Innovation, Research

Survey: 56% of Organizations Plan to Invest in Human-Centered Software Design in the Next Year

A new survey sponsored by Progress offers insight into businesses’ approaches to building human-centered software.

More than half of global organizations recognize that human-centered software design is a major need and plan to invest in human-centric applications within the next 12-18 months, according to a Progress survey. Seventy-six percent of respondents believe that building human-centric applications is more important than it was two years ago due to business considerations and cultural shifts.

Human-centered software design is exactly what it sounds like: applications and websites that are built with humans in mind. These applications are seamless and easy to navigate for a diverse community of users, including those with differing mental and physical abilities, demographic and personality factors and varied language and cultural backgrounds. Accessibility features could include using mobile operating systems in dark mode, zooming in or adjusting text size or conducting voice searches.

The need for human-centric software development is only becoming more apparent as time goes on. Several laws regarding software accessibility have been introduced in the U.S. and Europe, and research has shown that inaccessible brands lose billions of dollars in comparison to their accessible counterparts.

“Creating human-centric digital experiences means personalizing experiences and tailoring them to both people and their context, so they are as relevant as possible. It also means making those experiences accessible to a broader range of people with a broader range of needs and abilities,” said Loren Jarrett, EVP & GM, Digital Experience, Progress. “At Progress, we are committed to helping organizations proactively invest to build more inclusive, contextual and tailored digital products.” 

We at Progress wanted to get a better understanding of the challenges, obstacles and opportunities that arise when embracing human-centric software development. Together with Insight Avenue, we gathered insights from over 700 application developers and IT decision-makers around the world.

Cultural Changes Call for Human-Centric Software
The survey showed that over three quarters of participants (76%) believe building human-centric software applications is more important now than it was two years ago. The main drivers of this increased prioritization are ever-changing user needs and increasing user expectations (56%), a rapid increase in digital interactions (56%), an increased focus on accessibility and inclusion by end users (47%) and the increased pervasiveness of AI and IoT (44%).

Interestingly, the increasing influence of Gen Z workers who are looking for inclusive employers was also named a significant driver of adoption (43%). This demonstrates that human-centric design isn’t just a positive from a product standpoint—it could also help with employee retention and corporate reputation.

Heightened Importance, Increased Challenges
Despite acknowledging the rising importance of human-centric software development, barriers persist for many organizations. Ninety-eight percent said they were experiencing adoption challenges with human-centric design principles. These challenges included meeting customer demands (42%), complexity/lack of agility in the application development process (41%) and difficulty measuring whether something is really human-centric (38%).

Thirty percent cited a lack of tools/tech investment as a challenge, while 29% said they were experiencing a lack of cross-team collaboration during software development. Just 3% of those surveyed said they didn’t encounter any of the challenges presented.

Retrofitting, or implementing modifications to existing software solutions, doesn’t seem to be the answer to these challenges. Eighty-six percent of respondents said it was more difficult to retrofit inclusion and accessibility into existing applications.

These challenges are taking a toll: An average of just 59% of current applications were estimated to meet accessibility requirements.

The Areas Organizations Need to Address
More than half (56%) of survey participants said that investing in human-centric applications is an urgent need in the next 12-18 months. The most urgent need is training and skills development around accessibility (51%). There is also a need for increased collaboration between teams (46%) and finding cost-effective approaches for designing, developing and operating human-centric applications (45%).

Other areas of concern include working with partners and suppliers who prioritize human centricity (39%) and identifying metrics that show value and support for developing human-centric applications (38%).

The Benefits of Human-Centered Design
Survey respondents were aware of the many benefits that can come from implementing human-centric design principles: Customer appeal (63%), increased market opportunity and new audiences (57%) and positive financial impacts (57%) were among the top benefits participants mentioned.

With governments and users marching toward a more accessible digital world, businesses will need to invest and prioritize human-centered software. By improving training, conducting internal testing and implementing cohesive design principles and tooling, organizations can create a more inclusive digital landscape.

To get a better sense of businesses’ approaches to building human-centric applications, download the full survey.

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