Human-Centred Design: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Human-Centred Design: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

If you’re finding it difficult to sell your products or services, then you’ve likely stopped to ask yourself what the problem could be. A quick search on the internet would tell you that perhaps you’re targeting the wrong market, or your access to the market is not optimal. In a world where performance, profit margins, and bottom lines are what matters to businesses, marketing may seem like the culprit.

However, what we rarely consider is that the problem could in fact be the actual product or service itself not being a suitable solution for your customers. Beyond age, gender, location, and other demographic profiling criteria, do you really understand who your customer is and what kind of solution they are looking for in a product or service such as yours? This is where human-centred design (HCD) comes into play. Through HCD, you can co-design a product or service based on the challenges faced by its users.

What is Human-Centred Design (HCD)?

Human-centred design (HCD) is a problem-solving methodology where products, services, and systems are designed in a way that addresses the needs of their users and other relevant stakeholders. It puts the people you are looking to serve at the centre of the design and implementation of the product or service. To execute HCD well, you have to deeply understand them and their challenges, and then use those insights to design the right solutions that address or solve those challenges.

Let’s consider the example of MomCare. PharmAccess Foundation, one of our partners, launched MomCare to support expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy journey with high-quality access to healthcare. One of the challenges they faced was that, even though antenatal care (ANC) was and still is critical in reducing complications resulting in mothers’ and infants’ deaths during pregnancy, many women weren’t seeking that care.

After conducting extensive research within this group, we learned that most women viewed their pregnancy journey in three distinct stages — ANC, birth, and postnatal care (PNC) — and often only focused on seeking care for childbirth. In order to design a healthcare access solution suitable for these women, we needed to understand their challenges, pain points, needs, goals, and aspirations. Interviews, surveys and focus groups helped us zero in on the three main personas of Kenyan women seeking maternity care, all of whom had differing backgrounds, behaviours, needs and aspirations:

  1. The resilient hustler
  2. The disciplined dreamer
  3. The confident wealth

We were then able to contextualise the challenges and understand the factors that inhibited healthcare access by this vulnerable group.

From our findings, we designed and prototyped a new digital financial solution that would:

  1. Enable quality end-to-end maternity care access for pregnant women.
  2. Leverage technology to improve cost visibility and financial planning for pregnant women while increasing revenue for the healthcare facilities.
  3. Empower pregnant women and healthcare providers with relevant information about quality providers, their offerings, and price points, while improving visibility for the healthcare providers with the hope for growth in market share.
  4. Build a network for connections and engagement between women and healthcare providers to improve both maternal and child care.

Why is Human-Centred Design (HCD) important?

Human-centred design allows you to co-design a solution that is technically feasible with the people who use it. Through HCD, we were able to close the gap between the digital and physical experience, providing a digital solution for the people, by the people. We were able to:

  1. Understand all the stakeholders involved by including them in the design-thinking process
  2. Identify the difference between the problems and the symptoms of the problems by asking extensive questions which helped us create a workable product.
  3. Uncover potential issues and risks associated with the solution by testing the prototypes.

Are you interested in learning more about the people who interact with your product or service? Reach out to us via email at and we’ll co-create better experiences for them.