How to successfully design for the end-user

How do you design products and services that people love? While this is a big question to answer, it can be solved using a process of design thinking, or a human-centered design process: a creative problem-solving method that puts people in the center, where all roads and innovative solutions lead back to meeting their needs. When you authentically understand the wants and needs of the consumer, you can develop successful products and services they value and want to use to improve their lives.

The central question is: What are the behaviors and needs of the end-user?

A user-centered design process helps you, the designer, understand the experience of the end-user by putting yourself in the situation you are designing for and experiencing it yourself.

Origins of Design Thinking

The human-centered design process is an extension of the design thinking methodology. This way of thinking has been studied by scientists, creatives, scholars, analysts, and engineers for decades, but the idea to apply solving problems with a design mindset to business strategy didn’t exist until cognitive scientist and Nobel Prize laureate Herbert A. Simon coined the term in 1969. Simon explained the modern idea of design as an applicable way of thinking about business in his book, The Sciences of the Artificial.

Since Simon began the conversation about the design thinking methodology, many proceeding academic elites and experts joined and expanded upon it. But one thing remains the same: at the core of any design process is the user. And the human-centered process is an exploration of how to accurately and innovatively create a product or service that satisfies consumers’ wants and needs.

“We must design for the way people behave, not for how we would wish them to behave.” –Donald A. Norman, Living with Complexity

Let’s take a look at the six steps of the human-centered design process to learn how to create with purpose.

Human-Centered Design Process

1. Observe & Engage in Behavior

This phase is centered on learning as much as possible about the end-user. Observe the group’s behavior in order to understand the people you are designing for by immersing yourself in their lives, become part of the experience. Doing so will allow you to deeply understand their needs and identify areas of opportunity to better cater to or address them. For example, by identifying behavioral patterns, areas or places where users face complications or a difficult time doing something, you can find pockets of improvement. That’s your space for innovation and building trust and connection with consumers. 

Ask yourself, “What problems are users having in this space/with this product? How can we make their experience better?”

2. Ideation

In accordance with the observations made in the first step, it is now time to brainstorm ideas based off of what you learned. Remember to stay focused on a human-centered design process while generating ideas. The use of divergent thinking is critical in this stage to foster creativity and generate as many ideas as possible. Instead of worrying about about the details of how your potential ideas will work, focus on “why not?” Everything is fair game. There are no right or wrong answers, only potential creative solutions to the problem(s) you’ve identified. When the needs and desires of the people you are creating for is at the forefront, the most successful solution will come to fruition. Those are the solutions that you will move forward with in the process. 

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3. Prototype

Now that you have sound potential solutions, it’s time to bring your best ideas to life with rapid prototypes. Doing so will allow you to test the idea(s) in real time and with real people so that you can get feedback. Rapid prototypes are quick and easy versions of the ideas you want to create. Their role is to ensure that your vision is on target, and it allows you space to make amendments based on feedback before you make the real deal. It’s not about being perfect in this phase. Create a quick, tangible prototype so that you can test it. 

4. Feedback

Test your prototype! This is perhaps the most vital part of the human-centered design process. You need to know if your idea works for the people you are designing for. Get it in the hands of your target consumer and ask them: how and why does this product/service achieve or fail to reach your needs and desires? You want to collect as many details as possible from testers. This is the essential information you will use in the next phase. 

5. Integration

This phase helps you to identify the usefulness of the proposed solution. What feedback did you receive and how can you implement it into your design to make it better? This is a fluid process–integrate, test, repeat, until you reach the best version of your idea. Once your solution is fully fledged and replicable, it’s time to share it. 

6. Application

It’s time to send your idea out in to the world! Make it and share it. It’s important to keep an eye on changes in your target audience and their needs and desires as time progresses so that you can make adaptions to your design as necessary. With each new update, return back to phase one and repeat the process for best results. After all, as humans our wants and needs can and do change as the rest of our world does, so it is important to stay on our toes and anticipate future alternations to best serve consumers.

When we approach innovation with a human-centered design process, we are able to empathize with and therefore better understand the end-user and what they truly desire. Everything we create is an extension from this deep-dive of awareness, and will ultimately lead to better products and services and overall business success. 

Do you want to learn more about human-centered design?

Voltage Control facilitates design thinking workshops, innovation sessions, and Design Sprints. Please reach out at for a consultation.

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