Great design comes from empathy with other human beings.
The design thinking approach starts with a detailed exploration of who the audience is for the product and what their needs might be. There’s an entire branch of study called Human Factors, which is devoted to understanding human-to-system interaction, so websites and apps can be designed to be intuitive.
Human factors engineering student Sara Berndt explains: “We take a deep dive into user research, such as ‘What are the colors that humans can see? Where should things like error messages or alerts be located so that people can see them? How many alerts should they be shown before you take the next step? What are the important steps to focus on?’”
The five-stage design thinking process.
No matter what you want to create, the five steps of a successful design process are to empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. This respected five-stage model for design thinking was developed by global design company IDEO and is taught by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University’s d.school.
1. Empathize: Study the values of your users.
The first step before you start to design is to get to know your audience and make a list of their needs and values. “Having a strong list of user needs is so important. That’s something you should spend a lot of time crafting,” says Berndt. “Because in the end, you can rely on this not only for future changes but also to communicate with your team. If someone suggests a new feature, you can look at your user needs and say, ‘Well, it doesn’t seem like our users are really going to find that important.’ Understanding your users is really a foundation for everything.”
You may be tempted to simply rely on data, but studying the user experience in detail is crucial. “Data can tell you what is happening,” explains Dryer, “but it can’t tell you why. Qualitative, ethnographic research is absolutely critical. Because that’s where you learn how your users actually feel and what all their crazy workarounds are. That’s one of my favorite things to discover.”
Use the following methods to study your users:
- Observe: Watch users go about their business.
- Engage: Interview and interact with users.
- Immerse: Put yourself in their shoes.
2. Define: Name the problem that you’ll solve.
Next, carry your findings from the empathize stage into a series of brainstorm sessions in which your team works to identify one key problem that it can solve for the user. Also outline your team’s “point of view,” or the unique way that your product will be able to solve that problem. You should frame the problem from the user’s perspective, not from the perspective of your business.