Human-Centred Design Has Never Been More Important

Darren Wilson
Jan 22 · 6 min read
Illustration of a man and a woman wearing a face mask
Illustration of a man and a woman wearing a face mask
Image Credit — Bany_MM

Where to start with 2020? Well, after two years trying to get a fledgeling business off the ground, the last thing I needed for UXcentric was a mass pandemic. Yet in some ways, it’s been the making of the business.

In the face of global change and uncertainty, one thing remained constant — people still have needs and problems that require solutions. In some cases, those problems evolved while others changed radically.

We help and collaborate with businesses to provide innovative and intuitive product experiences.

Believe in yourself

I feel very fortunate that UXcentric has had its strongest year ever while COVID-19 has decimated other industries and individual businesses.

While accepting that fortune, deep inside is a core belief and resilience in the quality of what we do and why we do it.

Building on a core of 20 years in automotive, we have leveraged our knowledge and expertise into additional sectors. We have moved into Healthcare and Education and are now also beginning the transition into Rail.

Human-centred design is something I believe passionately in. In my opinion, great design starts and ends with the user.

It allows us to enable people to perform better, be more productive, work more safely, have more engaging and compelling experiences and to help businesses thrive.

And it’s never been more important.

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Demonstration of Healthcare App in a simulation ward to support nurses and improve patient care

Not everyone has been so fortunate. The travel, hospitality and arts sectors have suffered desperately. We can only speculate at what mayhem is yet to come, as major job losses seem to become regular news events. The latest lockdown measures are yet another body blow.

However, if businesses have quality, user-centred products and/or services that there is still a need for, then I genuinely believe they will see this through.

The Times They Are a-Changin’

I’m not too fond of the term ‘new normal’, but to quote Bob Dylan, the times ‘they are a-changin’.

Not just how we work and live our daily lives, but those of our customers too.

So what is it you need to think about?

1. Your user has changed

Theo Paphitis recently claimed that the already significant transition to online had shifted forward by as much as five years due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Consequently, there are likely to be many newer and different customers out there.

Living three hours away from ‘home’ in Teesside in the UK, I’ve witnessed my retired parents’ need to access and use new technologies, just so we can stay in touch and keep abreast of what’s been going on.

Businesses will need to research the impact of COVID-19 on their customers to determine how they need to react accordingly.

2. Some core product offerings may no longer be viable

As mentioned, the hospitality industry has been hit hard. Conferencing and accessing events as we know it simply has not been possible.

Creating events with large sponsorship details and charging admission prices may not be viable, at least in the short to mid-term, as we get over the crisis.

In automotive, where I have worked for many years, we have seen the cancellation and likely end of the Geneva motor show.

Events companies have the challenge to rethink how it repackages its offering to keep attracting business and bring in income.

They need to understand from their customers how they can continue to add value while recognising it might be something very different from their current offering.

3. It’s not all bad news

While some companies and industries have been punished, others have thrived and grasped the opportunity.

Online shopping became a necessity rather than a convenience for some time. Ocado had to suspend services for a period while it dealt with the huge demand. Should the user experience and product offering resonate with new customers, then they should expect to see significant and sustained growth moving forward.

Amazon’s global domination shows no sign of slowing down as it adds 100,000 new employees to meet demand, adding one in my mam’s old stomping ground of Darlington, County Durham, as well as another in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

The appeal for online delivery has been enormous and Amazon is currently looking at new mechanisms for that demand using drones, with a trial beginning soon.

Zoom has naturally seen a huge increase in subscribers and revenue. Friends and family desperately needed to keep in touch. It also afforded schools a platform to present virtual lessons and for businesses to ensure meetings and workshops could take place.

The challenge for Zoom is how to retain those additional customers and is making rapid improvements to its user experience to do so.

The banking sector has seen significant changes with six million people downloading their bank’s applications for the first time. This has eased difficulties during the crisis and facilitated the transition from traditional brick and mortar sites to digital experiences.

Like many others, I jumped on the Joe Wicks exercise regime, and demand for personal fitness equipment has seen huge growth. Peloton reported a 66% increase in sales as we battled to keep fit with gyms closed to customers.

The common denominator with all of these examples is the need and demand for services allied to the quality of execution for the people using them.

While the latest news about the lockdown extension is disappointing, it does not automatically mean an end to what we do.

However, it might mean adapting to a changing environment.


Work collaboratively with UX specialists, who create innovative and intuitive experiences, providing people with real value following a Human-Centred Design process.

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A collaborative exercise with a charity to develop a new service

Following this approach has huge benefits in terms of reduced cost and development time, as well as increased user satisfaction, productivity and return on investment.

Use the Human-Centred Design Process

Following the Human-Centred process will ensure you get a great result for the end-user, and also has significant benefits for the business too.

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Human-Centred Design Process

Conduct user research to determine the needs and problems people have.

The analysis will show you how the types of issues and problems users face that might have changed, the design opportunities open to you and the specific user requirements needed.

These requirements can then be fed into the design process, applying human-centred design techniques to create solutions to meet those needs and problems for your users.

One or maybe two concept designs are then prototyped into an interactive model. At this point, the idea becomes much more tangible and ‘real’. It can be further refined and functionality added/removed as appropriate.

You can then test those prototypes with ‘typical users before releasing to market.

Providing users with goal-driven tasks will yield information to improve and validate the design concept.

You can then be confident you have a robust technical solution and the best user experience possible.

Following this process creates great design solutions, but also has huge benefits for the business thus keeping the bean counters happy too.

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Image Credit — IBM

Let’s all hope that things get back to ‘normal’ sooner rather than later. But beware, they won’t be the same. And neither will your user.

Do what you can to stay ahead.

Human-Centred Design has never been more important.

Further Reading

Get in touch with the author

​Darren Wilson, Co-Founder and Director of Design at UXcentric

(+44) 7854 781 908

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Darren Wilson

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UX Designer @ UXcentric

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Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +776K followers.

Darren Wilson

Written by

UX Designer @ UXcentric

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +776K followers.

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