IDEO Human-Centered Design (HCD) tools are based on a process and a set of techniques used to create new solutions for the world or solve existing problems.

Solutions include products, services, environments, organizations, and ways of interaction. The reason is called “human-centric” is because starts and continues during the process with the end-user IDEO is designing for.

The process was created specifically for non-governmental organizations and social enterprises that work with impoverished communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The IDEO Human-Centered Design (HCD) process comprises three phases: listening, creating, and doing.

To initiate the process, there are three lenses through that HCD works convenience, feasibility, and viability.

First, it is necessary to identify a range of what is desirable through the analysis of the needs, dreams, and behaviors of the end-users whom you want to reach with the proposed solution, product, or service.

Then, we seek to listen and understand what people need to solve, that is, what do people want?

Finally, each solution proposal must then be viewed through the lens of feasibility and viability. What is technically and functionally feasible? What can be economically viable?

Later, these lenses are carefully inserted during the later stages of the process.

The IDEO Human-Centered Design (HCD)

The HCD process begins with a specific challenge and goes through three main phases: listen, create, and deliver.

It is necessary to clarify that the process will be based on concrete observations about the end-user who uses or interacts with the product or service will be proposed.

During the listening phase, participants focus on gathering stories and inspiration from the people they interview.

In the creation phase, participants will work together in a workshop format to understand what they heard from the end user in the previous step.

Then the researchers will use that information to turn it into frameworks, opportunities, solutions, and prototypes. Then back to work with tangible solutions.

In the handover phase, participants will begin to realize solutions through rapid revenue and cost modeling, capacity assessment, and implementation planning.

What is IDEO Human-Centered Design (HCD)?

IDEO defines Human-Centered Design (HCD) as a creative approach to problem-solving that begins with the final user and ends with innovative solutions.

Those solutions offered through a Human-Centered Design (HCD) process add value to these users and are tailored to their needs.

In its Field Guide to Human-Centered Design (HCD), IDEO states that:

When you can understand people, you are trying to reach out to them and then design from their perspective. Trying to understand the end-user will not only get you unexpected answers but also could have ideas that they will accept will be presented.

This is the philosophy around which IDEO Human-Centered Design (HCD) revolves. Whether you are designing analog or digital solutions, the process is itself and consists of six steps, which we will describe below.

The six steps of the IDEO Human-Centered Design (HCD)

Step 1: Observation

The first step is about observing the end-user, engaging in communication, learning from their needs, and being open to creative possibilities.

The objective pursued in this step is to understand the end-user for whom you are designing and identify behavior patterns, weak points, and places, where users have difficulties complying with, are your objective; all this information provides a great opportunity.

If possible, an exercise in empathy helps a lot by placing yourself in the situation of the end-user to be able to see what her experience is and thus feel what he feels.

Step 2: Ideation

In this step, the team based begins brainstorming with the end-user on what they learned from their observations and experiences in Step 1.

Your goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can.

As ideas come to mind, focus on the needs and wants of the people you are designing for. If you do this, your group’s ideas will eventually evolve toward the correct solution.

Step 3: Rapid prototyping

In this step, the team will quickly create a simple prototype of the idea that was selected. This develops the defined concept into a tangible and to have something to be tested with the end-user.

It is necessary to clarify that it is not required to build an elegant hi-fi prototype at this time, the important thing is to validate the idea that is being tested. IDEO is known for creating simple prototypes made of cardboard, paper, or simple materials.

Ask yourself the below question:

How can I spend the minimum amount of time building a prototype that allows me to get user feedback as quickly as possible?

The purpose of this phase is not to create the ideal solution; the prototype is to make sure the proposed solution is on target.

Step 4: User feedback

In this step, the premise is to leave the prototype that was developed in the hands of the end user for whom you are designing.

This is the most critical phase of IDEO’s Human-Centered Design (HCD). And, fundamentally, it refers to the participation of the end-user and how this will guide the team through their comments to indicate if the proposed solution is in the proposed objective or not, likewise, these comments will indicate how to evolve the design.

Step 5: Iteration

Once the end user’s feedback is received, that information should be used to propose changes and adjustments to the proposed design.

In addition, it is necessary to continue iterating, testing, and integrating user comments until you have perfected the proposed solution. This may take a few rounds, but don’t be discouraged. With each iteration, you will learn something new and we will get closer to the product desired by the customer.

Once the solution is at point where it is ready to use, it is time to move on to the next step.

Step 6: Implementation

Now, the proposed solution has been validated with the end user, and the closest product or service to the desired one has been obtained; it is time to make your idea known to the world.

Finally, if your team is designing and developing software products, applications, or websites, will go back to Step 1 and repeat this process. With each new update, you roll out, continue to watch your users, design for them, and use their feedback to guide your future solutions.

Applying IDEO Human-Centered Design (HCD)

Over the years, long history of innovative designers who look at the world around them has been created, they see things with new eyes, and use that observation as an opportunity to create new business, product, or service opportunities. The common thread that ties all these stories together is a design process that begins with understanding the end-user, their environment, customs, behaviors, and actions regarding the desired product.

IDEO executes this exercise by observing the user and putting itself in their shoes. They know if researchers can feel the same as people feel, what their experience is like, they can use that information to drive their design solutions. And this process has made them one of America’s most influential and award-winning design firms.

Finally, to create a truly innovative and useful product or service, you don’t need to start with the brightest idea or the most elegant technology. You just need to start by understanding people.

IDEO Human-Centered Design (HCD) – Three examples

  1. Solving a problem: IDEO worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve maternal and child health in India. Using human-centered design, IDEO’s team conducted research to understand the needs and challenges of health workers and mothers in rural areas. They then developed a mobile app that provided real-time information and support to health workers and a low-cost device for monitoring the health of newborns. These solutions were designed to be low-cost, easy to use, and adaptable to the local context, which helped to increase the effectiveness of maternal and child health services in the region.
  2. Creating a digital product: IDEO worked with a major bank to design a new mobile banking app for its customers. Using human-centered design, IDEO’s team conducted research to understand the needs of the bank’s customers and identified key pain points in the existing mobile banking experience. They then developed a prototype app that was more user-friendly and personalized to the needs of the customers. The team then tested the prototype with customers to gather feedback and iteratively improved the design. The final app was launched and received positive feedback from customers, and the bank saw an increase in mobile banking usage.
  3. Building a service: IDEO worked with a transportation company to design a new bike-sharing service. Using human-centered design, IDEO’s team conducted research to understand the needs of commuters and identified pain points in the existing transportation options. They then developed a prototype service that was easy to use, accessible, and affordable for commuters. The team then tested the prototype with commuters to gather feedback and iteratively improved the design. The final service was launched and received positive feedback from commuters, and the company saw an increase in bike-sharing usage.