Human-centered design process [Guide]

Suppose you have an idea for a photo app, and your first thought is how unreal so many photos today are. So, you think, "If I create an app that only allows people to take realistic and clearer photos, they will like it more." Well, you're right. So many photos today depend on filters, and that's the selling point of Snapchat and Instagram. But also, that's the point of modern digital experiences today. It's what people want — a different view from their real-world stressed-out lives and faces.

If you go ahead with the idea, you are not using a human-centered design approach because it doesn't match modern photo enthusiasts' emotional and psychological needs. Unfortunately, your product may end up in the garbage section of an app store. But you could have a different result with human-centered design (HCD).

This guide will show you how you can take various human-centered design steps to achieve tremendous results. But first, let's see how human-centric design works.

How does human-centered design work?

As the name suggests, HCD involves creating engaging products that cater to your users' needs and ensure they have great experiences. To do that, you must understand the people and market you're building it for up close. A human-centered design process ensures that your target users are the focus of what, how, and why you're making this product.

First, you must determine your users' dire needs and challenges. Then, you can brainstorm ideas to solve these needs through prototyping. Over time, through iterative development and feedback, your product becomes a better version that meets all the users' needs.

Human-centered design is similar to design thinking. In fact, some UX designers use both concepts interchangeably because HCD applies all design thinking principles. However, the distinction between both lies in the fact that design thinking focuses on the macro and complex things about your digital product design, while human-centered design primarily takes on the most basic purposes of design: usability and user experience.

Benefits of human-centered design for your app

Applying the principles of human-centered design has its perks and benefits. We may classify these benefits based on the users, teams, and stakeholders of your products.

Users' Benefits

At the end of the day, the primary purpose of your product is to solve the users' problems. Whatever the issue may be, applying HCD in your design thinking makes your product super relevant to the people it's intended for. Your users will understand the product faster and be able to navigate it at first glance.

The HCD process also allows you to check all the boxes, including the colors, themes, trends, and what inspires your users. With that in view, onboarding becomes easy, usability scores become excellent, and finally, your user base will skyrocket with a little push in marketing.

Development team's benefits

Another excellent benefit that the HCD process provides is seamless workflow. Nothing makes work easier and faster than properly understanding the job requirements. With a defined mission and motivation, your UX design and development team can build MVPs or prototypes to generate constructive feedback.

With the HCD process, the development team understands diversity in human psychology and culture across different geographical locations. This understanding makes applying human-focused design and empathy to your process easier. Moreover, your product roadmap becomes clearer, reducing bottlenecks and unnecessary cycles.

Stakeholders' benefits

As your usability score increases, referrals and organic traffic will surge. With the right marketing tactic, you'll have an even larger inflow of onboarders. This is good news for the stakeholders, including those invested in the UI design process, financing, policymaking, and every department contributing to the product development and launch.

6 steps of the human-centered design process

The pioneers of the human-centered design process, IDEO, initially outlined three steps based on how they applied it to their design thinking process at the time. IDEO's stages of human-centered design were inspiration, ideation, and implementation.

However, over time, research has shown the human-centered design phases to be six or more. They include observation, ideation, prototyping in product design, user feedback, iteration, and finally, implementation. You can see that these phases are not different from IDEO's; they were only subdivided or modified to fit the modern-day human-centered design thinking process.


Observation is the first step of the HCD process that helps you to know your users' problems before trying to solve them. A starting point is researching your target users or market and creating an empathy map. You could try understanding user experiences with competitors' products or even yours. Then, clarify assumptions that could make you build products off the top of your head, not what's relevant to your market.


After observing your users, their experiences, and the product market, you have to make sense of what you've observed. You can look at your empathy map for relevant information and generate ideas relevant to your users' needs or problems.

During this human-centered design stage, you can also identify areas in your design board that require a different approach. Upon identifying these areas, theorize patterns that may work with these new ideas. This way, you could build prototypes worthy of constructive feedback and iteration.

Rapid prototyping

If you have the team and resources for it, as these ideas come in, you can test them out with handy or visible products. However, if you don't, you can refine your ideas in the ideation stage based on your budget and urgent user demands. Then, balance the most relevant ideas with your team. This will help you decide which idea is worth investing in and which to overlook. Complying with this refinement strategy allows you to focus on building relevant prototypes that meet your budget and the demands of your target users.

User feedback

A reliable guide to human-centered design isn't complete without proper user feedback collection and analysis. After releasing your prototype or MVP to the market, you must follow up with the reviews and metrics. They help you to know what's working and what's not working. Plus, you will know the exact areas that need improvement. All this is making user feedback the most crucial step of user-centered design.


Iteration is where you repeat the entire cycle of designing, prototyping, testing, and refining your product. But this time, you're doing it from experience using a better-defined and refined idea. Also, you're making sense of the criticisms and feedback from your early users to create better experiences for a much broader audience.


This is the part where you spread the right message about your product. What makes it different from competitors? How will you reach your audience? Which channels should you use to distribute your product? All these will determine how far your product will go.

Even if your product is the best, it will be as good as every other product you're trying to compete with if it doesn't reach the right audience or market at the right time. Implementation is the part where you collaborate with various stakeholders to launch your product, ensure it gets to the right audience, and generate the proper feedback to help you iterate further.

Implementing human-centered design: insights from Dworkz

Here are a few hands-on insights from our core design team that will help you implement human-centered design in your product design process:

1. Create empathy maps

During observation, which is the first step of human-centered design, creating an empathy map lets you visualize your buyer personas, end-user thought processes, and behaviors. Empathy maps will help you understand these factors better and communicate them with your audience in a manner they would understand. With empathy maps, you don't mince words or try to overthink who your customers or users are. You can tell which is which and easily generate ideas based on your users' core needs.

2. Design with diversity and inclusion in mind

As we have iterated in this guide, humans are culturally and mentally diverse. Your creativity as a designer depends on how you resolve this cultural variation to create a universally acceptable product and improve accessibility in UI/UX designs.

If you have a long-term global vision, creating a product that is only acceptable and accessible in your region of origin will limit you to that one location. Other areas or cultures may not accept your theme, color choices, language, age limit, gender choices, etc. You must find a way to include diversity and cultural differences without destroying your product's mission.

3. Use storytelling in your design

Storytelling is an effective way of communicating with your users, especially if your product is new or in a competitive market. Storytelling makes your product or brand unique, organizes and presents your product features, and helps users navigate it seamlessly. With simple illustrations, prompts, pointers, animations, etc., you can establish a personal touch between your customers and your product or app. Additionally, you create a two-way interactive and immersive experience for your users.

4. Collaborate regularly with stakeholders

Often, you'll discover that you cannot achieve all the tips listed here alone. You need strategic partnerships, from design to technical advising, financial support and budgeting, marketing, UI/UX design research, etc. You can find all these stakeholders easily online, whether they are freelancers or independent contractors, and they will help you achieve your design and brand goals. Just do your research or ask your colleagues for recommendations.

Consider Dworkz as your trusted partner

Human-centered design requires thorough and close-view research on your subjects. Without that, you're building and shipping another soulless product to the market — no vision, roadmap, or confidence backing your design and potential return on investment.

Usually, this aspect of your design process requires hands-on professionals and advisers with industry experience and expertise. That is where Dworkz comes in. Dworkz holds your hand throughout the whole product development cycle. With our team, you do not need to look for and hire SaaS designers who will require onboarding, training, and other exhaustive things.

We're an all-en-suite design and development company that can cater to your development needs from start to finish. Our expertise has proven helpful to artificial intelligence, healthcare, cloud-native, and social networking brands. Browse our case studies to learn more about our work and what we can do for you.


What does human-centered design mean?

Human-centered design is a problem-solving technique in UI design that focuses more on the user, their motivations, problems, and diversities. It tends to resolve how a product solves the user's direct or indirect issues through ideation and iterative prototyping.

Why is human-centered design important?

The HCD process is important in your design thinking because it lets you build your app from the perspective of the most critical factor in your product funnel — the user. With that in place, you can improve your product's usability and customer experience and reduce cost, resource wastage, and delivery time.

What is the future of human-centered design?

The only way to build products that align with their users' interests is to implement a human-centered design guide in their design process. So, we expect more brands to use HCD in the future because it's an effective way to retain their customers, grow their revenue, and beat their rivals.

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