January 26, 2016

Young Family Planning Advocates Use Design Thinking to Understand Users’ Needs

Written by Margarite Nathe, senior editor/writer, IntraHealth International

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Imagine the perfect wallet. It’s got everything you need—a place for your credit cards, a hidden pocket to stash cash, subtle feline-themed details… Or, you know, whatever makes it beautiful (and beautifully functional) to you.

Now think about how hard it is to find that wallet in a store.

That’s probably because an engineer didn’t sit down to ask you detailed questions about what you want and need in a wallet, or why those things are important to you, or create a series prototypes for you to test out.

That’s the essence of design thinking, and it’s what some youth delegates at the International Conference on Family Planning did today. Many of them spend their days designing family planning programs rather than wallets, but the exercise gave them a chance to empathize with users whose needs may seem simple, but are actually rooted in deep personal preferences, lifestyles, and emotions.

Working in pairs, participants found that their own conceptions of wallet greatness weren’t the same as their partners’ (or the users’, in this case). And it’s often the same in the world of family planning—whether you’re designing a program, a service, or a contraceptive, there’s only one way to know what the user really wants and needs.

Don’t make assumptions. Ask. Then prototype, and ask again. And keep going until all the details—down to the little cat-shaped zipper pull—are just right.

Amanda Puckett BenDor and Margarite Nathe facilitated “User-Centered Design: Innovating to address youth needs for family planning services and information” at the Youth Preconference of the International Conference on Family Planning on January 25, 2016.

This post originally appeared on Picture It by IntraHealth International.