When businesses put out a product that immediately performs poorly on the market, it’s often the case that they accidentally built something that has no market need. The solution? Human-Centered Design.
For example, let’s say a company that sells sleep hygiene products wants to expand its audience by creating a device catered to parents with young children. Eventually, they decide on an alarm clock for infants to help them get on a set sleep schedule. On paper, it seems like a recipe for success. After all, there isn’t a product quite like this on the market, and what parent wouldn’t want their child sleeping regular hours? However, if this business had used HCD, they’d quickly realize that there are no comparable products because there is no demand on the market for a device of this nature. It is simply unnecessary, meaning it is unlikely to be profitable.
In so many words, the key to creating a product that sells is quite literally finding out what it is the market wants, and this is exactly where HCD comes into play. Specifically, HCD is a design process that hinges on empathy and understanding in order to generate products that resonate with the nuances of current trends and excite consumers.
Overall, HCD is an incredibly useful tool for product development. In this blog, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about this design practice, including what it is and how industrial design companies apply this method to their processes to generate products designed to perform well.
What is Human-Centered Design
HCD is a practice that places actual end-users as the focus of the development process. In other words, designers delve into their needs, demands, likes, dislikes, and behaviors in order to find relevant patterns. Even attributes such as age, occupation, and skillset are considered when using HCD. However, perhaps the most important question HCD poses is ‘What issues are our demographic facing/ that today’s market fails to resolve?’. As described earlier, HCD emphasizes empathy, as such, its goal is to make the lives of end-users easier by finding effective solutions via innovative products tailor-made to their characteristics. In turn, this design practice typically lends to successful products because end-users are able to feel a deeper connection with the product and are thus more likely to purchase, enjoy, and recommend the product.
Let’s go back to the alarm clock example. Had this company applied HCD to their development process, perhaps they would have invited parents to partake in a focus group. Here, they could directly ask these individuals a variety of questions pertaining to sleep and newborns, such as What products helped you the most in settling your child down for sleep? Did you purchase any products intended to help your child’s sleep cycle? What did you enjoy about these products, and what do you wish was different? By discussing product ideas with real-life consumers, this company can get a better understanding of what the market is asking for, thus narrowing in on the best possible product for its niche and target audience.
Human-Centered Design in the product development process
It’s important to note that HCD is not just a singular step in product development. In reality, it is intended to be incorporated into the entire process itself. Here’s a quick rundown of how designers will integrate HCD into their industrial design services to turn a simple concept into a full-fledged product:
1.) Understanding the audience
Most industrial designers will agree that the foundational step for every design process is outlining the potential services and features of a given product. In terms of HCD, this practice rules that the best method of doing so is to step into the mind of the consumer. In other words, the goal here is for designers to acquire a deeper understanding of who exactly they are making the product for. They must speak to the audience, observe their behavior, consider their backgrounds, review questionnaires, study trend reports, and, most importantly, view things from the perspective of the end-user rather than their own. Altogether, this is meant to deter the possibility of producing a device with no demand by guiding designers toward discerning what the market truly wants to see.
2.) Designing the product
Now that designers have a good idea of what their target audience is looking for, it’s time to actualize their findings. In other words, this is the phase where industrial design companies will incorporate the information they’ve accumulated from their previous research into several preliminary design drafts. The key here is to refer to the end-user when contemplating design decisions, from what material the market would enjoy most to what purpose the product should fulfill, and everything in between. By the end of this step, your design team should have a generous amount of conceptual sketches to pick from to test in the following prototyping stage.
3.) Testing the design
Traditionally, testing a design involves creating prototypes to examine the feasibility of its working components. However, HCD asks that this step also uses the market as guidance once again. In this phase, designers can bring in end-users to experiment with the product themselves and relay their thoughts. Do they approve of the visual aesthetics of the product? How do they feel about its features? Do they envision themselves purchasing and using this product for themselves? Based on this feedback, designers can make further edits to their sketches to narrow in on a final product a majority of users have signed off on.
Once the designers have gone through the steps of each phase, chances are they’ve successfully landed on a product version that’s ready to be mass-produced and hit the shelves! Moreover, by utilizing HCD, they’ve been able to translate tangible data into a device that aligns with what users are actively in search of, thereby increasing the product’s overall demand and profitability.
Schedule a consultation to learn more
Ultimately, HCD asks us to consider the consumer. It may sound simple in theory, but this design method can truly make for superior products that take the market by storm. Interested in learning more about how human-centered design can elevate your product idea? Give us a call at DesignStein Studios today at 714-375-4846.
This blog is brought to you by one of the top industrial design companies in California, DesignStein Studios.