At Open we identify and examine customer issues. At DNA we deliver on that thinking.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

Making ideas work

Users first?


Organisations that seek to solve problems without fully considering user, and human, needs and values, risk miscuing the size, type and focus of the designed solution.

First up, it's important to note that balance is key – a technology or business led approach to solve problems and design solutions is going to be biased and imperfect, of that there is no doubt. Equally, prioritising users needs over all other considerations will create a risky imbalance.

The critical thing is to work hard, and yes it will likely be hard at first, to balance the various needs (business, technology, user and human) within problem solving and solution design. This is where user-centred design methodologies come into their own. When applied well, they help to hear and balance the many voices that contribute to the decision or project, to interrogate and synthesise what they are saying and to identify the commonality between them. It is here, on this common ground, that the opportunity to design the right solution resides.

Designing for users and humans may sound like one and the same thing, they aren’t. User centred design means taking inspiration from users values, behaviours and actions. It requires being mindful that interactions, reactions and decisions take place in natural contexts rather than controlled settings. Clever user-centred design takes the user on a journey from understanding what exists to discovering what is possible. It then extracts all that the business needs to know from users about the ‘possible’ journey.

Designing for humans means stepping back from observing users as a function of behaviours and interactions, with a product, service or channel, to gaining an understanding of the broader ecosystem, community and the moment that the user exists within. It requires being clear on what role that which you are seeking to design, will have within the world, community and moment being experienced by humans.

A summary of principles that drive user and human-centred design at DNA:

Balance: Weigh up user and human needs, business value and technical implications, plus environmental and social factors. We do this by mapping and prioritising the desirability, viability and feasibility of potential solutions against all variables.

Value: Consider and balance business needs – i.e. cost management, efficiency and sustainability, with the emotional values users ascribe to solutions. Seek to identify and validate the value a user will derive from the product or service in experiential, perceptual, and emotional terms.

Action: Determine what action the business is trying to effect, i.e. to drive uptake, improve retention, increase margin, then consider what is most valuable for a user and what will elicit their engagement. People make decisions and take actions based on what is most important to them as well as what seems most simple, easy, fun, fulfilling etc.

Human: Make the solution emotionally meaningful as well as functional. People have needs and goals, they also live in worlds with differing pressures, pain and pleasure points. Designing for humans means factoring this in, rather than isolating interactions and experiences from reality.


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