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A Guide to Human Centred Design

human centred design

what is a human centred design?

Human centred design is a problem-solving approach mostly used in sectors such as design etc. by redefining human perspectives. Simply put, human centred design is an approach for human problems using design-based solutions not to be distracted by the cognitive bias of the human mind. There are many ways humans can use a product. The majority of us use a product that only covers a certain percentage of its functionality in the same way. Human centred design is to identify in this percentage of the product’s functionality and design it around that.

I can understand this might be a bit technical for you to understand. So, allow me to explain it with a few examples below.

Human-centred design examples

Push/Pull door


If you would notice, the Push and Pull side of the door are fitted with a handle; this creates confusion in your brain. The design of a push/pull door is by the cognitive bias of the human mind. For our brain, seeing a handle triggers an action to pull it.

norman door human centered design

Don Norman mentioned a fundamental principle of design, called discoverability. The door is designed with handles only in the Pull side of the door, leaving the push side with a plain pad. Any human being will push the door automatically if they don’t notice a handle.

Add instant feedback options

Any organisation would look for instant feedback options, and UI/UX designers prioritise the same. It helps in enhancing the website’s usability based on human centred design, making the website more user friendly. One organisation that utilises instant feedback to a large extent is Microsoft.

human centered design example of microsoft websiteIf you visit the Microsoft website, you will notice that they have added all of its products on the main page; therefore; visitors can easily select the available products. In case someone wants to view and purchase the Xbox Series X or Series S, they can click on it from the main page.

Human centred design vs design thinking

Human centred design is a problem-solving approach. The process starts with the people: the ones you will be designing for, and it concludes with purpose-built solutions that fit their needs. Human centred design requires you to develop empathy for the people you will be designing the product for – generating ideas, prototyping and sharing what you’ve designed with the people. And eventually, presenting that same innovative solution to the world.

Design thinking is an innovative approach. This process combines the requirements of people, technological possibilities, and the requirements for the success of the organisation. Prosperous innovations balance every element present, yet it relies on human-centred design research. Design thinking helps in achieving that balance. It allows designers to find the right balance in terms of desirability, feasibility, and viability.

If you want to know more about design thinking, why don’t you check out this blog on what makes design thinking a 21st-century skill? It will help you feed your curiosity and extend your knowledge base at the same time.

Human centred design principles

The human centred design urges you to reconsider and understand the needs and wants of users before designing the product. The question it poses is how a product can satisfy the requirements in a significant way both functionally and emotionally?

I have come to the understanding that there are three general principles followed in human centred design:

  • Collaboration: You have heard of the phrase Great minds think alike? So the idea here is to bring in similar people who can come up with similar, yet great ideas when they collaborate.
  • Empathy: Unless one empathises with their target users, they won’t be able to understand the motivations and pain points of the users.
  • Experimentation: It’s only through observation, research, conversations, and experimenting with several hypotheses, and to learn to design a great product.

These basic principles change the outlook when it comes to your business goals and offers several creative means to accomplish them. So if you’re stuck with a problem, try and take a humanistic approach.

What are the 3 phases of human-centred design?

Human Centered Design 2


Phase 1: Get inspired by your target user

Looking out for the needs of the users can bring out the best solution. This phase of inspiration is all about understanding your user’s needs and challenges, through discussion and research and dropping any preconceived notions. It is imperative to remove any precise results at this stage in the human centred design process. Instead, one should open themselves to a wide variety of possible solutions.

To evoke inspirations, one must craft a design challenge which would become the basis of the research and discussions with the chosen personas and communities. Standard techniques used in the inspiration phase of human centred design will be to conduct interviews and surveys, accompanied by planning the steps. This phase allows one to get a deeper understanding of their project, offering an apprised solution.

Phase 2: Visualise and design

Once the research and findings are consolidated, the phase to visualise, retarget, discover and review all the potential solutions begin. Noting down even the most flawed or impractical ideas can help your end-user hone in on what’s going to work. At this stage in the human centred design process, create some basic sketches or small scale models that allow you to get creative without producing a final product. Once early feedback is received, one can reiterate their best ideas until they have a well-developed concept which can positively impact the user and works for everyone.

Phase 3: Execution

The first two phases in the human centred design process would set the stage to find the right concept, before moving forward and investing money to create and execute rapid prototypes. This phase in the human centred design process is when a hi-fidelity prototype is created for the users to test, along with the actual development of the product.

It is also the right time to make a business model, seek necessary partnerships and prepare the product for real-world application.

Human-Centred design steps

Now let us talk about the six steps of human centred design. It is easy to grasp and can also be utilised and repeated for every product (app or website).


HCD phase of human-centered design


Step 1: Observe

The first step in human centred design is to observe the end-user, learn, and be open to possibilities creatively. The goal here is to understand the end-user. Identify behavioural patterns, pain points, and scenarios where the user is facing a challenge: all of which leads to a great opportunity. One must put themselves in the user’s shoes to feel and understand their experience.

Step 2: Ideate

In this step of human centred design, one can start to ideate with the team based on what they have observed and experienced. The goal here is to come up with several ideas. One must also focus on the needs and desires of the user as they ideate. Eventually, the group’s ideas will evolve and direct them towards the right solution.

Step 3: Create a rapid prototype

In this step of human centred design, one should build a simple prototype swiftly. It will make the solution tangible and allow the end-user to test the prototype. Designing a fancy high-fidelity prototype is not recommended. One must also collect user feedback as quickly as possible. The goal of this phase is to make sure the solution is on point.

Step 4: Gather user feedback

In this step of human centred design, one has to pass on the prototype to the end-user. It is the most decisive step in human centred design. Human-centered design testing is an incredibly effective way to make solution tangible, to learn, and to get feedback from the end-user. Rapid testing with real users can help one identify concepts that create an impact and find areas to improve on initial ideas. Without data from the end-user, one can not figure out if the solution is on target or not, and they won’t know how to pivot their design.

Step 5: Iterate

Once feedback is received from the end-users, that data can fuel change in the design. One must keep iterating, testing, and blending user feedback until they’ve perfected the solution. It may take a few sessions. However, with each iteration comes new learning. Once the solution has arrived at a point where it is ready-to-use, it’s time for the final step.

Step 6: Implement

After validating the usefulness of the solution with the end-user, it’s time to present the idea to the world. With each update, one must continue to observe the users, design for them, and use their feedback to direct solutions in the future as well.


When done well, human centred design can lead to the creation of products that reflect deeply with the end-user, which in turn will drive engagement and exponential growth. As proof, read the case studies of design-driven brands like AirBnB, Tesla, Netflix and Apple. You must have recently noticed digital conglomerates like Google, eBay and LinkedIn have heavily invested in the design of more cohesive and sophisticated user experience.


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