The best designs are rarely realized on the first attempt. Usually, designers need to put their heads together to overcome a multitude of challenges as they move towards a product that meets the needs of their audience. And that doesn’t happen overnight.
For a design to prove successful, its makers need to bring creativity to the table, while also keeping a firm grip on economic viability and the feasibility of their intended designs.
Design thinking is at the very heart of this process. It allows creatives to work in a human-centered way, to create products that really do answer to the needs of their intended audiences.
What is design thinking?
When we talk about design thinking, what we’re really talking about is problem solving.
Designers are known for their originality. They’re equipped to approach challenges in unique ways, and that’s how they come up with authentic ideas time and time again. But for a design to really work, it needs to be created with its intended audience in mind. That’s where design thinking comes in.
Design thinking is a way of solving problems that prioritizes the wants, needs and pain points of the product’s intended audience. It’s a way of working that ensures the end result ticks all the boxes for its target market, and it’s key to ensuring the sustainability of products.
Not just reserved for designers, design thinking is an approach that can be applied in a wide range of business processes. In fact, anyone working on the creation of either physical or digital products can use the five phases of design thinking to move their ideas forward.
Design thinking is a great way of overcoming challenges, encouraging professionals to think about problems with their audience firmly in mind. For it to prove a success, the audience must really be understood - and that’s key to the profitability and growth of any business.
The five phases of design thinking
The five phases of successful design remain the same, no matter what a team happens to be working on. In this methodology, designers empathize, define, ideate, prototype to solve problems by reframing the challenges they typically face.
Let’s take a look at those phases in detail.
A human-centered approach requires an in-depth understanding of a company’s audience. So, designers begin by completing thorough research into the requirements of the audience.
By focusing on the values of the target demographic, and the pain points they face, designers can begin to get to know their audience in a way that makes real empathy possible.
For best results, designers combine both quantitative and qualitative research at this stage. Data can be used to understand the behavior of the audience, but qualitative analysis is important too, as it allows teams to gain an in-depth understanding of why audiences act as they do.
Once teams have begun to get to know their audience, the second phase can begin. At this point, teams typically begin to narrow down on the issue that they are trying to resolve for their audience.
Design teams work together to establish what it is their product hopes to achieve, and how that product will work to solve a particular problem that its audience is known to face. This encourages teams to consider the functionality of their intended design from the audience’s perspective.
Next, it’s the ideas phase. This point in the process sees designers begin to come up with the ideas they’re famous for.
For best results, we always recommend that teams give careful consideration to all ideas put forward, taking the time to consider how small tweaks could turn a fledgling idea into something that may be worth investigating in more detail.
Think outside the box during this phase. Open-mindedness is key to finding an original solution to the audience’s established issue, so give designers free reign to unleash their creativity and see what happens.
The prototype phase sees design teams begin to turn their ideas into reality. At this point, teams typically develop a number of different prototypes to see how their ideas translate into real products.
Don’t be tempted to spend too much time and money on the development of your initial prototypes. Instead, take things back to basics to quickly come up with prototypes that will help you learn more about how your product would work to solve your audience’s problem.
If the prototype doesn't work, it can either be revised or abandoned at minimal loss to the company in terms of both time and money. If, on the other hand, it looks like it might be a success, then teams can begin to refine that basic prototype as you move towards the testing phase.
The testing phase sees prototypes introduced to a real audience. This is when design teams can start to see their ideas in action.
Choose groups that represent your target demographics, and ask them to test your prototypes for themselves. Gather feedback as you go, so that designs can be improved throughout this phase.
Design teams will often test a number of completely different prototypes during this phase, and this is usually key to creating a single end-product that works for all involved. Remember, flexibility is key to navigating client feedback successfully.
New opinions and viewpoints could make a huge difference to the appeal that the end product holds, so ask questions and be prepared to make changes.
How to get started with design thinking
Great design thinking only really starts to come about when a design team knows its audience inside and out. Take a look at our four top tips on putting design thinking into practice to see how your team could perfect a human-centered approach.
Tip 1: Learn about your audience
To be able to create a product your audience really needs, you need to understand what that audience is looking for in a way that no other company does. And to do this, you’ll need to get to know your audience in depth.
Use data to gain a deeper understanding of your target demographics, and correlate these findings with qualitative analysis gathered via focus groups, interviews and workshops. Don’t stop until your team knows exactly what its audience is looking for.
Tip 2: Built prototypes to gauge reactions
Understanding what an audience wants is one thing. But getting the right reaction is another matter entirely.
For great design thinking, you’ll need to be able to gauge reactions to a real-life product, or a simplified version of the product that’ll eventually bring your team’s ideas to life.
In the prototype phase, teams will be able to get an idea of how real audiences might react to their end product, and whether those reactions are as they’d hoped. This gives teams a chance to think about what alterations might be needed to ensure the product has the desired effect on launch.
Tip 3: Ask questions to understand challenges
Design teams come up against challenges frequently. But it’s how they deal with those challenges that really matters. And this is another benefit of design thinking.
When teams use design thinking, they’re encouraged to approach challenges in a different way - and better products tend to result from this change in mindset.
Instead of thinking of challenges as problems, teams are asked to use those potential issues as a way of developing different questions that might help them learn more about their audience and its needs.
Tip 4: Gather data for informed predictions
Data is invaluable for teams using design thinking, so use design project management software as you record and analyze data in real time. That way, your team will never stop learning about its audience.
Teams that really prioritize a human-centered approach will always be on the lookout for new ways to understand their audience better, and data is an incredibly important way of doing so.
Design teams can make use of data throughout a whole host of different creative processes. Data can then be used to make informed predictions that could enhance these processes further in the future, allowing the team to work in a more streamlined and efficient way as they move towards the creation of their next star product.
The design thinking process made easy
Hello Ivy brings design teams together to simplify the design thinking process. With Hello Ivy, project managers can manage team workflow, while designers connect and collaborate with ease.
The software includes everything design teams need to succeed, from simple document sharing, task tracking and communication tools, to powerful project and task management features that really will maximize the efficiency of your team.
Get started today to see what Hello Ivy could do for your team.