Principles for Design & Development

Community Insights on Principle 1: Design with the User

Principle 1On July 31, 2014, Creative Associates International hosted a discussion of Principle 1: Design with the User. Ayan Kishore of Creative led the event, which featured presentations by user-centered design experts Dianna Kane of Medic Mobile, Panthea Lee from Reboot, and Tapan Parikh from the University of California, Berkeley. The event concluded with a small-group case study exercise led by Carol Bothwell of Catholic Relief Services. You can watch the entire event here.

Highlights of the Working Group discussion are captured below.  Does this content resonate with you? Are there aspects of the discussion that you would modify? Join the discussion using the comments section on this page.

  • Make products and solutions intuitive to the end user by applying concepts of “design thinking,” which employs a user-centered and prototype-driven process.
  • Be “user-centered” by keeping user needs, environment, and preferences at the center of project and product design.
  • Increase the local relevance, utility, and sustainability of products and services by encouraging early, direct, and sustained collaboration with the target user community.
  • Be “prototype-driven” by testing frequently with the user community, ideally starting with a “minimum viable product,” or a rough idea in unfinished form that can gather feedback well before products are put into a formal design process.
  • Be willing to embrace failure to learn what works, recognizing that failure is an important part of the learning process.
  • Sketching out visual representations of complex systems can be an effective means of conveying unfinished concepts, particularly when collaborating with low literacy user communities.
  • Use “rapid prototyping” to refine rough ideas, test underlying assumptions, and draw principles of monitoring & evaluation into the earliest stages of design.
  • Use “participatory design” to engage all stakeholders involved in eventual products, services, and business processes to ensure they are responsive and appropriate for user preferences, environments, and behaviors.
  • Create individual “user personas” that represent the needs and desires of major stakeholder groups to facilitate a clearer understanding of the impact that potential design choices on user groups.
  • Try the use of role-playing, particularly when direct engagement with users is not feasible, to reveal new insights and achieve mutual understanding in working with target users and communities.
  • Create a direct loop between the feedback of target end user communities and product ideation, prototyping, and development, by letting users know how their feedback has been incorporated in project or product design.
  • Design not just for where the user is now, but where the user will be in the future.
  • Design collaboratively with other providers, including by building on existing platforms, tools, and services whenever possible.
  • Consider describing your design methodology and iterative digital development approach in proposals as a way to secure funds for this work, and to illustrate how it can lead to the development of more sustainable solutions.

You can also download a PDF of the Community Discussion document here.

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