Understanding the differences: Human Centered Design and User Centered Design

Added on December 27, 2019 - Category: UX

Human-centered Design or HCD is the most common theoretical framework for User Experience specialists. However, we also have User-Centered Design, or UCD. And guess what: it is the most common theoretical framework for User Experience specialists.

Photo by RyanMcGuire

Obviously, any reader will say:  Of course, they are obviously the same.”

Well…. not precisely.

As we saw in the User Experience Disciplines, these disciplines give our speciality a really large and broad scope. And if you look closely, you can notice the differences between the different specializations in UX.

Note on the above: Not a single person in the world specializes in all areas of User Experience.

The difference between Human Centered Design and User Centered Design

One of the fundamental differences is the ISO standard, which defines HCD (human), but not UCD (users). You can read the document at ISO Standards for Human-Centered Design, but basically it says the following:

ISO 9241-210: 2010 provides requirements and recommendations for human-centred design principles and activities throughout the life cycle of computer-based interactive systems. It is intended to be used by those managing design processes, and is concerned with ways in which both hardware and software components of interactive systems can enhance human–system interaction.

(the redundancy is not mine, so says the norm)

Meanwhile, for User-Centered Design , we have the following definition:

User-centered design (UCD) or user-driven development (UDD) is a framework of processes (not restricted to interfaces or technologies) in which usability goals, user characteristics, environment, tasks and workflow of a product, service or process are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process.

Image of 
Kristian Guevara

Did you get it? The HCD, as its name suggests, is related to the interaction between man and the computer. But in UCD, the relationship is between the user and any type of element. This may include interactive systems or not. For example, take Don Norman’s famous book “The Design of Everyday Things”. In this book, the author talks about lamps, furniture and other everyday objects.

To sum up: a subtle difference that marks a world away even when they sometimes overlap!

Disclaimer: This content was translated to English from the original we wrote in Spanish, available in UXpañol

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