User Experience (UX) is an ever growing discipline and encompasses a multitude of specialisations. Making graphics pixel perfect, writing code, interviewing users, doing user tests, content writing, prototyping, on-boarding, information hierarchy, universal design, visual representation of data, customer journey mapping, user research… the list goes on.
One of the most popular tools of the UX workflow is Design Thinking. This is a methodology that uses an iterative process. We try to understand the user, challenge assumptions and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding.
Design Thinking is a 5-step process. Some use more steps, some use less steps. This depends on what works best for your business.
This is arguably the most important part of innovation and product improvement. You might have a unique and incredible idea, technology or solution at your fingertips. But before you can launch your product, you need to understand your users and what it is they need. This means getting to know your target audience. Understand how they would use your technology.
Not only do you get insight into what your users want. Utilise the Pareto principle so that resources are devoted to produce the greatest impact.
With insight from your user base, you can begin defining your solution. You’re effectively creating a problem statement. A problem statement is a concise description of the problem that needs to be solved.
What is the problem — Why is it a problem — What is the impact
The problem statement is important. It gives you a starting point and helps steer the ideation phase in the right direction. Having a problem statement ensures you’re moving towards a concrete goal.
The phase where you come up with ideas. No ideas should be barred. No idea deemed too crazy. During this phase go wide and think of far flung possibilities on how to make your solution. By brainstorming you push the boundaries and look at what is plausible and doable. You’ll uncover use cases that you were unaware of, and expand the potential of your solution.
Now you have an understanding of what your technology is capable of. How users will benefit and what functionality should be included. The time has come to create prototypes. Create low fidelity prototypes. And this is where the iterative aspect of Design Thinking comes in. Testing brings you back into the design cycle. As you cycle through your designs and iterate, you move onto higher fidelity prototypes. For each iteration you come closer and closer to a final product.
Testing your prototypes is critical. It shows whether your solution works. More importantly, as part of the iterative design cycle, you will revisit the empathy, define and ideate phases. This will give you priceless feedback from your users on the progress of your designs. User tests highlight aspects of your design that work, and those that don’t. It can also streamline the resources devoted to different aspects of the development.
Return on Investment (ROI) and Key performance indicator (KPI)
This is a big part of UX Design, and often a controversial topic. Several principles within design are very difficult to quantify. Design is therefore often overlooked or dismissed. Despite scepticism, studies show a clear advantage. As found by Jakob Nielsen, often lovingly referred to as the Grandfather of Design:
“UX can improve KPI’s by over 83%”
There are other findings that have shown the utility of incorporating UX in development.
“Important to realise that UX is now more about the context. Looking at the probability rather than the possibility. By reducing functionality you increase probability of users actually using the system.”
“The 1–10–100 rule.
- Spend $1 on research (prevention)
- Spend $10 on changing design (correction) or
- Spend $100 on changing something in development (failure)
The earlier you invest in UX, the cheaper it is in the long run, and you get a much better ROI.”
- The cost of quality
“The ROI is a purely financial indicator and quantifies how successful a project was in relation to its investment. […] KPIs, on the other hand, are key figures that you can choose or define yourself which translate the success of a project — however it may be defined — into tangible figures.”
Regardless of where in the design cycle you are as a business, it is never a bad time to revisit some of the steps. As your product evolves, your users will have new feedback and insights. This can help evaluate your product definition. Re-Ideate, come up with new designs, and do more testing. Then the cycle repeats.
Design thinking can virtually be used in any situation. If even only using some of the steps in the methodology. Applying any of the key perspectives gives you a leg up and a chance to improve your product for your own company, your partners and/or end users.