The process

HCD is an iterative process that focuses on asking better questions and embracing continual inquiry, learning, and scaling.

Photograph of 3 women taking part in the design research process in Bhutan

The human-centred process is shaped by five big questions. Moving through these five questions will guide your team’s problem-solving approach. Together, the answers will support your ultimate objective of improving equitable coverage for your initiative.

Illustration of the HCD process - 5 Big Questions: 1: what is our objective? 2: what do we think we know? 3: what stands in our way? 4: how could we respond? 5: how could we improve?
Editorial illustration of question 1: What is our objective?


What is our objective?

An objective shapes all of the work to come and significantly influences the ways in which we go about solving problems: The research we design, the challenges we focus on, the findings we prioritize and the indicators we select.

In this phase you will: 

a. Prioritize a user group

b. Define the improved state

c. Describe the biggest obstacle(s)

Final output: Objective statement

Editorial illustration of question 2: What do we think we know?


What do we think we know?

This phase is about composing learning goals starting with what we know and what we think we know. This avoids the duplication of past efforts that were unsuccessful and avoids overlooking areas of exploration if their past conclusions were based on insubstantial evidence.

In this phase you will: 

a. Assemble existing knowledge

b. Recognize assumptions

c. Compose learning goals

Final output: Learning goals

Editorial illustration of question 3: What stands in our way?


What stands in our way?

Rather than suggest multi-year longitudinal studies, or time (and resource) heavy cross-sectional analyses, this guide introduces the processes and techniques of rapid inquiry.

In this phase you will:

a. Explore the user's environment 

b. Interpret collected stories 

c. Propose opportunities for design

Final output: Creative prompts

Editorial illustration of question 4: How could we respond?


How could we respond?

The creative process of generating and evaluating solutions is experimental and iterative. The exercises are intended to enable rapid ideation and feedback gathering.

In this phase you will:

a. Conceptualize solutions 

b. Design quick examples 

c. Prototype designs with users 

Final output: Tested solutions

Editorial illustration of question 5: How could we improve?


How could we improve?

How can we continually improve our ideas throughout their implementation? Implementation is an opportunity for further learning and improvement.

In this phase you will:

a. Plan for iteration 

b. Evaluate effectiveness

c. Improve initiatives

Final output: Revised "adaptation plan" and proven ideas

All the tools you need

From first steps to finishing touches, our resources section has everything you need to smoothly, effectively plan and conduct an HCD process of your own.