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User-Centric Design Basics: Every Problem is a Communication Problem

While some problem-solving activities involve remembering the right formula to solve an equation in order to find an unknown number (eek!), for most others the procedure follows, at the very minimum, two steps:

  1. Identify problem
  2. Find suitable solution(s)

As simple as it sounds, you’d be surprised by how many of those smart people who enjoy solving equations (some may call them engineers) manage to fuck up when it comes to following these two simple steps. If you know anything about startups, you have probably heard about how 90% of new ventures inevitably fail. My informed guess is that many of them were created by overly excited technology aficionados who jumped straight to step two – the solution – and then tried to convince the rest of the world that there was a problem to solve when in fact, there wasn’t. Or maybe there was a problem, and with that problem also came an already existing solution to such problem, which happened not to involve a fancy app or drone or artificial intelligence yet did the job. Sometimes people invest too much energy into disrupting things that already work.

As someone who is a big fan of solving problems, I am somewhat hostile to anyone who aims at disrupting solutions rather than bettering them. 

Photo courtesy of @sebastien__bonneval

The User-Centered Designer

You will read the word “user-centred design” used as an umbrella term for a variety of roles that embrace user-centrism as a discipline – i.e. UX researchers, UX/UI designers, service designers, UX strategists, UX writers are all, in a way, user-centered designers.

User-centred designers are first of all listeners with a good ear for other people’s issues and needs, which lie at the core of every problem that regards a user. The word “user” here assumes that there is (or there is going to be) any kind of product or service which aims at solving those issues or providing for those needs. IDEO.org embraces something called “Human-Centred Design” which goes beyond this concept by addressing seemingly intractable global issues such as those related to poverty, gender equality and access to clean water. I am going to share with you their seven mindsets: Empathy, Optimism, Iteration, Creative Confidence, Making, Embracing Ambiguity, and Learning from Failure. Every good user-centred designer should aim at embracing these wholeheartedly. Look them up. For the troubled millennial user-centred designer who is yet struggling to find its place, I took the liberty to redefine the seven mindsets so that they are somewhat more achievable for those struggling with every aspect of life.

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  1. Pingback: Generative vs Evaluative Research - So You Want To Be a UX Researcher

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