Yes, UX design is design thinking in action

Over the past decade, design thinking has emerged as a boardroom buzzword promising innovation, quality, and the possibility of accelerating a progressive business agenda. At the same time, user experience (UX) has become a mission-critical consideration for companies in every industry, and of every shape and size. While many of the thought leaders in design thinking and UX overlap between the two communities, the impact of design thinking is often at a more strategic level on par with the so-called Big 5 business-consulting firms. Meanwhile, UX has struggled to gain a level of influence and respect peer to that of the product and development organizations with which it works. Not only are design thinking and UX not operating and being thought of similarly, but they also have precious little influence on each other. Given the desperate need for the impact of design thinking and better UX, how is this possible?

As a UX Designer, it’s vital that the user is at the forefront, which means you need to be able to empathize. Design Thinking creates a breeding ground for empathy. UX Design can be defined as the practical or field usage of Design Thinking. As mentioned before, Design Thinking follows five major steps that form the framework of any UI design hence leading to good UX:

  1. Empathizing with users – you should start researching and walking in the user’s shoes as soon as you start a new project.

  2. Defining the problem – includes mapping difficulties, interpreting, planning, and strategizing.

  3. Ideating solutions – brainstorming, imagining, pondering and reflecting on possible outcomes.

  4. Prototyping – means sketching, visualizing, applying, and creating wireframes and beta versions.

  5. Testing – includes reviewing, getting feedback, fixing, clearing out, and revising.

Yes, UX Design is Design Thinking in process. Following the above five principles ensures some key aspects for any company. These aspects, like holding onto loyal customers, attracting new clientele, making a website aesthetically pleasing, providing proper and adequate information, and maintaining an updated approach towards customers, ensure and boost User Experience. A key aspect to remember while directing Design Thinking towards UX Design can be the concept of ACID given by Iternia:

  • ABSORB. Research, seek information at all levels and understand business dynamics, retain information & assimilate related knowledge

  • CLARIFY. Ask questions & seek explanations, Call & meet appropriate people, gain overall perspective & understanding.

  • IDEATE. Think! Explore every possible option, Create a storyboard, Brainstorm & record ideas.

  • DESIGN. Put your thoughts to actions, Communicate the right message, focus on visual & aesthetic impact, Keep the end objective in mind.

In other words, UX involves Design Thinking, but design thinking isn't limited to UX problems. You could teach design thinking to people of all industries, to help them better solve problems of all kinds. Just to give another example of the distinction, you could say that the Scientific Method (think back to your science fair projects)—which scientists use—is similar to Design Thinking, in that it offers a framework to solve a problem. You do some initial research, create a hypothesis that you wish to test, run experiments, and report the results. You could apply the scientific method to solve non-science problems, but it wouldn't make you a scientist—in the same way that using design thinking doesn't necessarily make you a UX designer.

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