XXV.5 September-October 2018
Page: 22
Digital Citation

Moving beyond user-centered design

Jodi Forlizzi

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If I could wave a magic wand, I would use it to make the HCI community move beyond user-centered design to a notion of stakeholder-centered design [1]. At the extreme, I think user-centered design is dead; when I’m feeling less extreme, I tell my students, my collaborators, and companies I consult with that we are no longer designing one thing for one person. Instead, we are doing stakeholder-centered design, which takes into account the notion of different entities interacting with and through products, services, and systems to achieve a desired outcome.

While there are many histories of HCI, only a handful foreshadow the current shift in our discipline. One account presents three distinct paradigms within HCI: human factors, cognitive, and phenomenological or situated [2]. Another describes four distinct HCI foci based on the kinds of things made by practitioners. These include interfaces for operators, software interfaces people can use, software that improves task performance for workers, and devices and software people use to construct personal experiences [3]. Both accounts point to changes in technology and society as drivers of the paradigm shifts. They can be simplified into three lenses that I feel shape the discipline of HCI: human factors, user-centered design, and user experience design.

In the early days of HCI, our discipline focused on human factors in the development of computer interfaces for operators. The goal was to make interfaces that did not exceed anyone’s physiological or cognitive abilities. In many cases, operators were designing interfaces for themselves.

Later on, HCI evolved to consider user-centered design, as computers moved out of operations centers and into general use by the workforce. At this time, operators were developing interfaces for workers who were not experts at operating an interface.


When computers and products with computation began to rapidly expand outside the workplace, interfaces for products like VCRs, cameras, mobile phones, and music players needed to support users not only in completing tasks but also in fitting into all aspects of life. The goals of interface and interaction expanded beyond usability and effectiveness to include entertainment and engagement, among other things. HCI evolved again to focus on experience design, adding this lens to the previous lenses of human factors and user-centered design. This lens focused on deeply understanding the needs of users in all areas of life [4].

We are no longer designing one thing for one person. Instead, we are doing stakeholder-centered design.

Since that time, technology and society have evolved drastically. Let’s take a look at the major advances in technology over the past several decades. Our discipline has seen the development of the smartphone, wearable devices, ubiquitous and cloud computing, new methods for fabricating 3D materials, and the Internet of Things. Sensing enabled the collection of vast amounts of data about individuals, their actions, and their transactions. Machine learning and artificial intelligence have responded with methods for searching for patterns in, and making sense of, these volumes of data.

People have benefited greatly from new products and services that have lowered costs and made lives better. For example, email and online messaging have drastically increased communications between people. Ride-sharing services connect drivers to riders faster and more cheaply. Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, quickly connect students with teachers across the world. The digitalization of healthcare has empowered people to take an active role in managing their health. It is easy to see how technology has empowered massive changes in our society. Yet the discipline of HCI remains strangely stagnant.

I believe that HCI needs to evolve again to respond to these many developments that have fundamentally changed society. I believe that we need to add a service framing to the framings of UCD and UX that have preceded us in the discipline. Today, almost everything being made is a service or platform, which is designed for multiple stakeholders to interact with and through [5].

Services are distinct from products; therefore, they move us beyond UCD and UX in a number of ways. First, services are systemic, meaning that they are designed with multiple stakeholders in mind, rather than one user [6]. So, for example, when designing a ride-sharing service, using a UCD framing, the designer would consider the passenger as the sole customer. Using a service framing, other important stakeholders, such as ride-service drivers, taxi companies, public transportation systems, and even other drivers on the road could be taken into consideration. Second, service considers value in exchange as a key portion of a service experience. It requires designers to not only think about the value for a company in a service transaction, but also to think about the value to an individual stakeholder [7]. This idea means that HCI can consider people as a critical portion of a technology system, and think about economics, transactions, and even policies and laws beyond the computer. Third, service design encompasses economic models as a core part of its design process [7]. Economics becomes a material for design. While HCI researchers and practitioners realize that pricing models and payment plans have an influence on how people engage with technical systems, economics is rarely considered in UCD or UX processes.

In our research, practice, and education, we need to move beyond UCD and UX to consider service design to deepen our discipline and better support what we are designing today. In this way, we can continue to extend the boundaries of our discipline, respond to technological and economic changes, and learn and develop things that will continue to benefit the world.

back to top  Acknowledgments

Thanks to John Zimmerman, Hugh Dubberly, John Cain, and Paul Pangaro, all invaluable collaborators in this work.

back to top  References

1. Forlizzi, J. and Zimmerman, J. Promoting service design as a core practice in interaction design. Proc. of IASDR13.

2. Harrison, S., Tatar, D., and Sengers, P. The three paradigms of HCI. Proc. of Alt. CHI. ACM Press, New York, 2007.

3. Rettig, M. Interaction design history in a teeny little nutshell. Presented at Carnegie Mellon University, April 2, 2004.

4. Blythe, M., Overbeeke, K., Monk, A., and Wright, P., eds. Funology: From Usability to Enjoyment. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003.

5. Gawer, A. and Cusumano, M.A. How companies become platform leaders. MIT Sloan Management Review 49, 2 (2008), 28.

6. Morelli, N. Designing product/service systems: A methodological exploration. Design Issues 18 (2002), 3–17.

7. Prahalad, C.K. and Ramaswamy, V. Co-creating unique value with customers. Strategy & Leadership 32, 3 (2004), 4–9.

back to top  Author

Jodi Forlizzi is the Geschke Director and a professor of human-computer interaction in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. She is responsible for establishing design research as a legitimate form of research in HCI that is different from, but equally as important as, scientific and human science research.

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Copyright held by author

The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2018 ACM, Inc.

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