Ted Hickman

What is design thinking and how does it help product design?

Design thinking is a process which should come after you have written a design brief. This process is a creative methodology and innovation process which places the user at the centre of the design challenge. This human centred approach aims to help companies and product designers design better products and services by gaining a deeper understanding of the users’ needs and problems.

Design thinking is broken down into 5 stages which we have outlined below:

1. Empathise with your user

The first thing you need to do is work out who your user is so that you can build a deep knowledge of them and really put yourself in their shoes.

You should look to create a persona out of the list of things you’ve learnt about them and their behaviours, motivations, habits, etc. By doing this you can understand what makes them tick, whilst also understanding what problems they face and how these problems might be solved.

Having the chance to speak to people in person and observe them is ideal, but there are other ways you can find out about users and create conversations.

Social media platforms and online platforms are great for doing this, and you can often easily find users that fit your target audience. You may also find that people are more comfortable sharing honest feedback than they would be face to face. 

2. Define your users and their problems

Once you have figured out what problems you are solving, and for who, you need to define who your users are and the problems they face and use that to create a Problem Statement.

Pull all your observations together and construct a point of view based on the user needs you have identified. Focus the problem or problems which you will set about solving.

This can be as simple as “we want to solve problem (x) for group of people (y)”. You don’t need to stipulate any specific features, technology or commercial requirements at this stage. A good problem statement should serve as goals to keep you on track.

3. Ideate

Now that you have defined who your users are and what their needs and challenges are, the next stage in the design thinking process is to start coming up with ideas which is the ideation process.

Come up with as many ideas as possible which fit the brief. This step works best as a team exercise as you will get more ideas flowing and can bounce off each other. Once you have a good selection of ideas you can move to the process of whittling them down and building on them.

4. Prototype

The fourth stage in the design thinking process involves progressing your ideas, by applying some thought and turning them into something tangible.

Creating prototypes helps to speed up the innovation process because by creating a product that can be used for the purpose it was designed, you can quickly identify the strengths and weaknesses of a design concept.

Prototypes don’t have to be polished and perfect, in fact early prototypes are likely to be basic forms of the design concept. However, this is about gaining user feedback and having a starting point for further iterations.

5. Test

Testing goes hand in hand with prototyping development stage and there is often a lot of switching between the two stages, particularly as the prototype testing stage is very important.

When testing a product, it’s important to observe users and ask them questions about the product to gain more insight into how people respond to a product. During each testing phase, you should take a note of everything and when you design the next version try to design out that problem.

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