The Concept of Human-Centered Interactive Systems

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Written by Sulayman Ndow, a BSc. in IT student of International Open University (IOU).

The goal of every single designer is to design systems that are interactive, enjoyable, and are able to enhance people’s lives by making life easier, with the use of technologies. The focal point of every designer is the innovation of systems that are usable, engaging, and accessible. Designing should be human-centered. This means that a designer should highly concentrate on the satisfaction of people, during the design process by looking into people’s preferences and social behaviors. Studying the behaviors of people helps the designer in innovating products that suit the lifestyles of people. Designers require an overall comprehension of people who buy and use their merchandise. Likewise, they also need to apprehend the activities, and the contexts in which people’s activities take place, as well as the technologies people indulge in (Benyon, 2010). 

      Being Human-Centered is a necessity in the process of designing Human-Interactive systems. People use technological systems in different platforms. Our modern generation is driven by the use of smartphones for social media and other smartphone functionalities. Office workers use Microsoft office, excel and word to handle documents at work. In sports, we see Football federations, Basketball Associations and other committees introducing the use of technology, to improve the efficiency of sports and to make sporting experience lively. Controllers of Air traffic, use Technologies to maintain a smooth operation at the airport and so on. These kinds of scenarios indicate how necessary it is, for designers to focus on people during the design process –hence the need to be Human-centered while designing systems (Benyon, 2010).

The Process of Designing Human-Centered Interactive Systems

            All the aforementioned examples indicate the use of technologies in different contexts and platforms, and these essentials make the process of designing interactive systems a problematic job. Designing is about being creative such that people’s lives are made easier, and new innovations are made to help people meet their targets in different areas. It is about using multiple techniques to create new designs, in order to make life easier for people. David Kelly, originator of IDEO, a design company, stated that the design process comprises of three undertakings: understand, observe, and visualize (Benyon, 2010).

             Understanding deals with the system’s functionality; with what the system is supposed to do, how it is supposed to look like and how the system works with other systematic things. Designers highly require delving into research projects, in order to fully understand people, the activities they indulge in, and the various contexts in which these activities are carried out, as well as the chances and limitations technology could offer. Designers interact with the people who are usually the end-users of the proposed product, in order to generate requirements from them. Designers need to know about the Functional and non-functional requirements too; functional requirements are concerned about what the system is capable of doing, as well as the functional limitations of the system. Non-functional requirements on the other hand deals with the aesthetics, legal restrictions, security, usability, image and performance of the product (Benyon, 2010).

           Designers also need to observe their environment, in order to figure out the best possible way of structuring ideas into rational presentations. They need to clarify the gaps between conceptual and physical Design. Conceptual design is about the all-inclusive purpose of the whole design process.  People need to develop a mental model about the technologies, and clarification helps them in realizing mental models of designed systems, as well as the realization of design purposes (Benyon, 2010).

        Visualizing ideas during the designing process, helps designers elucidate their thoughts. It also permits people to assess or evaluate the ideas of designers. Visualization of ideas is done with the help of suitable media, in which design ideas are portrayed. Finding a proper media for the portrayal of design ideas is known as Envisionment. We have numerous Envisionment techniques, and the envisionment process is concerned about bringing abstract ideas to life. Evaluation is highly related to the envisionment process because all envisioned ideas need to be evaluated somehow (Benyon, 2010).

Tools of Human Centered Design

      The Human centered design approach consists of a number of tools and methodologies that aid the designer to understand consumer behavior. The available tools include personas, scenarios, stories or consumer journey mappings and use cases (Elmansy, 2017).  

        The PACT (people, activities, context, and technologies) framework plays a vital role in the design process. The people for whom the system is designed are epitomized byPersonas. Personas are archetypes of distinctive folks for whom the designer is crafting for. The contexts and activities that occur are envisioned via what is known as the scenarios of use. Scenarios and personas naturally progress together, because whenever you think about what people like to do, your mind must reflect upon the different activities people engage in (Benyon, 2010).

       The concept of personas was brought by Alan Cooper in the 1990s. The concept became famous, and has acquired quick approval as a method getting knowledge about the folks whom the designer is crafting for. Well! It is obvious that personas would like to accomplish missions using a designer’s system; they want to be able to attain their aims with the use of a designers system. For this reason, designers should always remember that their main goal is to design for people and not for themselves – hence the concept of personas was introduced to help designers foresee whom they are developing the system for (Benyon, 2010).

       The concept of scenarios is concerned about stories of people who use technologies in different contexts to carry out their activities. Scenarios are represented in many different forms all over the interactive system design progression; they are recommended as a key factor of numerous methodologies of designing systems, and are used throughout the design process. Scenarios are categorized into four distinct kinds: stories, concrete scenarios, conceptual scenarios, and use cases. The real-life experiences of people are termed as the stories. Stories might be represented as videos of individuals, the outcome of interviews and annotations, snapshots, diary records and so on. Conceptual scenarios are the intellectual descriptions which strip away some facts. Conceptual scenarios are very beneficial in bringing up ideas of design, and in the development of understanding about design requirements. Concrete scenarios are denoted as use cases, and are derived from abstract scenarios after the addition of certain design verdicts and technologies. Conceptual scenarios allow the designer to generate many concrete scenarios, and it also helps in taking decisions regarding interface design, as well as function allocation between folks and devices (Benyon, 2010).

      Part of the process of designing human-centered interactive systems is to initiate use cases, in order to describe the interface between individuals and devices. Use cases usually demystify how people could use the system, and it also clarifies how the system works and what the people need to do (Benyon, 2010).    

     Many organizations implemented the Human centered design approach, and the result of taking this approach turned out positively. During the previous years, giant organizations like Apple, Google, Facebook, IKEA and Lego directed their attention towards the clients instead of the Technology. Apple used this new approach to scrutinize their designed products, in order to verify whether consumers’ needs were met. This helped apple in achieving great success in the Market (Elmansy, 2017).

      To be Human-centered, it is important to take people’s activities and their characteristics into account. Furthermore, it is of utmost importance to involve the people who are supposed to use the new interactive technologies itself into the process of design –this approach brings success in designing Human centered interactive systems.

Written by Sulayman Ndow, a BSc. in IT student of International Open University (IOU).


Benyon, D. (2010). Designing Interactive Systems A Comprehensive Guide to HCI And Interaction Design. London: Pearsons Education Limited.

Elmansy, R. (2017, June). Characteristics of Human-Centered Design. Retrieved june 19, 2018, from


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