Design is becoming something enterprises think and worry about. Old notions of design being simply about what something looks like have been put aside; the new prioritization of design isn’t about aesthetics, but rather about incorporating the same design-focused thinking into functional principles that improve and optimize the tools we use.
Even for the most tech-savvy among us, rapidly advancing technology poses concerns with rapidly advancing complexity in both the tools we use and the way we conduct business.
Businesses are facing some form of these complexities every day, from small scale issues to enormously impactful ones. At the end of the day, the gnawing need is for someone–or something–to help clear up the confusion. In other words, we need simplification in order to enjoy the benefit of technology’s complexity.
Design Thinking is one such approach toward simplifying these complexities. It is a methodology that pulls from a set of principles to solve complex problems. These principles include things like logic, imagination, intuition, and systematic reasoning, to achieve a mindset that isn’t problem-focused, but rather action-oriented and geared toward solutions.
Successful designers have been set apart by a characteristic that is key to the success of user experience-driven design: empathy. The ability to focus on this trait is what enables them to create solutions that aptly address the pain of their user.
Any time the potential for a new product is identified, the first step must involve interacting with those experiencing the problem for which the solution is intended; the designer(s) strives to gain perspective in order to determine how the pain point is affecting the life of the user.
But empathy is only effective if it functions as the stepping stone to understanding; while empathy may draw attention to the problem, it is with understanding that the solution is derived. Understanding connects the experience of the user (identified via empathy) to the barriers being faced that prevent the user from coming to their own resolution. These barriers often boil down to things like other people, business constraints or trends, technology complexities or limitations, and even the culture the user is functioning within.
This empathetic understanding must then be followed with analysis and research. For example, two users may not have the same issues and experiences, leaving a question as to how the problem is best solved. Whose concerns are left unaddressed?
While empathy may be easy to come by, the true design analysis requires taking what has been gleaned from the understanding and analyzing it with thorough research (market research, competitor analysis, target industry and trends, end-user behavior, etc.) It allows the designer to step back, away from the user, and evaluate the surrounding factors, providing insight to make decisions and create templates, prototypes, or models for the solution.
The designer’s primary goal is to make this connection between empathy, understanding, and analysis. They expand upon what the user sees in his or her direct line of sight, and pulls in more information to give them a whole picture–outside of the tunnel vision that may exist.
Define and Design
The dots have all been scrawled out, each illustrating another aspect of the empathetic analysis. The information gleaned from market research, user behavior, and an individual’s perception of their pain points is spread in front of the designer, giving them the ability to connect them together to define the picture that is to be created.
Just as a software interface must be structurally intelligent, so must the architecture of the information. Visual representations of the design analysis must be created in order to illustrate the concept before the actual building occurs.
With that information architecture solidified, a designer is then able to ideate and create prototypes, wireframing the path to be taken by the design in order to deliver an end result that touches on each of the “dots.”
Shaping Inventive Solutions
The methodology of design thinking encourages an environment of integration and collaboration. It allows new ideas to be experimented and implemented with a focus centered around delivering exceptional user experience. In this ideal environment, designers are given the tools they need to make truly inventive solutions take shape.
“Design is the action of bringing something new and desired into existence—a proactive stance that resolves or dissolves problematic situations by design. It is a compound of routine, adaptive and design expertise brought to bear on complex dynamic situations.” —Harold Nelson