Human-Centered Product Design

The way in which a product can be used will affect the quality of our lives. If we focus on human-centered product design then the product we are creating may impact the lives of people positively.

During Techsylvania I attended a workshop called “Human-Centered Product Design” hosted by J. Cornelius, Founder & President at Nine Labs.

Here I learned practical ways to design a product in such a way that is centered on humans that are using it and because of this it solves problems.

There are a few steps that you need to follow in order to find out the problems of your future customers and the solutions to those problems.

1. Problem Validation

When we’re building a product we need to validate the problem in order to find and deliver at least one solution that solves the problem. The tools recommended to use here are Empathy Map Canvas, The Value Proposition Canvas, and the Business Model Canvas.

When you are searching for the problem you need to know very well the people that are facing it because this helps you create useful solutions that work in real life and not just on paper.

To achieve this you need to research demographics, psychographics, purchase behavior, social behavior and what interests and hobbies do the people have. If you know how they think and behave you can understand very well what problem do they face and how much impact is having on their life.

Conducting an interview

Live interviews are really useful to detect problems. When you’re interviewing someone don’t try to find specific answers, because this can be intimidating, especially for someone who doesn’t know you.

Don’t spend all your time typing. Be instead genuinely interested in the person’s life and concerns. How would you like to be interviewed? If you are really present you may get more information than you expected or answers to some questions that you didn’t think about asking.

Don’t use questions like a checklist because this may look like a lack of interest on your side and you may lose natural human connection and make the person feel bored or uninterested .

Also, don’t focus too hard on one single question because the answer to that question may be less relevant than you initially thought and by focusing too much on it you waste time that can be used in answering more questions or better ones.

It’s important to avoid introducing bias if you want to get accurate results. I know, it may be tempting to influence the person interviewed, but if you do this you may not discover the real problem.

Good Questions are open-ended (not yes/no) and they go from general to specific.

Here is an example of a very specific customer persona that is created using the methods above: women, never married, college-educated, age between 28 and 34, living in New York, with household income of $75,000–$95,000/year. She’s employed in a Fortune 1000 company, drives to work less than 10 miles in a German car and uses an iPhone on which listens to podcasts about creativity and art and follows Martha Stewart on Facebook. She posts on Instagram more than 5 times per week, mostly about her dog.

Problem Discovery questions:

  1. What are some unmet needs you have around [thing you’re improving]?
  2. What product or service do you wish you had?
  3. What kind of tasks take up the most time in your day?
  4. What could be done to improve your experience with [process/role]?
  5. What’s the hardest part about being a [demographic]?Do you find it hard to do [process/problem]?
  6. How important is [value we’re delivering] to you?
  7. How motivated are you to solve or improve the [problem/ process]?

2. Solution Prototyping

When we are prototyping a solution we need to constantly switch between innovation and optimization because this things are essential to design great things. There are 3 stages of prototyping:

  1. Paper Prototyping. We discuss elements of the solution and the content relevant to the solution. Begin defining the priority and importance of design elements and content you created or gathered from other sources.
    Then, quickly play with layouts and sizing of elements and content on a wallboard. By seeing everything visually side by side you may discover new solutions and understand better how the solutions you want to test may function.
  2. Low-Fidelity Prototyping. We need to define the basic layout and purpose of elements, then we discuss various states of elements and we see what is actionable in the near future, based on the resources we have.
  3. Hi-Fidelity Prototypes. At this stage the product begins to have a solid structure. We define fonts, colors, photos, other visual elements and we make final decisions on appearance and functionality. Then we test some workflows and we send the deliverable to the development team.

3. Solution Validation

In this phase we are testing Ideas. There are 5 types of solution validation tests:

  1. Hallway. It’s a casual way to gather quick feedback from the people already around you. The disadvantage is that the people already around you are probably biased.
  2. Moderated. It can provide an in-depth understanding of how people use the product, but the disadvantage is that it can be expensive and time-consuming. You should use trained moderators to conduct this test.
  3. Remote Moderated. The great thing about it is that you can test your solution on more people, but the disadvantage is that this test gathers less details.
  4. Remote Unmoderated. This test gathers feedback from a large number of people quickly and inexpensively, but you have to prescribe details of what will be tested and you can’t talk to the users directly during the test.
  5. Automated. Once set up it requires very little effort to be active and it can run 24/7 anywhere on earth, but it can generate false-positives if the test isn’t designed properly.

Testing Tools and Platforms: Axure, InVision, PingPong, UsabilityHub, and QuickMVP.

For validating a product value you can use a one-page website, an email address capture, analytics and a simple marketing campaign.

Critical website content: explain what the product does, clearly and concisely, describe the value proposition, highlight the unique selling points (the factors that differentiates a product from its competitors), address key concerns users had during testing and add a direct call to action.

When you are Running a Campaign use psychographics, refine your audience as narrow as possible, use the “Problem Question” in the ad copy, plan to spend between $100 and $500 and measure the results.

What to Measure during the campaign: bounce rate (the first signal of good or bad), on-page activity (did people scroll or click?), the conversion (how many people signed up?), sales divided by geographic segment and the afterglow (the ratio of actions after the initial Call To Action.)

4. Brand & Product Strategy

A brand exists at the intersection of what you do and how people feel about it. Companies must understand what their customers are thinking and feeling to make products people want.

For naming & identity process you need brand ethos development, choosing a name and identity design.

5. Product Design & Development

Value people and interactions over processes and tools, respond to change over following a plan, emphasize collaboration with customers, stay focused on the problem you’re solving and encourage constructive critique from your team and from people that are being tested.

Besides this it’s very useful to believe in evidence-based decision making, communicate effectively and relentlessly listen to your customers.

Understanding what people want and designing things that delight them is the single most powerful way to achieve business goals.

“Design is concerned with how things work, how they are controlled, and the nature of the interaction between people and technology. When done well, the results are brilliant, pleasurable products.” Don Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

I am very grateful that I attended this great workshop that gave me a lot of clarity on product design. You can download for free the full workshop presentation here, that covers the subjects discussed above in depth.

You can get in touch with J. Cornelius here and you can check out Nine Labs here and Techsylvania here.

Thanks a lot for reading and share if you found it useful 🙂

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