Putting People First: Human-Centered Design in Security Technology Development

In the field of security technology development, it is essential to prioritize the needs and experiences of users. Human-centered design (HCD) offers an effective approach to understanding user needs, empathizing with their experiences, and creating tailored security solutions.

As the largest international civic tech network, the Code for All Network strongly believes in the power of HCD to drive meaningful change in any field. For everyone unfamiliar with civic technology and why human-centered design is at its core, we invite you to read our beginner’s guide to civic tech.

In this article, we will explore the role of human-centered design in security technology development and highlight the importance of understanding user needs, experiences, and values.

An Understanding of HCD

HCD is a creative problem-solving approach that starts with the people you’re designing for. It can be used across industries and sectors to tackle various challenges. At its core, human-centered design puts the needs of users at the forefront and consists of three phases: Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation.

  1. Inspiration: Learning from the users. You immerse yourself in the user’s world. You gather valuable insights by connecting with them, listening to their stories, and gaining a deep understanding of their needs, motivations, and pain points. User research, surveys, interviews, and behavioral observations are key methods to gather these insights.
  2. Ideation: Generating innovative solutions. You make sense of the gathered insights and identify opportunities for design. Brainstorming ideas, exploring possibilities, and prototyping potential solutions are key activities in this phase. It’s crucial to involve diverse perspectives in the previously mentioned activities, including those of the community you’re designing for, to ensure inclusivity and generate a range of innovative ideas.
  3. Implementation: Bringing solutions to life. You transform prototypes into tangible products or services that address user needs. Continuous iteration and incorporation of user feedback through interviews, surveys, or testing sessions help refine solutions to create user-centric security technology.


Insights from Code for All Member Organizations

During a recent chat at RightsCon, some of our member organizations—Codeando México, Code for Pakistan, and OpenUp—highlighted the significance of understanding user needs, gathering feedback, and iterating based on user insights in developing digital products and platforms. Here are some key takeaways that can be applied to Security Technology Development from the perspective of civil society organizations:

  1. The approach should be problem-focused rather than fixated on a preconceived solution. Feedback from users and a full understanding of the problem should guide the design process.
  2. Understanding users, their motivations, needs, and pain points is the foundation for generating innovative ideas.
  3. User feedback is a crucial element in the iterative design process. Gathering feedback from users through tangible prototypes helps refine and improve the product, such as WaziMap by OpenUp, a spatial data visualization platform intended to help understand the spatial context by presenting a range of general and topic-specific indicators. You can read more about it here.



Incorporating HCD into Security Technology Development

In today’s interconnected world, developing effective security technologies is essential. However, solely focusing on technical aspects is not enough. To create truly impactful security solutions, incorporating human-centered design principles is critical.

When applied to security technology development, HCD ensures that resulting solutions are user-friendly, intuitive, and effective in mitigating risks while considering the human element in security operations. Some benefits seen from Code for All member organizations when applying HCD include:

  1. Enhanced User Experience: HCD enables the creation of security technologies that are intuitive, easy to use, and seamlessly integrate into users’ existing workflows.
  2. Increased Adoption and Compliance: By considering users’ needs and preferences, HCD facilitates higher adoption rates and encourages compliance with security protocols.
  3. Improved Efficiency and Effectiveness: Security technologies developed with HCD are designed to align with users’ cognitive abilities, resulting in faster and more accurate threat detection and response.


To sum it up, integrating HCD in security technology development is crucial for creating effective, user-friendly, and impactful solutions. At TRANSCEND, we are actively working to enhance the involvement of multistakeholder actors in security research and innovation by enabling individuals and organizations to contribute their expertise to security research and development. By embracing human-centered design principles and leveraging technology, we can ensure that security technologies are not only technically robust but also serve the needs of the people they aim to protect.

If this sounds interesting and worthwhile to you, please feel free to contact us at contact@transcend-project.eu; there are lots of ways to collaborate and learn from each other!

Author: Mar Marín, Code for All