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Embracing a Human-Centric Mindset to Create Innovative Designs

A guide to help UX designers be the human they’re designing for.

Believe it or not, there’s a real person behind popular and not so popular designs. While each of these experiences had time, money, and brainpower behind them, the level of thought that was given to the end user experiences varied.

In an age of growing technology and artificial intelligence, it is important to distinguish the human impact on user experience. Studies show that focusing on the customer experience is key to influencing their brand loyalties – a sentiment 73% of consumers would agree with. A full 65% go on to say that a positive experience with a brand gives more confidence in their purchase decision making versus brand advertising (PwC 2018.)

Ensuring that products nail the client experience takes an entire team, but there’s one professional in that group who holds a particularly relevant role. UX designers, and the many professionals that work in the user experience field, are solving problems for the end user. Inherently, we believe that whatever we are producing will solve a complex and challenging problem. It reflects a level of empathy that is spurred by a human-centric mindset.

There are various ways to work with a human-centric mindset. Let’s step through a few core practices that will assist UX designers in crafting solutions to solve real problems.

Complete, thorough Discovery

Reaching out to end users to better understand the problems we’re solving for is part of Discovery. This is the phase where designers seek as much information as possible. Whether it be from conducting stakeholder interviews, or gleaning data and insights to benchmark against, this step is critical in fully understanding the problem we’re solving for.

The ITX Design Process Diagram
The UX Design Process is cyclical and iterative, focusing on 3 key phases. The Listen & Discover phase is critical to drive clarity in understanding what and who we are solving for.

It’s worth mentioning that when working with clients, they are entrusting us to solve their problems. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are tasked to create next best innovation, but it would be a disservice to our clients and to the humans we’re designing for if we didn’t do our due diligence. It will aid in our problem solving and will “wow” our client when we present how deep the Discovery dive took us – and how dedicated we are to fixing their problem.

Be the voice of all users

The UX Designer devotes their attention to the end user. Contrast that to the role of the product manager, whose primary responsibility is to serve as the voice and advocate of the customer.

As designers, we are their advocates. We are their voice in the discussions and brainstorming sessions, ensuring that their voice is heard. From the findings in the Discovery phase, we know what is best for them and are prepared to fight for them.

Projects might have identified specific users with detailed personas; however, top tier designers are thinking about all users. We ensure that while there exists a specific end user for the product we’re designing, our choices cater to everyone. It is morally correct to design with inclusivity in mind, and we gain from considering all users in our choices.

Shifting from “one user” to “all users” doesn’t necessarily mean that the product vision is altered, rather the way we design encompasses all users. Using helpful checklists or referencing guides is a move that ensures that your designs will not exclude anyone.

Get everyone to ask the right people the right real questions

When jumping into a project, designers have just one goal – what is the problem we’re solving for, and for whom are we solving it?” And to determine this, we ask ourselves many questions, and many questions directed toward others.

It’s important to sit down with your team, whether it be product managers, engineers, or fellow designers, and find common ground. Not doing so will result in a misaligned team, as podcast guest Kim Goodwin argued in a previous episode, and could reap serious problems down the line. Once everyone understands what the problem is, who we are solving it for, and how to solve it, we’re ready to move into the Problem and Solution spaces.

Not only will we garner valuable information that will assist with decisions down the line, but we’re taking time to connect with your end users. It sends the message that we’re listening, and we’re going to do everything in our power to solve their problem. It’s an entirely new level of dedication.

Establish internal partnerships

It is rare to come across a project that solely requires UX designers. The projects that include designers and product managers are increasing, and that means that forging strong partnerships with our fellow team members is more important than ever.

Looking at the technical standpoint, it makes sense to entrust the aspects of a project to the designated professional. Each person that is involved is working at what they are best at, and it frees up the designers to think of the end user, to be their advocate. Because at the end of the day, there is no product without the end user.

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Beyond the logical explanation, tangible benefits occur when designers and product managers collaborate. As each role seeks more responsibilities and definitions of their career paths, working in tandem will actualize these desires and create a strong, cohesive product for the end user.

Use real-time collaborative software

Before thinking of solving the problem, it’s important to look at the tools to use. Are we using the right technology to work at maximum efficiency? Can our fellow designers see what the plans are? Is collaboration possible?

As pioneers of remote work, ITX designers strive to find the technology that empowers our team members around the globe to work together. Utilizing real time collaborative software is a simple and innovative solution. Creating a project on various platforms, such as Figma or Miro, allows for team members to collaborate and work on these projects together. 

Even for smaller teams, this technology is a game changer. No longer does the software live on a single computer, inaccessible. A team member can start the project in Rochester, NY while another team member can finish it in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is how we function as a global, remote-first organization. Collaboration isn’t restricted to one device, and creativity is free to come from everywhere.

Pointing north

The simple act of “solving the problem for the end user” isn’t a clear instruction. It’s helpful advice that will put designers on the right path when they are in the weeds of a project. However, it’s easy to drift away from the core goal of each UX designer. The practices are my suggestions; they represent ways that the ITX Design team works with clients and their customers from a human-centric mindset. Take these with you and solve problems for your end users.

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Graphic of blog author Brian Loughner.

Brian Loughner is a Lead UX Designer at ITX. He works to connect with clients, understand their problems and find solutions to meet their needs. Brian co-organizes meetings for Upstate UX Meetup, aimed to facilitation conversation on various UX topics for professionals and students.

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