The Design Thinking Process

What makes a product more desirable is the value it adds by a unique feature. Many products are launched hoping that it would help people, but often after launch the reality differs to the expectations. But how do we find out what people really want? Through the Design Thinking Process.

Design Thinking is a design methodology to solve different problems. You can design how you lead your team, define a company culture, change business processes, or solve problems for your customers through a mobile application with this very approach. Designers in particular use this methodology to find desirable solutions for clients to the complex problems they present them with.

There are 5 different stages of the Design Thinking process. Let’s have a quick look at how you can create a solution that would ‘wow’ your end-users.

Empathy

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The first stage of the design thinking process is to empathize with the people who are most likely to benefit from your design. This includes people who are facing the problem, who might be the end-users of your product, or even your team members at work for whom you want to improve the work process.

When we talk about human-centered designs, empathy is what leads them. To make the most out of your design, it’s essential to understand the problem you are trying to solve. Design for personas, schedule an interview with a set of people, hear them out, understand the problem and determine both, emotional and physical connection, they have with the problem.

With this stage, designers validate their hypothesis and remove any assumptions they had made earlier which were incorrect about the problem they are trying solve. You can always get back to this stage later on.

Define

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Once you have your hypothesis validated, you need to group all the information you have from the Empathy stage, and synthesize it to define the problem. Let’s say your client wants you to create a product that would improve education in Nigeria by 10% in five years. The problem statement here could be “The people of Nigeria need a solution to rely on for educating their upcoming generations.”

This is crucial for a successful design as it makes all your team members get on one point and be aligned with the problem that needs to be solved. If all your team members are on the same page, it will not only help you save time during the process later on, but also help you generate great ideas during the later stages.

Ideate

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The Ideate phase is where you have all information about the problem, and a clear direction moving forward. At this stage, all your team members sit together and generate ideas to solve the problem. There are many techniques you can use to generate ideas – mind mapping, brainstorming, group ideation, SWOT analysis, etc.

Initially, you need to focus on the quantity of ideas rather than their quality. Every team member writes/draws whatever comes to their mind on a sticky note. They keep on noting every single idea that comes to mind. At the end, all the ideas are presented and discussed.

“Minds are like parachutes; they only function when they are open” – Albert Einstein

This collaborative activity leads to great results. During the discussion, other team members get a chance to define a new idea from the one being presented. When every team member has presented all their ideas, you vote for the most relevant ones. And at this point you now focus on quality and reduce the ideas to only the ones that you all agree to be most effective.

Prototype

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Once you have the ideas shortlisted, it’s now time to create low-fidelity prototypes of your ideas. Prototypes help in testing the ideas narrowed down.

Visuals work best when creating a prototype. Draw sketches of each of shortlisted ideas from their start to end points and test them out with the people you got in touch with earlier or at least the same persona.

Test

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The benefits of prototyping are tremendous. When you collect feedback from people outside your team, you get feedback you didn’t think of. And with this, you either accept an idea, reject it, or improve it.

Failing at this stage does very little harm as you’re presenting low fidelity prototypes that have not incurred a huge cost yet. Imagine figuring out that the solution you proposed is rejected by the people AFTER it’s developed and ready. Hence, it’s better to fail early on rather than when the consequences shall be unbearable.

 

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

— Steve Jobs