What is Human Centered Development?

Posted by on Mar 27, 2017

Are you aware that the Internet has done something amazing? For the first time in human history, everyone on earth has an equal opportunity to speak and be heard.

The trouble is that even with all the new technology, we still have barriers to access the internet.

That is why we need Human Centered Development (HCD). Over the next several articles I will introduce you to a series of smaller concepts within the umbrella of Human Centered Development.

First, let me introduce the concept.

HCD is a concept that drives a different method of website development. Traditionally, web developers would create a website based on specific technologies and programming languages they specialized in, not worrying about whether or not this was an ideal framework for users. This is nice for the web developers as they get to geek out on their favorite programming languages.

The problem is that this assumes all users have the same needs and the same level of access.

This is where HCD comes into play.

Over the next few weeks we’ll dive into a world where the users connected to a hospital in a large city aren’t abstract. Instead, we’re going to make them real people with real life problems.  Then we’ll look at the problems the hospital website has that makes it difficult for users to access it, as well as a better solution for their website.

Let’s start looking at our six diverse users:

White haired white man with blue shirt and glasses

Bill is a 56-year-old accountant. He’s been relatively healthy his whole life, but should probably eat a few less cheeseburgers. It’s not doing his heart any good. He’s got a stable income, and healthcare, as well as home and work access to both computers and high-speed internet.

Gina is 22. She has cerebral palsy and can’t move her arms smoothly. She works at a local grocery store although she can’t work full-time. As a result, she doesn’t have a stable enough income to warrant owning a computer. Her roommate has enough money to help pay for internet access, but they both use smartphones to access the internet.

Black woman wearing black and white spotted shirt
Young white boy wearing blue coat carrying ball

Hank is 9. He’s in 4th grade in Mrs. Harrison’s class. He has a tablet the school gave him to work on his math and reading skills. He doesn’t have to worry much about internet access. He has that at school and at home! Lucky kid. Although there’s a girl in his class who only gets to go online at school because her parents can’t afford to get internet access.

Liz is 35. She’s a single mom with three kids. Since her divorce she works a lot. While they have a computer, it’s pretty old and really slow. Her son, Will, has a learning disorder, so he has a tablet she bought second-hand for him to practice his eye tracking skills. She has a smartphone, like everyone does. No one lives without one of those now. But she hasn’t got an unlimited data plan so she has to be careful about where she goes online. Especially since her teenage daughter just got her own smartphone and frequently uses more data than she’s supposed to.

South Asian Woman behind computer wearing blue shirt
Red haired white woman in front of landscape

Christine is 27. She’s deaf and regularly uses her smartphone to text and email for work at the courthouse. Christine lives just outside the city, but as a result doesn’t have reliable internet access. Her internet is pretty slow, bordering on dialup. Because she’s deaf she can’t simply call someone if she has a problem either. It’s text or signing.

Marcus is 19. He’s just graduated high school and is off to college at the university in town. He is also autistic (Marcus prefers identity first language to person first, so he objects to being called a “person with autism”).  He has a laptop and a smartphone and the whole campus is wired for wireless internet. He’s also been recently diagnosed with a panic disorder that can hit without warning. While he needs some extra accommodation at school, he’s making it all work for himself.

Young brown teen boy wearing striped shirt

As we continue, we’ll see each of these people suffer a crisis, and learn why it’s so important to make sure the hospital’s website works for all of them.


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