HCDE End-of-Quarter Reflection

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

The class HCDE 210, taught at the University of Washington, has exposed me to a wide range of methods and processes in user-centered design. The concept of prototyping, ideating, user research, user testing, information visualization, and physical computing were introduced in this course, and all of them have made me deeply reflect on myself as a human-centered designer.

Many of these concepts focus on placing the end-users at the center of our process and to consider the human values of value-sensitive design—with some being privacy, trust, universal usability, etc — along with the indirect stakeholders and consequences to better understand that nothing is as simple as a yes or no, for real problems are complex and require us, designers, to reflect and accept the complexity. For example, one of the deliverable assignments in the class asks me to observe a video of a kindergarten classroom and take notes on the scene. Then I wrote a responsible practice article about the decisions that were made and the methods that were used in that setting — the decision involved choosing to watch a video of a classroom setting as opposed to an in-person observation due to the pandemic. I reflected on these decisions that were made to keep others safe during the pandemic, but of course, everything comes at a cost. Protecting other people’s wellbeing involved trading away some aspects of their privacy, as the video can now be viewed by anyone online and reveals people’s identity. Taking some time to reflect on these concepts has changed the way I design as it has provided me with the tools to practice and progress toward a compassionate and reflective mindset by considering the intended and unintended consequences of a decision. These concepts give reason to each decision we, as designers, make and prevent me from designing mindlessly and not considering the implications of a decision.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

One notable example that stood out to me in this class that embodies the values taught in the class involved a story about a team that was tasked with designing children’s toothbrushes. The design team insisted on going out and conducting user research on this demographic even when the company simply said, “These are just kids. What is there to observe? Just make the toothbrushes smaller and thinner than adult toothbrushes!” However, the team’s research had proved the assumption wrong and discovered that children had a hard time holding the small thin toothbrush to brush their teeth. The moral of the lesson here is to not assume anything, even if the answer may seem obvious to us. This lesson relates back to the class’s value of being reflective with the users at the center of our designs, not what we think is correct. This story personally really inspires me to thoughtfully consider the user and their problems without assumption and encourages me to strive for progress, not perfection. I tend to be a perfectionist, and this message from the story forces me to take a step back and view everything holistically so I’m not pigeon-holing myself into a corner and overlooking everything else.

This class has easily become one of my favorite classes I have taken at the University of Washington, as it has reshaped the way I design and think of design. My experiences in this class have taught me that we can never perfectly design for these values because they’re always in conflict with each other. The world is complex and constantly changing, and I realize that I can never be perfect in designing with these user values in mind, but I can always strive to do better. Practicing these concepts in class along with my peers has also made this experience and journey meaningful and thoughtful, and I hope to explore more and implement this concept of user-centered design and value-sensitive design in my future work as a responsible and reflective human-centered designer. I believe that by carrying these experiences and lessons with me, I can create meaningful and thoughtful choices in and outside of design and lead my community toward a compassionate future.

Thank you for such a great and inspiring class!

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