For some time now I have been contemplating where I should give my 2 cents on the Human Centered Design (HCD) vs User Centered Design (UCD) vs Customer Centered Design (CCD) debate. It is a tricky and sticky situation to be in when you are talking to someone and say; hey so do you guys do UCD? and this I feel it sometimes a trick question because if you say yes then there are other questions like: why not HCD or CCD?
Well, to the best of my understanding HCD refers to putting the "human" in the center of your design decisions. This means not only the user but includes all the stakeholders that are involved in product design. It is prudent to state that user does not always mean it is a human being as some systems are designed as input for other systems and so forth.
UCD on the other hand is something that has made the rounds and many still think that it is the holy grail. Well they are right as long as their project requirements dictate that i.e. I am doing some exploratory design work and the user is the only focus of my design as this will not be sold at this point in time. For this use case UCD fits the bill. Another thing with UCD is that it does not necessarily mean that only the user is taken into account, but as the User Experiences' objective is to create intuitive designs, UCD leaves more confusion than understanding.
CCD, I believe is just another marketing term being used by product management designs with the hope of acquiring new customers. But under all that fuss there is some rationale to this concept. Firstly, the customer might really know what their clients want (i.e. a user research enterprise approaching a user experience enterprise for some design work). Secondly, if the customer is large enough that they have created a lock-in effect with already bad pre-existing User experience (UX) i.e. SAP's previous user interface then a UX consulting enterprise can listen to the customer. This is mainly because it makes no sense to have a module with excellent UX and the rest of the product has crap UX (yes, yes, yes I know, this is possible if you are doing piece meal upgrades but I am an advocate for do it right the first time). Third and lastly, the customer is paying and if your says pitch for UX and user research doesn't fly with them. Give them what they want because in the end you are running a business. However I am totally against this personally.
"... people don't know what they want until you show it to them"
- Steve Jobs
This quote is both true but does not discount user research.
"The reason why we are user experience professionals is because we are able to understand what users really need and what they need by understand their task flows and intended goals and objectives."
These are my opinions on this subject, but in conclusion, just know what you want to achieve and customize the design process as you need. There is no way to apply a text book methodology in a real world situation. But the one thing you need to understand it that you are not designing for your self but for others!- Gabriel Tuhafeni NHINDA