Digital on Toast: What on earth is human-centred design?

What exactly is human-centred design and why is there a growing push for the public sector to embrace it?

Welcome to Digital on Toast – quick little tidbits about all things digital in Queensland Government. In this special series we will introduce human-centred design (HCD).What exactly is human-centred design and why is there a growing push for the public sector to embrace it?2020 has certainly been a year for the history books. The digital world has played a pivotal role in keeping the cogs of society moving and developing a new game plan to respond. The rapid evolution of the digital space has never been more evident or necessary.

Governments across the globe have been forced to re-evaluate the way they provide services to their citizens. Transforming the way governments serve their community is more than just choosing the right technology. Governments also need to rethink how they design and deliver the services their citizens need in this new landscape.

For the Queensland public service this means understanding customers, what they need and how they'd like to interact with government services. These insights will help drive innovation and help agencies discover the right tools to cater to the unique needs of their customer.

So where does human-centred design fit in?

HCD is focused on developing solutions to problems from the perspective of citizens and business owner and can be broken down into 3 phases. In the Queensland Government we define these as:

  1. Understand and define

    In the first phase you should aim to understand the current behaviours, motivations, processes, systems and needs. This reveals a range of insights that help clarify and define the problem space. To do this you can complete pre-discovery research about the problem, field research which involves an ethnographic approach where we complete observations, interviews and shadowing. Armed with a mix of qualitative and quantitative data we complete detailed analysis and synthesis to discover insights.

  1. Explore and refine

    The second phase involves ideation which turns ideas into prototypes. These are then tested with customers to gain feedback. Allowing your customers the opportunity to interact with prototypes helps to refine the solution through iterative loops to ensure the right solution can progress to build.

  1. Implement and evaluate

    Once your tested and refined solution is built it is ready for launch. In the third phase you can implement the solution and continually evaluate the impact and iterate the solution based on observation and feedback from customers.

Essentially, HCD is all about building a deep empathy with the people you're designing for, generating tonnes of ideas, building a bunch of prototypes, sharing what you've made with the people you're designing for, and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the community.

If you want to learn about HCD the Queensland Government Customer and Digital Group has designed a number of short online modules to get you started on your learning journey.