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Design Thinking from a CX Designer’s POV

Design Thinking isn't a new concept. The term was first used in the 1960s by IDEO co-founder David Kelley who brought the idea into the mainstream of business innovation. It has only gained in momentum since. If you want to bring the heat with your product and increase quality, get higher adoption, and provide true innovation, design thinking will help you get there.  

But what is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a user-centered approach to problem solving that fosters innovation, which provides competitive advantage, and competitive advantage can make it rain. It does this through the six-phase model below.

Design Thinking from a CX Designer’s POV

Empathize

Get to know your users deeply. Take what you think that means and double it, and you probably still aren't there. Be like a character actor with them. Get to know their common frustrations and motivators. Research them, interview them, test them, observe them, befriend them, become them. Home Depot is a great example of literally becoming them. They have members of their UIUX team go actually be employees of a Home Depot store onsite for periods of time so they really understand their users. This keeps the focus user-centered instead of relying on natural inclination to design with a focus on themselves.

Define

Take what you learned and share it with the team. At MATRIX, we often present our findings through personas which highlight commonality we see throughout groups of the user base. This helps educate the client with a deeper understanding of their users. The personas always have a section devoted to common frustrations/pain points. These are all opportunities for innovation.  

Ideate

This is where the magic happens. Get your team together and brainstorm a bunch of creative ideas that can address common frustrations or elevate what’s good to be even better. Encourage wild, stupid ideas and help the group to feel comfortable sharing. Often, a great idea starts with a ridiculous one. It’s important to keep the focus on the end game and not how to get there. Far too often I have seen good ideas get shot down because they would take too much effort or budget. Don't worry about those matters during the ideation phases. Instead, imagine you have complete freedom. Be sure to provide visuals demonstrating your ideas as well. The MATRIX UIUX team often does this with clients by having real-time design thinking sessions creating or editing an apps page, demonstrating the new idea.  

Prototype

Isolate the best ideas from the bad ones and make them into a quick and dirty interactive prototype. At MATRIX, we use Invision or Adobe XD for the bold ideas and Acrobat for the simpler ones. This phase is also where you start to bring the cold splash of feasibility into the fold. Sometimes that amazing idea cannot be done, but a smaller form of it can.

Test

Hopefully during the Empathize phase you got a group of users that you can now show your prototype to and get feedback. Try not to lead. Instead of asking, "Isn't this new homepage awesome?" try asking   "What do you think of this homepage?" Instead of saying, "You can save by clicking the save button in upper right," try "How do you think you can save this?" This is also where A/B testing can prove useful.  Perhaps show two different ways a user can save and ask which the user prefers. Switch the order of options a user sees first, as we've observed the second option is usually easier for a user to see.

Implement

Finally, the most important stage. Often when traversing what’s approved and established in a mockup or prototype can get lost in the final developed application. It’s paramount that appdev and UIUX are in lockstep to ensure the final vision is fully realized. At MATRIX, we perform visual QA as well as regular QA to make sure the final piece has everything where it should be.

Conclusion

It’s important to mention these phases should be ongoing. You should continue knowing your users because they are like all of us and will change over time. You should continue ideating, prototyping, testing, and implementing. This will provide continuous improvement and deliver innovation and its competitive advantage.

Being a CX designer, I wrote this very much from a design POV, but it’s important to note design thinking can apply to all areas and industries and is scalable for any process that involves people.

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