I. HCD Wonderlands – a general observation

by Katrin Proschek (icebauhaus)

How many functions of your text-editor or spreadsheet application do you really use?

As an engineer and a teacher, I can very much relate to the passion of developers to create highly functional soft- or hardware, but I can also emphasize with the users of those products, who often face enormous challenges trying to find what they really need among all those functionalities and to learn how they can use them to fulfill their specific tasks or objectives. In rare cases, software can kill you, like in the case of the famous radiation therapy system Therac-25*, when at least 5 patients were killed by an overdose of more than 100 times the prescribed dose of radiation, due to a misleading interface. One of the most recent examples is the MCAS (maneuvering characteristics augmentation system) of Boeing’s 737 Max that caused two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. In many other cases, software can just annoy you or disturb you while you are attempting to fulfill your tasks. When using software, all of us face situations in which we do not understand which next step we are supposed to carry out, or worse, we get stuck with cryptic error messages.

Why Human Centered Design (HCD) is the magic wand for creating better products.

Focus on user needs over functions: Very often, there is too much focus and ambition towards creating great features by applying the latest technology. Far too many development processes start out by enthusiastically designing cool features without considering what the users really need. HCD does the opposite. It follows the philosophy of analyzing user needs and the context of use before deciding which functional features to implement. Because context of use analysis delivers very important user requirements, developers learn to understand their users and are less likely to implement features that are not needed. In HCD processes, developers and users interact through the whole process. User researchers, designers, developers and domain experts work together with each other and with the users from day one to product release, in order to create great user experience. It is a rewarding and fun way to work.

II. Experiences implementing co-creation approaches

We as icebauhaus developed and facilitated a series of learning activities including introductory webinars and a subsequent on-the-job training process together with the start-up Algramo from Chile within the context of the GIZ Innovation Factory program in 2020 – 2021. Beside the general topic of how to better integrate Human Centered Design (HCD) practices into Algramo’s service development, a special focus of these learning activities has been Algramo’s ongoing pilot project of establishing an Algramo service in Indonesia.

We have asked Amanda Manggiasih Paramita Chalid from our partner Labtek Indie in Bandung (Indonesia) to answer some questions about user research and our HCD support for the solution transfer. Background was the transfer to the Indonesian market of Algramo’s concept for a smart packaging refill service that had been developed based on prior research and iterations of the local team under the brand name Qyos within Enviu‘s Zero Waste Living Lab.

The soft launch of the Qyos by Algramo pilot implementation in Kalibata (Jakarta) coincided with the start of the Innovation Factory HCD on-the-job training by icebauhaus.

Insides from a regional expert

Amanda Manggiasih Paramita Chalid: works mostly as program manager, design researcher, and facilitator. She’s been working with national as well as international partners for projects with various topics like food sustainability, ICT for people, and urban planning.

Dear Mita, how would you describe the general recognition of human-centered developments in your own context and work?

Human-centered design has been a buzzword for a long time (almost a decade) in the creative industries in Indonesia, especially in Java. Nowadays, practically every industry, not only creative industries, recognizes human-centered design. I thought what people mostly appreciated from human-centered is the foundation mindset to put customers or users at the center in every product development process. With the advancement of technology the world offers today and its capability to bring customers closer, product or business owners now pay more attention to their customers’ voices. Failure to understand what the customer needs can be damaging for the business. As a concept, most people understand it, but unfortunately, only a few really understand how to implement it; the pros and cons of adopting the method. HCD might shift people’s mindset in approaching problems, solutions, and opportunities. Still, some more significant changes need to be made regarding implementation, like working systems or coordination systems, or even communication styles. Some companies found themselves struggling in these rooted dilemmas.

What was the general topic for the intended solution transfer by Algramo in cooperation with Qyos?

The idea was to implement  in Indonesia the solution for refilling detergent while promoting a less-waste lifestyle, that had already proven itself successful in Chile. What makes this idea interesting is that aside from offering a lower price to customers, it also potentially solves the plastic waste problem regionally. The challenge is to make it suitable with the local context, including the technical feasibility, technology readiness, and customer readiness.

The site selected for the pilot implementation was Kalibata City Apartment complex in Jakarta. It had been decided to set up an initial set of 3 vending machines selling SoKlin (detergent), Mamalime (dish soap) and Nuvo (body soap) by local consumer brand WINGS. A promoter was managing the dispensers and guiding customers. Further products from Unilever and Nestlé were planned to be implemented within the pilot project time frame, in additional sites around Jakarta.

What was the specific task of your contribution in the Kalibata prototype?

To assess the existing proposed solutions in the form of mobile applications and dispensing machine prototypes. We need to pay attention closely to find any gap when implementing the solution to the local Indonesian context.  Algramo’s pilot project in Indonesia was selected as the case to focus on in the on-the-job training. A main core team with members from Algramo and the local implementing partner Qyos worked closely with the icebauhaus team in May and June of 2021.

What is the most significant resume when thinking of solution transfer into new contexts and cultures?

I would say the flexibility or ability of how one solution can be adjusted or accustomed to the needs of local users. To validate first, whether the problems addressed are the same. Some identified problems could seem similar, but when transferred to the other regions, cities and countries, sometimes the details can be very different and affect how solutions are designed. There’s a saying, “the devil is in the detail,” which I think is quite true :).  In general, the Algramo team in Chile was surprised to learn that this or the other function was actually not yet working correctly, which points to a need to establish more carefully managed routines of prior technical testing whenever new software versions are rolled out to local customers.

What would you personally recommend to providers or donors who want to share their solutions in or to support solution transfer to Indonesia?

Firstly, to adopt the human-centered design mindset, meaning, not so be fixed on the solutions offered, but rather see and analyze the problem firsthand and thoroughly. Like I said before, some problems might look the same on the surface, especially for countries/regions that have similarities in climate, population, or cultures. Butwhat happens in reality is that the problem is often embedded within complex contexts that are actually very different from each other.  Therefore, fixating a solution blindly without understanding the cause of the problem will take away the opportunity to design a meaningful and sustainable solution.

III. Playbook for Beginners

This Human Centered Design (HCD) Playbook is for anyone who finds it interesting, but it is aimed specifically at innovators, tech developers and entrepreneurs developing and implementing digital products and services for target groups in contexts of emerging markets in the global south. A special emphasis lies in the transfer and scaling of solutions to different cultural contexts.

In this brief playbook, we have tried to make some of the core basic concepts, ideas and methods of the field understandable and relatable in a condensed and easily digestible format.

It is not a crash-course on HCD! Studying this document will not turn you into a HCD or UX professional. HCD is a complex subject matter that takes years of practice and dedicated study to properly master. However, we try to set you off in the right direction by inspiring your thoughts and hope that this introductory playbook may spark your interest to continue researching and educating yourself about HCD in the future.

Playbook for Beginners: PDF >>>