Design Thinking 101.
A simple framework for user-centered research and design
User-centered research will continue to be an important tool we can use to understand the needs of the population we are designing for.
However, apart from understanding needs, a Product Manager or User Researcher needs to be able to think deeply about a particular problem and come up with solutions that outperform current solutions. Why?
Customers have changing needs and values. Focusing only on needs leaves us open to disruption. Meeting needs is not enough. We need to innovate in order to stay ahead of our competitors.
Simply, you need to fix frictions beyond the needs of customers and go after their expectations and perceptions.
A simple tool that can help us redesign needs and create products that focus on customer's perceptions is brainstorming. In this short piece, I will attempt to go through the design thinking process.
General Overview of Process:
The process of design thinking is broken down into 5 broad phases. It is important to understand that this is not a linear process but there is a continuous feedback loop where the next phase provides information that improves the latter.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. The best way to understand the feelings of others is to talk to them. Of course, listen while talking. Listening is an important aspect of communication.
Once you have identified your stakeholders, go out, and talk to them.
You have spoken to stakeholders. You have feedback from interviews. You might have so much data you don't know what to do with it. A skill here is being able to define user needs. There’s no better way to illustrate this without using an example.
On Define: What does the customer want?
Below I have a sample initial research question and a Point of View (POV) defined after conducting interviews.
Initial Design Challenge:
How might we improve workplace wellness while improving the efficiency of your team at work?
Point of View (POV):
Yolanda, a young and aspiring worker needs a way to be efficient at work without compromising on her wellness in a world where productivity is often considered more important than wellness.
By the end of the Define phase, you should be able to develop a point of view, informed by your interview questions.
Ideation to me is the most critical phase of the process. Ideation means the formation of ideas and concepts. It is the phase where we go beyond thinking about “customers needs” and try to meet their perceptions. Ideation allows the user researcher to anticipate and stay ahead of the customers' needs.
On ideation: What might the customer want, even though they have not asked for it?
A prototype is a first or preliminary version of a device or vehicle from which other forms are developed. The prototype, in this case, should be used to elicit further feedback from your user on a particular design feature. A low fidelity prototype will convey the initial design ideas to the user and also allow them to confidently provide feedback.
On Prototyping: Would my prototype prevent the user from giving me enough feedback?
After completing the prototype, you can test this with your users. Testing involves asking specific questions to users about usability. Testing serves as feedback that can be used to improve on the prototype.
As a user-centered approach, design thinking can serve as a tool to help us move beyond user needs to user perceptions. This will enable us to stay ahead of our competition.