are usually frameworks, methods, or processes that teams can follow to create a human-centric design. These tools accommodate human-centered design principles, allowing businesses to solve problems faster with design.

The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design

IDEO, the company that created the HCD Toolkit, later authored a book on the same topic to guide professionals. The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design is a step-by-step guide that will help you solve problems like a designer.

Design Sprint

A design sprint is a weekly (5-day) process used for solving critical business problems with the help of design followed by prototyping and testing prototypes with real people. With a focus on mapping problems, ideating for solutions, and testing for validity – design sprints are used by companies all over the world to empower users.

Development Impact & You

Development Impact & You or DIY is a list of tools that can help busy people invent, adopt, or adapt ideas for better results. These tools are great for co-creating solutions that involved social change.

Check it out here.


Your business can only be successful when you work on solving common customer needs. Do thorough research, work with your team to find ideas, and always test your ideas extensively. Be empathetic towards your users, understand their perspective, and provide a solution that works for people.

Focus on people and build a digital product that improves their lives.

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Dheeraj Khindri

About the Author

Dheeraj Khindri is a Senior UX Analyst at Net Solutions. Having started as a Business Analyst, Dheeraj moved onto User Experience (UX) Design owing to his inclination towards interactive prototyping. In addition to design, Dheeraj also enjoys poetry, writing for social causes, and exploring the worlds of politics and literature.

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