Imagine your company were asked to design a queue system for a waiting room in a medical center for people recently diagnosed with cancer. Your company figures the most efficient system would be similar to what restaurants use: Give people remote buzzers that vibrate and beep when it’s their turn. It works, right?

Maybe. But the solution fails to consider that these cancer patients, who are currently going through one of the most emotional and disorienting times of their lives, probably won’t enjoy clutching a buzzer that explodes like a grenade with beeps and vibrations at unpredictable moments. The solution completely forgets the human element.

Human-centered design (HCD) always keeps the end-user in mind. By combining empathy with the principles of information architecture, interaction design, user research, and visual design, HCD ensures that products not only function well, but are also easy and pleasant to use. An HCD professional deals with everything from the abstract elements of design, like the waiting room example, to more functional elements, like grouping together buttons on a web page in a way that doesn’t totally confuse users. In short, HCD professionals envision what an ideal user experience would look like and help the rest of the team work toward that vision.

At 1904labs, we embed each of our Agile teams with an HCD Lead who works on projects from beginning to end. At the start of each project, our HCD Leads meet with clients to determine what their vision is and how it could be best customized to the end-user. The HCD Lead then conducts user research, engages stakeholders and team members to envision an ideal user experience, builds wireframes and prototypes, and generally helps the rest of team always keep the end user in mind. This not only ensures that users receive a great product, it also saves our clients time and money.

Companies often end up wasting massive amounts of resources on redesigning and redeveloping their products because they fail to understand what users need and value. Our HCD-infused Agile process prevents that. By making HCD a key part of our iterative process, we’re able to get feedback on what’s working and what’s not from an end-user perspective at each stage of a project – even before the code is written. The result is fewer costly changes down the road, and less wasted resource on things like training, documentation, and customer support.

A growing body of research shows that HCD also boosts profits over the long term. The main reason is simple: HCD results in better products. With that in mind, we decided to make HCD an integral part of our culture from day one. With decades of experience among our staff, we’ve seen the proof of how HCD can take a good initial idea and turn it into a great finished product. And we’ve also seen the disaster scenarios in which companies totally fail to consider the end user, resulting in massive wasted resources, inefficiency, and damaged relationships.

HCD works best when clients understand how it improves their bottom line and results in better products. After all, the most successful companies are able to understand and anticipate exactly what consumers want. Our HCD Leads provide those answers, and Agile development practices provide the means to turn those answers into reality.