7 Insights on Creating Human-Centered Solutions
Recently, we talked with CX by Design co-founders Lis Hubert and Diana Sonis about How to Create Human-Centered Solutions. During this webinar, Lis and Diana shared how human-centered design is actually an adaptable, scalable approach to problem-solving. It’s a framework that can optimize many business areas while using empathy and keeping the focus on humans – that is, the customers, employees, and users involved in the process.
The process CX by Design uses to implement human-centered solutions is:
- Look (investigate)
- Create solutions
If you’ve been trying to solve a complex or recurring business challenge, using human-centered design can uncover a surprising path to success. You can view the entire webinar here:
After their presentation, Lis and Diana answered quite a few questions from viewers, including how companies have shifted from product-based design to human-centered design, how to get reluctant stakeholders to support the process, and how to apply human-centered design (HCD) in various environments. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time for them to answer all the submitted questions, so they’ve tackled them for us in this article.
Answering Your Questions on Human-Centered Design
Q: How do you manage relationships with a Product Manager and cross-functional teams using the HCD framework?
Diana: You can certainly use HCD to manage relationships. It’s all about understanding what people need. In a cross-functional team, you want to understand team members’ needs. For us, this looks like asking questions and creating ways for everyone to work together. For example, we might talk to the dev team and find out that they need more detail for their work. So we create new templates that give them more information.
Lis: I’d also add that you can use the HCD framework at the very start to clarify requirements and understand needs. Focus on communicating and listening. It’s very important when you’re dealing with cross-functional teams.
Q: How did you get started in this field?
Diana: I have a business background, which has helped me understand so much of our clients’ processes. I’ve learned how business works, how it is structured, how it runs, how products come to market, how teams function, how people rally around initiatives, and so much more. Plus, I have a lifelong interest in psychology, what makes people tick. Organizations are just a confluence of people; understanding what makes them tick is essential to success.
Lis: I started out in tech, and what drew me to human-centered design is figuring out how technology supports business. Our mission is to bring businesses and customers together to create the most value. Technology should be created for people to use and to live better lives; people come before technology. I’m also fascinated by psychology, particularly around emotional intelligence. I love working with teams and building products for people, utilizing technology to build better experiences.
Q: How is human-centered design different from design thinking?
Lis: This is a great question, because human-centered design and design thinking are sometimes used interchangeably.
Essentially, design thinking is a process that we use to solve problems. It starts with needfinding or discovery, then it moves on to defining a focus area, prototyping solutions, and then refining and delivering the best solution.
Meanwhile, human-centered design is an approach or a mindset. It keeps human thought, emotion, and experience at the center of the problem solving process; in practice, this means understanding who your user is and how and why they’ll use your product. Knowing this shapes the design or process decisions you make. So it’s very common to find design thinking that’s heavily influenced by human-centered design!
Q: Approximately how many iterations do you typically go through on a large project before things start to converge?
Lis: The number of iterations is unique to each project, but there are common factors in play for all large projects. Some of the questions we ask are:
- Are we within the project’s constraints? Or are we approaching the end of the resources assigned to this project? You have to respect the timeline, budget, etc. that have been made available for a project. This is a major influence on how much iteration can practically be done.
- Are we still gathering useful/impactful data? Are we still pushing towards critical business goals or user needs? Are we testing major functionalities, or have we started on small adjustments like icon size? It can be a lot of fun to keep testing and learning, but there comes a point when we’re just learning and experimenting for learning’s sake.
- Are we seeing diminishing returns on our efforts? We’re big believers in the 80/20 rule. Once we’ve managed the critical 20% relating to systems, business goals, and user needs, that’s 80% of the project.
Q: In HCD, where is the line between creating new habits and ignoring users’ needs? There are too many workflows, processes, templates, etc. that ignore users’ needs. On the other hand, it can be good to create new user habits. But this is another challenge. How does HCD fit here? Where is the “line”?
Diana: I loved this question, but it’s more than we can handle in one short paragraph. So I’ve written an article about it that you can read on the CX by Design blog.
Q: Are people really aware of what they need? How can you be sure that what they communicate is of real value to them?
Diana: People are aware of the challenges they’re having. Often, they’re not as aware of the solutions available for these challenges. That’s why we don’t normally ask: “What do you need?”. People won’t be able to articulate the need directly.
However, if you ask them: “What problems are you having with XYZ?” or “Tell me about your pain points here…,” people will be able to list out their issues.
The only way to ensure that a solution will solve their real problem is to ask about the problem, not about what they need. Once you can document (and better yet, observe) the problem, you can come up with a solution. After that, the only real way to ensure the solution is valuable is to validate it directly with people experiencing the problem. Test, test, and test again….then iterate on the solution.
Q: How can suppliers engage with customers on HCD?
Lis: We have a saying: Everyone should be viewed as the end-user. This is true in business situations and even in personal situations. For example, the next time you are having a conversation with someone, consider them the end-user of your words and see what that does to your communication style.
For suppliers, you can think of your customers as your end-users. Once you make this perspective switch, applying HCD principles is no different. You’ll Look to investigate the business, Ask to understand your customers’ needs, Learn from your insights, and Create solutions to then Test and Iterate on.
The key is to view customers as end-users, then HCD can take it from there.