Human-Centered Design vs Design Thinking : Aalpha

Human-Centered Design vs Design Thinking

This is a problem-solving technique in design that real people are put at the center of the development process. This enables developers to create products that resonate and are tailored to meet the audience’s needs.

The goal is to keep the user’s wants and preferences in mind during all phases of the development process.

Human-centered design phases

There are three phases in human-centered design namely:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Ideation
  3. Implementation
  4. Inspiration

This phase is dedicated to learning from the customer. Instead of going on to develop products that are based on preconceived notions and assumptions about what you think customers may want, you go ahead and try to discover what they want.

This phase demands empathy. One needs to put themselves in their shoes to try to understand the products they are using, why the products, how they are using them, and the challenges they are trying to find solutions for.

A useful concept to use while developing products with the users in mind is understanding that customers don’t buy a product, they only hire it to achieve a particular goal. When viewed through these lenses the product developed will be centered on the user’s wants and needs.

To determine the particular goal that users want to achieve by hiring your product. You need to ask questions like:

  • What challenge were you trying to find a solution for when buying this product?
  • What other options were in consideration when making the decision?
  • What made you settle for this product over the others?

The answers will give you enough feedback that you will apply in developing an ideal product or service that will meet the user’s needs.

In this phase based on the feedback in the first phase, brainstorming will be done to come up with as many ideas as possible.

As you later start narrowing down on the ideas that are most viable and feasible, a prototype can be built and given to people to get feedback on. This can also be in the form of a PowerPoint presentation.

The objective is to test the ideas, gather input, work on the feedback and then test again until the ideal solution is achieved.

The last phase is taking the ideal solution to the market. You should know where your users are and how they would want to be marketed to the solution.

Even when rolling out soliciting feedback should be continuing. The iteration process should be continuous because the needs and wants of customers also evolve continuously. Continuous innovation and producing products that are market fit will mean that you are adapting to the ever-changing user’s needs.

When to use Human-centered design

Human-centered design is mostly used when wanting to improve or to add to a product that is already existing. Looks at among other things user workflows, frustrations, and how it feels to use the product.

Human-centered design pitfalls

  • Without clear expectations of the process, measuring progress during iterations and quick changes can be challenging.
  • Following user wishes can lead to short-sighted preferences that can hinder the long-term evolution of a product.
  • One should create multiple iterations of the product.

What is design thinking?

This is an approach to developing products that come up with creative and practical solutions to a particular problem. It is important to note that design thinking is slightly different from human-centered design.

Design thinking develops a solution to a problem by putting in mind the user’s goals and needs and often leading to the first version or prototype or a product. Once the users have interacted with the product now human-centered design comes in to improve the user and product experience putting in mind the feedback got from the users.

Four principles of Design Thinking

All design is social no matter the context, and any social innovation will ultimately come back to a human-centered point of view.

Ambiguity is inevitable. To see things differently, experimenting to the limits of your ability and knowledge is crucial.

All design is redesign. Human needs will always remain unchanged. It’s only the means of reaching desired outcomes that are redesigned.

When ideas are made tangible like prototypes, designers can communicate with them more effectively.

Five phases of Design Thinking

In this stage, the focus is on trying to get to know the user and understand their objectives, needs, and wants. It involves engaging and observing people to understand them. Assumptions are cast away and real insights about the user are sorted.

This involves defining the problem. All the findings in the first phase are now looked at keenly trying to make sense of them. Framing the problem in a user-friendly way is the key Here, the problem statement is formulated.

With a problem statement in hand, the third phase now entails looking for potential solutions. Ideations sessions are held to come up with as many ideas as possible. This is the brainstorming phase you will then narrow down the ideas to the most ideal ones.

This phase involves experimentation and turning the ideas into a product. The first product known as a prototype has potential solutions that were identified in the previous phases incorporated in it.

Throughout this stage, the solutions proposed may be accepted, rejected, redesigned, or improved on.

After the prototype has been made, we now go to testing. It may seem like the final step but often it leads to a previous step.

Benefits of Human-centered design and Design Thinking

Let’s look at some of the benefits of Human-centered design and design thinking:

  • Significantly reduces time-to-market
  • Cost savings and a great RoI
  • Improves customer retention and loyalty
  • Fosters innovation
  • Can be applied company-wide


Human-centered design and design thinking have glaring similarities like empathy, and user-centricity and both of them are iterative processes. But while design thinking tries to determine the direction while working on a new product, the human-centered design tries to fine-tune details using iteration after the product is in the hands of the user. While the exact steps and when they are completed vary, we will agree they are both wonderful strategies for product experimentation.

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Originally published at on August 22, 2022.



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Aalpha is specialist India based Software Solutions company providing solutions for Web and Mobile development,