Human-Centered Design in Practice

Human centered design, or design with the user, is the first of the nine Principles for Digital Development.  Designing with the user involves just that- engaging the people you hope will use the solution, and bringing their ideas to life in technology that meets their needs.

On February 10, mPowering Frontline Health Workers and the Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) hosted Medic Mobile for a workshop on human centered design.  Medic Mobile is a non-profit technology company,  building mobile and web tools to help health workers provide better care that reaches everyone.

The workshop focused on how mobile technology can respond to the needs of the users, and improve access to health care in vulnerable communities. Our teams looked at communities and health systems in mPowering’s and MCSP’s priority countries, and brainstormed ways that we could work with users to design appropriate mobile solutions in those places.

Medic Mobile led us through the steps it takes to design its solutions with the users:

Empathize- Talk with the users to understand their needs, wants, challenges, and assets.

Define- Clarify the specific problem to be solved

Ideate- Brainstorm what tools and uses could solve the problem

Test and refine- Work with users to get feedback on tools, and make changes and improvements

Medic Mobile’s approach is to start with people, not with technology. This has allowed the team to develop tools that help frontline health workers reach more people in an efficient, effective way. Health workers use Medic Mobile to register pregnancies, track disease outbreaks faster, keep stock of essential medicines and communicate about emergencies. You can see specific examples here.

mPowering is building a digital content platform to connect frontline health workers to high-quality mobile-enabled resources for training, decision support, and health information. Our users- trainers, health workers, and content developers- are guiding us in the concept, design, and initial development of the site. We’re looking forward to sharing an early version of the site this spring, and hope to hear from you with feedback!

To learn about Medic Mobile, or try their platform, visit their web site: or reach out directly to Jacqueline [at] medicmobile [dot] org.

Interested in learning more about human centered design? Visit the ICT4D Principles Resources page for toolkits, case studies, and more information.