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Human-Centered Design and its Relevance in Digital Learning Design

“Human-centered design” as a term was used mostly in urban-planning and city architecture discussions wherein authorities used to plan people-friendly neighborhoods. Slowly the term began to be applied to all sort of things that people would buy and use. From mobile-phone operating systems and computers to DIY-furniture and luggage; the focus was on making things easy-to-use and operate. Human-centered design is also a buzz-word among L&D circles and is seen as the core component of user-experience, learner engagement, and interactive design, which make digital learning a memorable experience. In this blog post, we will look at how human-centered design impacts the learners and how L&D teams can focus on creating cohesive, engaging, and result-driven digital learning solutions for the workplace by integrating the best principles of human-centered design.

What is Human-Centered Design?

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem-solving. It places humans at the center of the development process to come up with solutions to solve real problems or come up with intuitive products and services.

Global design firm IDEO popularized the concept of human-centered design and divided it into three phases as listed below:

  • Inspiration

  • Ideation

  • Implementation

Instructional design experts will be able to relate three phases listed above with the ADDIE model of instructional design.

Principles of Human-Centered Design

There are four key principles associated with human-centered design:

  • Understanding and addressing the core problem before coming up with a solution

  • Focusing on the people

  • Using a systematic approach of breaking down a complex process to understand where the problem arises

  • Using rapid prototypes with continuous testing and iterations to build a better solution

Read this article to learn more and understand these principles in greater detail.

Human-Centered Design and Digital Learning Solutions

The function of any digital learning solution is to educate the learner and help the learner apply the learning in a real-world scenario. In the modern workplace, digital learning solutions come in many different formats to address varied requirements of learners. Some solutions work better than the others. Have you wondered why such a situation arises? We could pin it down to the following reasons:

  • Most workplace learning solutions are designed with the end-result in mind rather than addressing the learners’ requirements

  • Improper planning and a failure to understand the actual learning goals

  • Lack of a sound instructional design strategy and poor graphic design

  • Irrelevant and meaningless assessments that add no real value to the course

So how does one break free of this cycle of monotonous digital learning?

L&D strategists stress on breaking a larger program into smaller learning units. They recommend the use of thoughtfully designed games and interactive elements, use of videos, and a story-based narrative that resonates with the learners.

Applying the Principles of Human-Centered Design in Workplace Learning Solutions

Here are some questions for L&D teams to ask themselves when designing a digital workplace solution:

  • What problems are we looking to solve?

  • What is the existing skill-set of the employees who will take this course?

  • What do we intend to achieve as an organization by investing in designing this course?

  • How will this program impact the daily work-routine of the employees?

  • Do we have an existing learning solution that can be updated and enhanced?

Once one has the answers to the questions listed above, one can focus on applying the principles of human-centered design to create an engaging digital learning solution as listed below:

  1. Identify the learning goals of the target audience

  2. Keep the employees/ learners at the center of the course/program curriculum

  3. Come up with a detailed design document, which lists the key sections of the program

  4. Run the design document by in-house or external experts to see that all necessary learning goals are covered

  5. Start storyboarding and use a module-by-module iterative design process that helps you enhance the content

  6. Do a beta-test of the final program before making it accessible to all learners

Benefits of a Human-Centered Design Approach

It is designed for humans by humans and offers an intuitive approach to acquire new skills. Over-dependence on algorithms and AI-based recommendation engines and “smart-learning” complicates the whole process of learning design. An iterative development model helps L&D teams to identify flaws, if any, quite early in the development process and helps refine the final learning program. This saves a lot of time, effort, and money. Making learning accessible and easy to understand is the best way to foster learning at the workplace. A human-centered approach to digital learning design makes this easier. This approach also ensures that the learning content holds the attention of the learners and helps them do their tasks faster and better.


At S4C, our focus is on collaborating with your organization to build human-centric digital learning solutions that deliver value for you and help you meet your organizational learning goals with ease. From end-to-end digital learning design and development to LMS-technology consulting, our experienced staff are here to help you and craft memorable learning moments. Write to us at to learn how we can help you.


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