UX Design

What Exactly Is Human-Centred Design (HCD)?

Jan 3, 2023 ·  4 min read
by Nikolay Nikolov
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Introduction Human-Centred Design — According to ISO 9241-210

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards are internationally agreed upon by experts who think of them as a formula that describes the best way of doing something. ISO 9241-210:2019 regulates an Ergonomics of human-system interaction — Part 210: Human-centred design for interactive systems.

The purpose of human-centered design is to create interactive systems that are usable and useful by placing the user, their needs, and requirements first. It also applies usability, human factors/ergonomics, and usability knowledge and techniques. The organization and use of human-centered design is well-understood in the fields of usability, human factors/ergonomics, and usability. This section of ISO 9241 aims to disseminate this knowledge to assist those in charge of managing hardware and software design and re-design processes to recognize and schedule efficient and timely human-centered design activities.

Introduction Human-Centred Design
Image by Miklos Philips

Existing systems design methodologies are supplemented by the human-centered design approach outlined in this section of ISO 9241. Rapid application development, waterfall, and object-oriented methodologies can all use it. Since ISO 13407 was created and has been applied for ten years, the fundamentals of human-centered design and the related activities have not changed significantly. By establishing both requirements and recommendations, this section of ISO 9241 reflects this.

Scope of Human-centred design for interactive systems

In accordance with this section of ISO 9241, human-centered design principles and practices must be used throughout the entire life cycle of computer-based interactive systems. It focuses on how the hardware and software elements of interactive systems can improve human-system interaction and is aimed at those in charge of design processes.

The activities related to human-centered design are described in this section of ISO 9241. It does not provide thorough coverage of the methodologies and techniques necessary for human-centered design, nor does it go into great detail about health or safety issues. The planning and management of human-centered design are covered, but not all aspects of project management.

Illustration scope human-centred design
Image by undraw.co

The people in charge of planning and managing projects that create interactive systems are the intended users of the information in this section of ISO 9241. As a result, it only addresses the technical aspects of ergonomics and human factors as much as is required to help those involved in the design process understand their significance. For those working in human-centered design, it also offers a framework for human factors and usability specialists. A number of standards, including other sections of ISO 9241 and ISO 6385, which lays out the general ergonomics principles, deal with human factors/ergonomics, usability, and accessibility issues in greater detail.

All parties involved in human-centered design and development can benefit from the requirements and suggestions in this section of ISO 9241.

Terms and definitions

To comprehend HCD better, there are numerous fundamental terms are used.

The following terms and definitions apply.

  • Accessibility (Interactive Systems): The degree to which people from a population with the widest range of user needs, characteristics, and capabilities can use certain products, systems, services, environments, and facilities to achieve particular goals in particular usage contexts
  • Context Of Use: Users, tasks, equipment (hardware, software, and materials), and the physical and social environments in which a product is used
  • Effectiveness: Accuracy and completeness with which users achieve specified goals
  • Efficiency: Resources expended in relation to the accuracy and completeness with which users achieve goals
  • Ergonomics (Study Of Human Factors):
    Scientific discipline is concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data, and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance
  • Goal: Intended outcome
  • Human-Centred Design: A method of designing and developing systems that focus on the user of the system and applies usability, human factors, and ergonomics knowledge and techniques to make interactive systems more usable.
  • Interactive System: Combination of hardware and/or software and/or services and/or people that users interact with in order to achieve specific goals
  • Prototype (Interactive System): All or a part of an interactive system that, while limited in some ways, can be used for analysis, design, and evaluation
  • Satisfaction: how well a system, product, or service meets the user's needs and expectations by eliciting the appropriate physical, cognitive, and emotional reactions in the user.
  • Stakeholder: Individual or organization having a right, share, claim or interest in a system or in its possession of characteristics that meet their needs and expectations
  • Task: The actions needed to accomplish a goal
  • Usability: The extent to which a system, product, or service can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of the use
  • User: person who interacts with a system, product or service
  • User Experience: Perceptions and actions of a person as a result of using or planning to use a product, system, or service.
  • User Experience: All components of an interactive system (software or hardware) that provide information and controls for the user to accomplish specific tasks with the interactive system
  • Validation: Confirmation, through the provision of objective evidence, that the requirements for a specifically intended use orapplication have been fulfilled
  • Verification: Confirmation, through the provision of objective evidence, that specified requirements have been fulfilled

ISO and IEC maintain terminological databases for use in standardization at the following addresses:

The benefits of using human-centered design

For users, employers, and suppliers, using a human-centered approach to design and development has significant economic and social benefits. Systems and products that are easy to use typically have greater technical and financial success. In some industries, like consumer goods, customers are willing to pay more for well-designed products and systems. When users can understand and use products without additional help, support and help-desk costs are reduced. Most employers and suppliers are required by law to protect employees from risks to their health, and safety and human-centered methods can help to mitigate these risks (e.g. musculoskeletal risks).

Systems designed using human-centred methods improve quality, for example, by:

The complete benefits of human-centred design can be determined by taking into account the total life cycle costs of the product, system or service, including conception, design, implementation, support, use, maintenance and, finally, disposal. Taking a human-centred design approach contributes to other aspects of system design, for example, by improving the identification and definition of functional requirements. Taking a human-centred design approach also increases the likelihood of completing the project successfully, on time, and within budget. Using appropriate human-centred methods can reduce the risk of the product failing to meet stakeholder requirements or being rejected by its users.

Examples of outputs from human-centred design activities
Examples of outputs from human-centred design activities


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