Want better UI? Use design thinking

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

~ Tim Brown

Design thinking combines the problem-solving routes of design with a hyper-focus on users. Truly empathising with what else the user is doing, where they are using a product, what their motivations are, and what they are trying to achieve by using a product. Design Thinking looks at having a beginner’s mindset and approach to problems, so you can explore every possible avenue, having lots of possibilities, and not being closed or judgemental of ideas. It’s about having not only empathy with our end users but also having a human-centered approach to the way we design and work as a team, to uncover deep needs and unmet needs. Design Thinking allows the team to define a problem with a specific point of view and then be able to reframe a problem by using a different point of view. Ultimately allowing the team to ideate and generate innovative solutions by democratising design through testing hypotheses and prototypes.

Design Thinking can help to explore innovative solutions. Innovation can’t be a one-time affair; it needs to be part of the company’s approach and mindset. So, Design Thinking was used to enable and embed this mindset into the company’s ethos. Innovation doesn’t always come that easily, even in small, agile companies. That’s where Design Thinking comes in. And Design Thinking isn’t just to enable creativity and design solutions and products. It can also be used to design teams. 

Let’s start with the first reason why UX designers should invest some time and effort into learning about the design thinking process: figuring out if you’re after a real problem or chasing smoke. How can the designer know if the problem the team is out to solve is, indeed, a problem worth fixing? Most of us have recurrent problems that affect our day-to-day lives but we are so used to them, we don’t see them as problems.

The design thinking process starts out by pushing designers to see things through the eyes of the user – a crucial characteristic of any user-centric design. This first step doesn’t even consider other factors such as which features people might like of anything related to the actual product. It’s all about understanding people before you start creating problems to fit your solution instead of the other way around. On a separate note, one of the best positives from the design thinking process is that it isn’t a linear model. With this, we mean that designers aren’t expected to move in a straight line from stage to stage. This back and forth is good, because it encourages constant reiteration, which tends to help designers spot issues and potential downfalls of their product while still in the development phase. Allowing those issues to persist until after development implies the cost to fix those issues is amplified by a large margin.

The design thinking process is like a map that designers can refer to when they need direction in their creativity. It shouldn’t be seen as a step-by-step guide as that would imply a straight line, with specific order tasks need to carried out. The design thinking process isn’t linear at all, which gives designers free reign to expand on their ideas, to gather information, to validate said ideas, and to see it all in action.

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