Design Thinking is an ideology as well as a process and it is concerned with a solution-based approach to solving complex problems. In Design Thinking, the designers can help to systematically teach, learn, extract and apply human-centered skills to solve complex problems innovatively and creatively. Many leading brands like Google, Apple, GE, Samsung, etc have adopted rapidly the Design Thinking Process and it is also being taught in the leading schools all over the world. It is a highly user-centric process to bring the best User Experience with an innovative approach.
The Design Thinking methodology has long been used by people since it was introduced way back in 1969 and the process is still going very strong. This methodology is meant to solve the problems of people and it is a means to the ultimate end. The process of design thinking can provide meaning to a UX design to help people live their lives to the fullest.
What does Design Thinking mean?
It is a method that is used by the UX designer to make creative and practical problem-solving with a solution-based approach. Design thinking relies heavily on the processes and methods that are used by the designers and the name is derived from various fields like architecture, business, and engineering. The process can be applied in any field and is not limited to a design-specific job. It can be very useful to tackle complicated, big problems that may be unknown and can be the right framework for people who like to provide solutions.
For those designers who always keep the users as the mainstay for the process of product development, Design Thinking can be the perfect one. It offers a logical and practical innovation and it focuses on providing the solutions or works on what efforts need to be made for solving the problem. There are many variations of the Design Thinking process and here you can find the working of the classic Design Thinking process.
The main principles of a Design Thinking Process
It is important to know about the four key principles of the Design Thinking Process before exploring the process in detail .
Whatever the context may be, the design activities in this process are always social and the theme revolves around a human-centric approach.
The rule of ambiguity
Ambiguity can be inevitable and it is not possible to remove it completely or to make it oversimplified. It is important to experiment with the limits of knowledge and the ability to look at things differently.
The basic needs of human beings do not change with the change in social interactions or technology. All we are doing is essentially redesigning the means of fulfillment of the needs to reach the desired outcomes.
Developing prototypes to make the ideas tangible can enable the designers to make effective communications.
Phases of Design Thinking
The process of Design Thinking can have five phases that are based on the four principles described earlier, and these are Empathy, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.
The critical starting point of the Design Thinking process is Empathy that tries to know about user’s wants, objectives, needs and hates without looking at the market. It means to observe and to engage with the users to gain knowledge of the emotional and psychological level of the users. In this phase, the designers try to gather the actual information about the users and set aside all assumptions.
Knowledge of psychology can prove to be very helpful here and many companies seek the help of experts having good knowledge of human behavior. Small companies generally observe and try to underhand things by following the point of view of the users. You may hold interviews with the users and make an informal interview to know more about the users.
You should never assume that you know enough as assumptions can take you away from making a real solution. Also, interaction for one or two times with the users may not be enough for you to understand the desires and the struggles. You need to make repeated interactions to understand more about the users.
Define stage is the second stage of the Design Thinking Process and it aims at the real problem your UX design will try to solve. The process defined the problem after gathering all the information from the empathy phase and start analyzing the data to make a sense of them. After the Define phase is over, you can have a clear statement of the problem in front of you. Once you have been able to understand the problem and express it in word, it will be easier for you to deliver the right ideas and solutions.
Once the empathy and the define phase is over, you have a clear understanding of the users and will also have a clear statement of the problems. It is time for entering the third phase of the Ideation stage that is a judgment-free zone and creative things start here. Here, you take your time to use all the knowledge that you have gained and identify the problems as well as the potential to make the lives of the users better.
In the Ideation process, designers come up with several ideas made from different angles. There can be various techniques in the Ideation process that designers may use form role-play scenarios, or brainstorming or mind mapping. The designers can also use lateral-thinking that can challenge established beliefs and can explore the alternatives and new options. A few ideas can be ultimately considered at the end of the Ideation Phase that can help the designers to come out with the solution-based design.
Prototype is the fourth stage of the Design Thinking Process and it is about making experiments and forming winning ideas that can help you get tangible benefits. A prototype is a scaled-down version or a sample or model that is made before the release of the actual product for the testing of the concept of the product design made. It is the key stage for identifying the flaws and constraints if any of the products.
UX designers understand the trade-off required for making a nice User experience design to have the winning ideas in getting a definite solution at this stage. The more time and detailing is made about the prototypes, the more expensive the prototype becomes. You may add more visuals, make more interactions, and incorporate more details to the winning prototypes.
User testing comes as the final stage after prototyping but it is never the end of the process for Design Thinking. Testing the prototype does not mean telling the users to do certain tasks or to ask questions. It will be requiring planning as well as some expertise to get reliable feedback from the users.
Validation remains a very important part of the testing stage and you should have real users to validate the vital reasoning that makes the foundation of the design. It can be the right moment for you to check whether you have been able to formulate the right problem and whether the solution provided can be helpful to the users.
You need to handover the product to the user without explaining or elaborating on it. Look for the legitimate reactions of the users when people use or explore the product the first time. Without asking yes or no questions, open-ended questions may help to know the elaborate feelings of the users.
Testing stage can give you an idea about the troubles that you have with the prototype and help you to identify the areas that need improvement. When you put the insight that you can get from testing into your work, you can get more success in your UX design description. The more you can reiterate on making the design, the higher are the chances of getting a beautiful quality in your final product.
Benefits of Design Thinking Process
As a UX designer, you have a very critical role in shaping the enjoyable experience of the products that your business puts into the market. Design Thinking can add high business value and can ultimately ensure that the products that are designed are desirable for the customers as well as viable in terms of resources and budget. Some of the key benefits that are associated with the Design Thinking Process are discussed here in the following paragraphs:
It can significantly reduce the time to market the product
Design Thinking Process can reduce the time that is spent on the design and development of a product with its emphasis on finding viable solutions after identifying the problems.
There can be a large saving of money when the product designs are successful in the market. Design Thinking Process can provide a high performing product that can provide a significant return on investment.
It can improve the loyalty of customers
This process adopts a user-centric approach that boosts better user-engagement and improves customer retention.
It fosters innovation
Design Thinking Process challenges assumptions and establishes beliefs that encourage the stakeholders to think creatively. A culture of innovation is fostered that can extend beyond the design team.
Design Thinking is not limited to the designers only and it can encourage group as well as cross-team thinking and collaboration, and it can be applied across the company.
Design thinking is all about iteration and improvement and with it you move fluidly through each step of the process for making a user-centric product. It helps you to innovate and focus on the need of the users and to ultimately design the products that are solution-based and can solve the real problems of the users