Decoding User-Centred Design

You may not have practiced User-Centred Design before, in fact, maybe you haven’t even heard of it. But we guarantee that as a consumer, you’ve experienced the power of what it can create.

Have you shopped at IKEA? Do you buy coffee from Starbucks? Is your life run by Apple products? If you answered yes to any of these questions then User- Centred Design has had an impact on your life.

User-Centred Design is a framework that puts people right in the centre of the design process. It starts with building empathy for your users and deeply understanding their needs, wants, behaviours, emotions and limitations. Users are given extensive attention throughout each stage, until your new solution is ready to launch to the world.

For IKEA, this meant studying the morning routines of 8,292 people in eight cities and discovering that for women the greatest source of stress in the morning was out t choice. This led them to design the Knapper, a freestanding mirror with a rack on the back for hanging clothes and jewellery to help customers assemble an out t the night before.

For Starbucks, User-Centred Design led them to the discovery that for their customers, ambiance was just as important as caffeine. And so they created the ‘third-place’ concept - a blended environment between home and work where you can sit in a nice chair, talk on your phone, look out the window, surf the web...oh, and drink coffee too.

These are only two examples, there are many, many more out there.

Some of the greatest products and services of our time were born out of the User-Centred Design methodology. They’ve transformed the way we live, shaped our behaviours and enriched
our experiences.

User-Centred Design is a framework that puts people right in the centre of the design process.


When you compare what people experience as customers versus what they experience as employees, something peculiar happens.

Customers enjoy products, services and experiences that make their lives better. But employees, well, they don’t so much enjoy as they do endure. And much of what they experience involves complexity, constraints and labour intensive practices that make it dif cult to do great work.

Would customers put up with this? Of course not. The irony is, customers and employees are the same people. So why are they being treated so differently?

Businesses invest in User-Centred Design when it comes to their customers, and they reap the bene ts. But when designing internal products or policies, they omit the most important thing, the needs of employees themselves. Instead of designing solutions that are embraced by employees, they end up with solutions that are endured or ignored or even worse, solutions that cause frustration and pain. The knock-on effects are brutal - disengagement, attrition and wasted talent.


Imagine a workplace where everything works ten times better. Imagine the day when employees are able to dedicate their time to doing the best work they possibly can, rather than navigating their way through complexity.

User-Centred Design is a practical methodology to create this vision. And best of all it doesn’t require investment in a new technology platform or building of an innovation centre or hiring a whole new team of people. User-Centred Design just requires a new way of thinking – and that’s something everyone is capable of. 

There are five distinct stages throughout the User- Centred Design journey:


Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and feeling what they’re feeling. To design for employees, you must build empathy for who they are and what’s important to them. This isn’t something that can be rushed, gaining deep empathy requires you to connect with as many people as possible. Empathy helps you solve the right problems.


Insights help to connect the dots and find meaning in the data you’ve collected. It’s tempting to rely on stats and facts, however insights go beyond just the numbers. Insights are the ‘Aha’ moments that direct you to new ways of serving your users. Think of insights as a springboard to ideation.


Ideation is dreaming up big ideas using the insights you’ve discovered. Current reality shouldn’t constrain when ideating, it’s a space to generate as many ideas as possible without editing anything out. Ideation is fun and energising. 


Prototyping is putting your ideas into a tangible form, building, testing and refining them. It requires you to think through your best ideas and how they would work in reality. By testing them with the people they’re intended for, you can quickly identify what’s working and what isn’t. Prototyping helps ideas quickly become reality.


Pitching is selling your idea. A great idea without a great pitch will never be more than an idea. Building a pitch brings your idea to life through a compelling story.