Use Human-Centered Design to Collaborate

Kyle Miller
"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."

Product development is a team sport requiring business leadership, designers, developers to be engaged in every stage of the development process. Approaching product development with a Human-Centered Design methodology enables teams to have a clear understanding of their aim based on the project phase.

Using a Human-Centered Design approach means team members focus their goals around the end-user throughout the product development process. It also works as a powerful collaboration tool empowering product teams to adapt and apply capabilities contingent on the process phase.

In this three-part article, we’ll discuss each stage of product development—business, user, and functional—from a Human-Centered Design methodology to understand how team members work together to create and sustain a successful product.

Stage 1—Starting From the Bottom-line

Stage 2 — The user-centered stage

Stage 3 — Make it work

Stage 1—Starting From the Bottom-line

In the business-focused discovery phase, the key team members become product managers, strategists, and owners since they are most aware of the companies goals and ultimately the bottom-line.

The Product Leadership Team’s Impact

Interviewing Stakeholders

Product owners and managers can identify who the key stakeholders are that need to be interviewed. Stakeholders are those in your company who quite literally have a stake in the product you’re developing.

Here is who to include in stakeholder interviews:

Executives Executives understand how the project aligns with company goals and why the product is being developed in the first place.

Sales & Marketing Individuals on this team have firsthand experience on how to talk to your target audience and what functionalities they’re looking for.

Operations & Support Those on the operations and support team know what problem areas could turn your customers away.

Product Development The development team knows what it takes to make an unsuccessful product just as much as a successful one, so their insights will prove invaluable.

Each perspective offers meaningful insights and ideas based on their specific experiences. Stakeholder interviews will define the parameters of your research and product development.

Establish business goals

Product managers and owners will predict the ROI of the project—using KPI’s to monitor and create measurable objectives. Establishing business goals will reinforce that project decisions and actions ladder up to company goals and ultimately, the bottom line.

Market Research

Product strategists will prove crucial in this stage, flexing their abilities to do an in-depth analysis of your demographics and competitors. A strong strategy will ensure you’re solving your user’s problem from an angle your competitors haven’t quite solved yet or solving a problem with a better solution than those that already exist.

Product leadership is critical to maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage. When using the human-centered design approach, product managers, strategists, and owners take the lead in the business-focused discovery phase the product development process.

The Design Team’s Impact

The design team will be valuable in balancing the user’s need with business-focused goals of the product strategy. Based on discoveries from user-research, stakeholder interviews, and business goals, designers create an impeccable user experience that sets the product apart from competitors.

The Development Team’s Impact

When it comes to forecasting the cost of your product and timeline, your team of developers is essential.

Both Designers and Developers prove crucial when it comes time to create a minimal viable product—helping to decide what functions and features will need to be included for testing.

Product leadership will be focused on maximizing business value from a product. The team of product leaders are responsible for the success or failure of a product and ultimately, of the company itself.

The Power of the Minimum Viable Product

First introduced by the Lean Startup, the idea of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is to get the most stripped-down version of your concept and features into the hands of users. Creating an MVP early on will get you invaluable learnings and take the guesswork out of what your user is really looking for.

Stage 2—The user centered stage

This is part two of a guide outlining the stages a cohesive development team goes through to harness the power of Human-Centered Design and build a successful product together.

A unique and engaging product depends on the collaboration of the leadership team, designers and developers. User research, product strategy, and business constraints are the sweet spot when it comes to creating and sustaining a successful product.

In this phase of the Human-Centered Design approach, the user really becomes the hero. This is where your designers will take the reins in exploring solutions for your end-user.

The Design Team’s Impact

While the role of the leadership teams is to keep business goals in focus throughout the development process, the role of the design team is to keep the end-user top of mind. Designers are vital in harnessing user research and translating it into a powerful user experience. This will assure you are creating a product user will actually embrace.

The Design Team spearheads the product development process. The design team includes UX, UI, and visual designers—all specialists in solving problems from the user’s perspective.

User Research

Designers utilize user research to analyze the target customer, inspire design, to evaluate solutions, and measure impact. User research can include both qualitative and quantitive methods:

Qualitative methods include focus groups, individual interviews, and creating personas in order to gain learnings on your user's habits and needs.

Quantitative methods include surveys, correlation research, competitive research, and experimental research in order to understand how different variables influence a user.


Prototyping is one of the most powerful research tools designers use. Prototyping is essential to obtaining user feedback before getting too far down the development pipeline.

The Development Team’s Impact

It’s important for designers to have developers to help to establish constraints. When prototyping, developers generate the minimum amount of code necessary to clarify the requirements or design elements under consideration. In this phase, developers help in understanding what ideas are and are not possible when considering time and costs. Developers help streamline the process by considering which solutions are viable and technically sound.

The Product Leadership Team’s Impact

At this stage, product leaders are providing resources, feedback, and even identifying potential risks based on initial ideas and prototypes.

Stage 3 — Make it work

This is part three of a guide outlining the stages a cohesive development team goes through to harness the power of Human-Centered Design and build a successful product together.

In this final stage of the human-centered design approach to product development—engineers, architects, and developers take the lead. This phase is all about implementing learnings, building, testing, and deploying the product.

The Development Team’s Impact

At this point, the actual task of developing the product starts. The aim of this phase is to develop the product considering budget and time constraints without sacrificing performance.

Organizations that use agile development methods test ideas early in the process which means saving time and money as the project progresses. In an agile infrastructure, stakeholders are engaged throughout the development process enabling transparency, predictable costs, and delivery.

DevOps is a cross-disciplinary practice in which operations and engineers work together. DevOps create and streamline systems while maintaining quality and technical performance.

__The Design Team’s Impact __

Collaboration with developers will guarantee the user’s needs are always reinforced. Designers will also make sure design UX is clear and answers research findings?.

The Product Leadership Team’s Impact

Enforce budget and time restrictions of the development. Operational excellence will give you the competitive edge you need.

The Power of User Stories

In agile development scenario, user stories take the place of traditional user requirements. User stories capture product features from the perspective of the end-user. This allows developers to understand all scenarios they need to code for.

User stories are not as strict as user requirements and offer a flexible framework for developers to work with. User stories can change and shift as things come up in development feedback informs the direction of the product.

Human-Centered Design means every team member understands their role and goals depending on the stage of the process. Whether it’s the business-focused stage, the user-focused stage, or the functionality-focused stage, the entire team stays engaged while maintaining the user at the core of solutions.