Design Thinking Approach
Nowadays – and in the near future this will be even more true – creativity and the ability to come up with an idea that sets one apart from others is the most valuable asset in the labor market. But the idea alone is often not enough to make the creative process a real success, whether we measure it by the number of products sold, the degree of positive reaction from customers or clients (and may not always be paying) or something else. It also benefits creativity if it is complemented and supported by the right methodology when solving problems. And just such a framework can give creativity a methodological approach known as “design thinking”. It has its use in a number of fields of human activity, including the development of websites and applications. But what exactly is its strength? And why is design thinking so popular all over the world?
What is design thinking?
Encyclopedias and dictionaries define “design thinking” as an approach, resp. method, for creating and developing new products, services, processes, etc. The method originated – or rather was described – in 1969 in a book by the American psychologist and Nobel Prize winner for economics Hebert A. Simon entitled “The Sciences of Artifical”. Today, there are countless variants of the original method, their specific variants are taught to their employees by companies such as IBM, Google, etc., as well as their approaches promoted by universities or schools of thought. However, the core and basic principles are common for all these variants.
The focus of the application of this method is always the person and his experience, typically (but not only) the customer and the experience and feelings from the purchase. The application of this method always begins with the person. In other words, a person is primary, the product is secondary. The design thinking approach teaches us that it is not the right way to create a product and then try to find potential customers or clients. The opposite approach is typical for design thinking. The questions asked are, for example, “How can the client’s experience be improved?”, “How to make his work easier?”, Etc.
An integral part of the method is the cyclic, even iterative, approach. The result of the development process is always subjected to testing and is modified based on the feedback obtained. This approach applies to all phases of the process.
This approach often leads to truly innovative, often even revolutionary, solutions. This is due to the fact that they give individuals or development teams working on a new service or product a great deal of creative freedom and are often not bound by very conservative assumptions and established practices.
Application of the “design thinking” method
The use of the “design thinking” method in practice is often described as a five-phase process consisting of the following steps:
- Embracing and understanding the problem we are looking for a solution to (emphatize)
- Definition of what forms the basic layer of the solved problem (define)
- Coming up with ideas, brainstorming (ideate)
- Prototyping, solution visualization (prototype)
- Testing the fulfillment of customer needs (test)
As already mentioned, there are many different modifications of the “design thinking” method and therefore it is possible to encounter differently named or otherwise divided phases.
In this first phase, the developer should gain an understanding of the problem at the empathic level. He should gain an overview of the issue, he should understand the previous experience and motivation of potential users of the new product, and he should forget as much as possible his own experience and motivation. Each piece of information is counted and at this stage the information is collected for further use.
In this phase, the information collected in the last step is mainly synthesized and analyzed. This should define the basic problems, while still applying what has already been said. At the center of the whole process must be the customer / client and his needs, not the needs of the manufacturer, seller, etc.
Brainstorming and ideas (Ideate)
The efforts devoted to the previous three steps were directed towards the phase called ideate. It is here that new solutions to the now precisely defined problem are now identified based on an understanding of users and their needs. A welcome or directly required approach is the search for these solutions outside the traditional borders, the so-called out-of-the-box. From all the proposed solutions, the best one is then selected, which offers the most effective possible solution in terms of final goals.
At this stage, a prototype series, a simplified model, a mock-up, etc. are already being produced. The prototype is then handed over for initial testing to a small sample of people, usually an internal team who provide the first real experience with the product. This gives the development team a better idea of how the product will succeed with real end users. The result is a proposal for the final form of the developed product.
The last phase is an extension of the previous phase, testing the product that is considered final. But as already mentioned, “design thinking” is essentially an iterative process. Testing the final product also brings new impulses to modify the product and the process returns. Thanks to this, the maximum quality of the product is achieved and it is ensured that it will perform its function well in relation to the expectations and future experiences of customers and clients.
Where is “design thinking” used?
A large part of the corporate environment has successfully adopted the methodology of design thinking. It is no coincidence that the gradual acceptance of the “design thinking” approach intertwined with the recognition of the great importance of design as such for the success of a product on the market. When launching new products, companies have realized that design thinking can mean a significant competitive advantage for them. With the same success, however, “design thinking” can be used by the non-profit sector in organizing charitable or environmental projects, etc.
In general, design thinking is a suitable methodology for solving so-called wicked problems or also “tricky problems”. These are problems with a high degree of complexity, which are defined by many independent parameters. Very often these are problems in the field of ecology, social affairs, health care, etc.
A prominent area in which design thinking is widely and successfully used is the development of software, applications or the web environment.
“Design thinking” for web design
Design thinking is an ideal methodology for website design or application development. Today, the online environment is literally flooded with content. The quantity of content is not what separates the successful from the less successful in the Internet environment. What really matters is the quality of the content and the ability to provide the user with the most accurate answers to their questions and needs. And from the content provider’s point of view, the only truly functional criterion for assessing its quality is the interest and satisfaction of its consumers.
That’s why it’s so important to focus on the resulting user experience in web design and application development. For an example of web development, the general five-step process described above must include the following specific steps:
- It is necessary to get an accurate idea of what users expect from the content, what requirements they have for it, through what communication channels they want to consume it, etc. In this area, developers must draw their attention and – as mentioned – understand it on an emotional level.
- User satisfaction is also related to whether the style of communication of the content provider with the user is correctly selected. What style, visual and informative, does the user expect? Again, it is necessary to put the user at the center of events and, in a figurative sense, let him decide.
- Based on the information gathered and evaluated, the members of the development team jointly propose a specific form of content.
- When creating a “prototype”, i.e. the first more complete versions of the website, the cooperation of copywriters, graphic designers and designers is needed to create it. The final form of the website is then presented, for example, to an internal team that provides feedback.
- After (ideally) several rounds of internal testing, it is necessary to test the website outside the internal environment and present it to the test group outside the internal company environment.
- In line with the iterative nature of the design thinking methodology, testing – whether internal or broader – should provide feedback that will be reflected in site design modifications and new testing.
Conclusion and summary
The “design thinking” method is very widespread in the implementation of creative projects, thanks to which development teams are allowed to use maximum creative freedom. The position of the customer / client / user and his experience in the center is an element that gives the final product a competitive advantage.
The method is particularly successful in such a highly competitive environment as web design. Given the vast amount of content, the only way to differentiate yourself from the competition is to accurately reflect users’ perceptions of what the content should look like and how it should specifically meet their needs. Design thinking methodology is a modern approach to problem solving and web design.[The original article was written in English. To other languages it was automatically translated by Google Translate]