It’s time we move to life-centered product development

Heading for new shores: The evolution from user-centered product development to life-centered product development

A brief history of user-centered product development

  • In the 1960s, the idea of empathy as a means to designing truly valuable solutions was born when participatory design gained momentum in Scandinavia.
  • The design agency IDEO took the concept further. They coined the term human-centered design to describe a creative problem-solving process that begins with understanding human needs and ends with innovative solutions to address said needs.
  • The rise of Agile then saw customer collaboration became a cornerstone of modern software development.
  • And in recent years, with the increasing popularity of SaaS products which see customers easily churn when not happy, user-centricity got yet another boost.

The pitfalls of user-centered product development

Why change now?

What is life-centered product development?

  1. The customers and users
  2. The people who build and supply it
  3. Society
  4. The environment

How can we apply life-centered product development?

  1. Stakeholders: Move from empathizing with just our users to empathizing with the entire ecosystem that will be affected by our product.
  2. User groups: Move from developing for a specific user group to developing for multiple user groups (including those unwanted groups that may misuse our product).
  3. Product life stages: Move from considering only the usage stage of a product, to considering its production, distribution, and afterlife stages.

How to consider all stakeholders

Moving from empathizing with just our users to empathizing with the entire ecosystem
  1. Desirable: Which user needs can we fulfill with this solution? And where should we make a trade-off in terms of convenience, ease of use, or efficiency which doesn’t undermine a contradicting need of a stakeholder?
  2. Feasible: How can we build this solution with minimum harm to the environment and without exploiting any service providers or suppliers in the process?
  3. Viable: How can we turn this into a solution that is profitable for our business even when we consider all external costs?

How to consider all user groups

  1. Who could potentially misuse this product or feature? How can we avoid this?
  2. What would we need to consider if we imagined that our user group would expand and our product would be used by almost every human being around the world?

How to consider all product life stages

Moving from a linear economy to a circular economy where products are repaired, reused, and recycled

So what now?

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Head of Product @Saiga, formerly Head of Product @Babbel & Head of CX @NavVis. Enthusiastic and writing about product, life-centered design, & leadership.

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Sophia Höfling

Sophia Höfling

Head of Product @Saiga, formerly Head of Product @Babbel & Head of CX @NavVis. Enthusiastic and writing about product, life-centered design, & leadership.

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