Bags fly free. The words are memorable, and quickly associated with Southwest Airlines. The corresponding ad campaign saw success because it’s more than a meaningless slogan or gimmick, uttered by a celebrity.

It’s a genuine statement that holds promise. It creates an engaging brand experience and heals a common customer pain point in the airline industry – luggage fees. The campaign positions Southwest as the airline looking to make the flying experience more convenient for its customers.

Brand experience goes beyond the real world, physical application of tackling luggage fees. It permeates every touch point that a customer may have with your business, including websites, mobile applications, and any corresponding software.

The creation of digital platforms requires more than pure aesthetics. It’s about creating something with the end user’s experience in mind. That’s where human-centered design comes into play.

This quote from digital strategist Brian Solis sums it up:

“Welcome to a new era of marketing and service in which your brand is defined by those who experience it.”

– Brian Solis

Your brand is being defined at every touchpoint. Human-centered design is used to make sure that your customers are having a flawless brand experience that can truly convey the value that your company has to offer.

Southwest isn’t the only example of contemporary human-centered design. Companies like Lyft and Airbnb work hard to keep brand experience at the forefront of their marketing. Their values are conveyed within the user experience. Human-centered design is about making the user experience a positive one.

Southwest bag ad. Special HANDOUT NOT FOR RESALE

What Human-Centered Design Really Means

Human-centered design is exactly what it sounds like: a customer-centric approach to the design process. While the aesthetics and look and feel will always be integral to the design process, the goal is to create something that also meets customer needs. Again, your software has to do more than look pretty.

Human-centered design factors in:

  • The improvement or simplification of user experience
  • The creation of an intuitive user experience
  • Brand enhancement
  • The increase of operational efficiency for internal software

Human-Centered Design and Design Thinking

Human-centered design requires an approach called design thinking. It requires an active attempt to understand the user, while challenging our own assumptions. It involves redefining problems to identify alternative strategies and solutions.

Human-centered design and design thinking both involve a higher level of collaboration, experimentation, and testing to determine viable solutions for creating a successful website or piece of software.

More than half of all software development projects end in failure. Those are some tough odds to beat as you plan and consider your next software project. Implementing a human-centered design approach and using design thinking will help you safeguard against this outcome.

Below are some strategies that can help you to keep your customers’ needs at the center of everything you do.

How to Foster a Human-Centered Design Approach

Human Centered Design asks the right questisonsAsk the Right Questions

It is important to understand at the onset what problem a website or a piece of software is being designed to solve. It’s important to understand the intention.

The first step in the human-centered design process may be to determine whether a piece of software is the right solution for the problem you are looking to solve. It may be that there is a more efficient way.

Once you determined a path forward, it’s important to start considering what users will want out of the end product. Asking the right questions gives development companies and their clients the information they will need to create an intuitive and user-friendly brand experience.

Southwest reached massive success with its “bags fly free” campaign because it solved a problem among airline travelers. Having access to key business and industry information at the onset of a project will help to ensure that you can improve the brand experience.

The best way to gather the information you need to make better decisions is by asking the right questions.

Collaboration on All Levels

Human-centered design requires a collaboration at all levels. The agile development process lends itself to this type of design, because of the frequent contact between the client and the development team.

These touch points advance the development team’s understanding of a project and can serve as a method for meeting the end users’ needs. The most popular alternative would be waterfall, which is a top-down method that doesn’t allow for as much client contact. It’s hard to establish and convey your customers’ needs with infrequent contact.

It’s also important to have collaboration within the development team. Every single person working on a project needs to be advancing it towards the common goal. When ego gets in the way, it’s difficult to create a product that keeps the needs of others in mind.

Use Prototypes Early

Prototypes allow the development team and the client to develop a working concept before the additional time and resources are poured into the creation of the full product. They allow developers to test their product assumptions and build a framework that will best serve the end user.

These prototypes often generate some uncommunicated client requests. When a prototype is created it can be a good time to discuss the needs of the end user.

Keep Testing and Incorporating Feedback

The more feedback the development team has when it comes to creating a product with the end user in mind, the better. Code and design can be tested in the various stages of development, before it is moved on to production. This testing is often some of the very first user feedback available. Software can be tested by early users in a beta mode, to work out the bugs.

User feedback can also be incorporated throughout the life of the software. It can be added into the live product through the versioning process. For example, if users are looking for a new feature, it can be added as the software is updated. This continuous cycle of user feedback and design changes is a key part of human-centered design.

Increase Your Chances for Software Success

When Southwest created their “bags fly free” campaign, they were able to heal a significant customer pain point within the airline industry. The success of their campaign improved the brand experience in the process.

That brand experience is part of every touchpoint that a business has with its customers – including all aspects of digital marketing. Human-centered design helps to ensure your next software project will be a success. When your users can easily and intuitively navigate your software or website, it bolsters your brand image.

With human-centered design, the process needs to go far beyond the aesthetics of the project. When you follow the above steps, you are factoring the end users into the design equation to create something truly meaningful.

Next steps: Why Software Projects Fail

Plus 6 secrets to help yours succeed

Do I Know You? Create a Memorable Brand Experience Using Human-Centered Design
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Do I Know You? Create a Memorable Brand Experience Using Human-Centered Design
Brand experience goes beyond the real world. It permeates every touch point a customer may have with your business, including websites, apps, and any corresponding software.
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