Human Centred Design

12/08/2015

A year ago I decided to enroll on a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) offered by the Linux Foundation and made available on the edx.org online MOOC platform.

I really enjoyed the course and decided to keep an eye out for other free online courses to enroll on, partly to boost my CV, but also to continue learning new things, and explore topics that interested me.

I’ve just finished the Human Centred Design Introduction course offered by the University of California, San Diego, on the Coursera.org platform, and thought I would summarise here some of the things the course introduced me to.

Firstly, I should mention that I was not hugely impressed with the Coursera.org platform, especially when compared to edx.org (Just before starting the H-C Design course, I completed a second course on the Edx.org platform on HTML5, offered by the W3C)

The edx platform just feels a little more usable and easier to work in – particularly considering course progress and moving between elements of a course. I often found navigating around the Coursera platform to be confusing.

But what did I learn from the course content?

Need finding: The first course module was about getting to know your users – the people you will be designing a solution for.

Rather than coming up with a design and then finding a way to market this design to an audience, the course took the approach that you need to get to know your market first – what are the problems they have, what solutions do they already use, and what are their experiences of current solutions?

We did this by interviewing a participant on the topic of travel.

I learnt that there is a great skill in designing a set of interview questions that allow your participant to talk openly and honestly, rather than being led by the interviewer to provide particular answers.

I also learnt that I am terrible at interviewing people, and struggled to maintain a natural flow of conversation, however, upon listening back to the recording I made of the interview, it was really interesting to hear the things my participant had told me, and I was actually able to learn a lot about their experiences and their needs.

Prototyping: For me the second module was actually about communicating ideas with your market/collaborators/stake holders.

It was interesting to learn how simple pen and paper prototypes could be valuable for learning whether a user interface works well, and even testing how a program or system might flow.

I also learnt how storyboards can be useful for describing a problem, set of user interactions, and demonstrating a solution.

Whatever the method used, it’s the ability to communicate information, and create a dialogue about an idea or product that is important.

Usability Heuristic Evaluation: The final topic covered was about evaluating a design against usability heuristics.

The course suggested 10 heuristics against which an interface could be evaluated, although there could be more or less.

I found it particularly useful to think about whether an interface helps the user to make choices, prevents a user from making mistakes, is consistent in the way it presents information and expects to be interacted with and provides useful feedback to the user.

It’s interesting to consider how this can be applied outside of the digital realm too, for example, does a complex building prevent a visitor from making mistakes, e.g., getting lost?

I’m certainly feeling enthused by my experience on this short course, and have already signed up for another design course offered by UC, San Diego.

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One Response to “Human Centred Design”


  1. I have been taking courses on Coursera. Definitely will try Edx.org Thanks for sharing


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