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Using Value Centred Design

An example of putting the process into practice.

Over the last couple of articles we have been exploring Value Centred Design in detail. The articles so far cover the following topics:

  1. What is Value Centred Design
  2. Why we need Value Centred Design
  3. How can we implement Value Centred Design

This article is a continuation on the topic of how to implement Value Centred Design.


Using Value Centred Design to design a Cell Phone UI

“Cell phones are so convenient that they’re an inconvenience.”

― Haruki Murakami,

Thanks to Steve Jobs, mobile phones have become more useful and easier to use than ever.

We can stay in touch with our friends, family and work, anywhere and anytime. We can get answers to difficult questions with a Google search, in an instant. And even keep ourselves entertained, during our free time – and sometimes even at work.

But this convenience comes at a cost. Our reliance on cell phones can turn into an addiction and cause psychological problems. For example, we may find it so difficult to cut back on the time we spend on phones, that it might be akin to taking on an extra job. Moreover the dopamine addiction makes us into the human equivalent of Pavlov’s dog. Talk about being a slave to the mobile phone. 

However people are starting to realize this and taking steps. Mark Benioff has talked about the virtues of his digital-detox vacation.

But then some have gone even further. For example, Justin Kam – the founder of the live streaming platform Twitch, has been running an interesting experiment. He has been leaving his iPhone behind at home and only relying on his Apple Watch.

This means that there is only a limited set of functionality available but it reduces the amount of distractions and lets you get more out of your day.

This gave me an idea of what it would be like to build a phone interface that built upon a set of values that encourage disengagement, rather than increased engagement.

Step 1 – Discovering the Value Statement

The very first step of the process of using Value Centered Design is to discover a succinct Value Statement that captures three things:

  • Who are you building this product for
  • How does the product empower them
  • What is the meaning that results from this empowerment

I’ve discussed this in detail in the following article:

Using the above process I was able to arrive at a Value Statement for the product was

Allow astute users to connect with people activities and experiences in a way that it brings meaning into their lives.

The above statement imposes a greater role upon the communication device. That of being a filter. And a way to discover meaning.

Step 2 – Exploring the strategies

Based on the above value statement you can use multiple ways to explore strategies. You can use the IDEO HMWs to approach it. This is a very useful 4 step process:

  1. Start by looking at the Value Statement that you’ve created. Try phrasing tasks around it as questions by adding “How might we” at the beginning. E.g. How Might We – Allow the user to engage in flow without important 
  2. The goal is to find multiple design strategies, so if your insights suggest several How Might We questions that’s great.
  3. Now take a look at your How Might We question and ask yourself if it allows for a variety of solutions. If it doesn’t, broaden it. Your How Might We should generate a number of possible answers and will become a launchpad for your Brainstorms.
  4. Finally, make sure that your How Might We’s aren’t too broad. It’s a tricky process but a good How Might We should give you both a narrow enough frame to let you know where to start your Brainstorm, but also enough breadth to give you room to explore wild ideas.

Apart from the above process that IDEO suggests you can use any tools that you are most comfortable with.

I use MindMaps a lot as well as Forecasting and Backcasting. Use what you are comfortable with.

Step 3 – Doing the actual design

Simplifying choices: Imagine if a phone simplifies the choices for you. All the tasks you need to perform are capabilities that are present within the phone but not exposed.

Context awareness: The phone is able to detect context on the basis of location time and other parameters. For example, if it is lunch time, the phone can pop up the relevant capabilities that will allow the user to order food.

Unified messaging: Having multiple communication channels can be confusing and hence having a unified interface is important. Moreover if the interface can simplify and highlight important pieces of communication, it would work even better.

Reduce interruptions: Technology like Google Duplex can be really useful in these cases. For example, if someone calls you to check on your preferences, the assistant can handle the call and only interrupt with a simple request for a choice. The choice can also be a simple conversational interaction.

Encourage flow: Set boundaries that define how the device 

Hope this example helps clarify the Value Centred Design process for you. Next we will be looking at evaluating the effectiveness of your design process.

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