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Good user experience and human-focused software are different: Here’s how to design software that puts the person at the centre

In the last decade, the need for more connectivity has led to more collaborative tools, new digital channels, and more apps than we can count. The future of business and our lives very much lies in the digital world and its experiences. 

Over the years, we’ve become better at building digital products that offer very specific features to meet specific needs, help people get things done faster and easier, and target them personally. 

Building a seamless, connected, and personalised user experience has become a priority for many organisations, and with the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, we’ve more recently seen the development of user experiences that are able to foster a stronger sense of community and even empathy.  

But offering a good user experience, even one that is very personalised, isn’t enough. 

Increasingly, there is an expectation that digital products and experiences match user preferences, differences, and even emotions, and this requires that software and apps be human-focused at their core by design.  

User experience vs human-focused experience

Although the terms “human-focused software” and “user experience” are often used interchangeably, they are different. 

Creating human-centred experiences is a growing conversation across the technology industry, and it goes beyond just building a ‘good’ user experience. 

The creation of software with a focus on the human being takes into account the habits and behavioural patterns of people who would use the product. This includes a detailed examination of their characteristics and features. 

The user experience is the practical application of the results of these studies in the final software product. 

As the Australian National University, which offers a dedicated course on Human Centred Design and Software Development puts it, “The goal of human-centred software development is to produce software products that are designed and developed around the users’ needs and requirements from the very beginning of the development process.”

Three factors to consider to start designing human-centred software and apps

The whole team needs to be responsible for people’s experience with the product

From design through development to testing and maintenance, everyone in the app creation process is responsible for enhancing the experience’s quality and the user’s value.  

Everyone together needs to immerse themselves in the lifestyle and think of real people, and understand their unique needs, motivation and the challenges they face.  

To ensure they capture every shade, creators need to seek feedback and include improvements constantly. 

The goal is to create a product that people will readily accept and use and that is able to address new attitudes, desires and user behaviour consistently. 

The adaptability of products for people with different abilities and needs can bring unexpected benefits

For example, creating inclusive and accessible software that takes into account disabilities and impairments ends up benefiting all users. 

Most people are likely to experience impairments at least once in their lives, meaning that the development of digital products and features for disabled users has a far wider reach and potential benefits than most organisations might think.

Let’s say an organisation develops a feature for visually impaired users – this will also benefit the user who wakes up one morning with a migraine and can’t look at a screen.

More and more companies will realise that by adopting this inclusive, accessible software design approach, they open up the doors to unexpected possibilities for users and ultimately attract new customers or even enter new markets.

Processes for automatised solutions should be checked frequently for objectivity

We live in an era of automation and predictive algorithms, with a strong reliance on machine learning and artificial intelligence. While these technologies, based on data, may seem objective, they often carry biases and prejudices. 

A few years ago, it emerged that Amazon’s automated system in charge of assessing candidates’ resumes had shown preferences for males. Since most candidates were males, the system concluded that these candidates were preferred. 

Such cases are becoming more common, which requires stricter validation and verification of automated decision-making processes.

Delivering compelling, people-first user experiences is a major driver of success for organisations today. Not only should this become a priority for every organisation that relies on digital products and services, but it is equally important to give designers and developers the frameworks and technologies they need to add that human-focused element at the core of every piece of software by design. 

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Svetlin Nikolaev

Svetlin Nikolaev

Svetlin is currently leading the innovation team at Progress. He joined the company in 2008, and held several roles focused on user experience. A software developer by trade and an avid form of visual arts, from the start of his career Svetlin has been focusing more on the human side of software. Based in Bulgaria, Svetlin holds a Bachelor of Informatics from Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. In his spare time he’s a full-time adventurer, with a passion for riding motorcycles, racing cars, travelling and winter sports.

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