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Human Centered-Design Framework: The Future of Service Delivery

On March 8, 2018, I attended the Municipalities of the Future Symposium hosted by York University School of Public Policy and Administration and co-sponsored by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), the Toronto Region group. The event discussed topics ranging from technology to smart communities to demographic trends to the future of urban planning. The symposium focus was on the policies and practices of creating a better future with the citizen at the center.

The concept of placing the citizen at the center is known as the human-centered design (HCD). HCD is a design and management framework that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process. Human involvement
typically takes place in observing the problem within context, brainstorming, conceptualizing,
developing and implementing the solution..

What is the process of human-centered design (HCD)?

HCD consists of a six-phase method:

1. Observation
The first phase is about observing the end user to learn and understand the people you are designing for. In this step, you are identifying patterns of behaviors, trends, pain points and places where users have a difficult time performing an action. Most importantly, you can put yourself in their situation so you can see what their experience is and feel what they feel. 

2. Ideation
The second phase is the first time you begin to brainstorm ideas on what you have learned and observed in phase 1. The goal of ideation is to come up with as many solutions or ideas to your problem. You will make sense of what you learned, identify opportunities for design and prototype possible solutions.

3. Rapid Prototyping
The third phase is where you are going to build a prototype from the solutions in phase 2. The prototype phase is your opportunity to test your solution with the end user. The goal is not to build the perfect solution but to establish a rapport with the end user to receive feedback and make your prototype better.

4. User Feedback
The fourth phase is the most critical phase because it is where you bring the prototype to the hands of the people you are designing for. You are now incorporating their feedback. Without input from your end user you will not know if your solution is on target or not.

5. Iteration
The fifth phase is when you receive feedback from your users. You use that information to fuel the changes to your design. The goal of phase 5 is to iterate, test and integrate user feedback until you have fine-tuned your solution. Phase 5 can be repeated as many times until the solution is to a point where it is ready to be used.

6. Implementation
The sixth and final phase is to implement your solution to the public. You must
develop a communication and marketing strategy.

What is the difference between human-centered design and user-design experience?

HCD is associated with the framework of user-design experience because both are focused on solving problems for people. However, there are differences between the two methods.

Human-centered design is a framework that considers human perspectives throughout the design process.

User experience design is the design of multi-sensory experiences, typically at the interface between humans and technology. It is one of many design disciplines that takes a human-centered approach.

Have you implemented HCD in your work?

I have implemented the HCD framework for developing solutions to improve the delivery of
social assistance. With gathering data through the HCD framework, my team and I modified policies and created tools to improve our service delivery model. I learned that to figure out what humans really want lies in doing two things: observing user behavior and putting yourself in the situation of the end user.

Learn more about human-centered design by watching this video by Ideo.org. 

If you are interested in learning more, this free online course by IDEO.org and the Acumen Fund is a great place to start.

Ashley Cabral  is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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