How to Think Like a UX Designer

The information in this blog was taken from a presentation by Digital Strategist Laura Brown and Creative Director Andy Tidy at our 2019 Forum. To watch the full presentation, click here.

Despite the name, design thinking isn’t just for designers. This innovative problem-solving technique can be applied to multiple industries including art, science, engineering, and business. At its core, design thinking helps us to evaluate and redefine a problem by looking at elements that may not have been noticeable at first glance.

The 5 Stages of Design Thinking

While typically broken down into 5 stages, the design thinking process is flexible and is often followed in a non-linear fashion.

1. Empathize

Design thinking should always begin with a bit of empathy. In this first stage, teams work to understand everything about their target users’ wants, needs, and desires. A number of research processes are employed here from heat maps to observational studies, and even simple question and answer interviews. This information is then combined together into a collection of personas to be referenced later on.

2. Discover and Define

After establishing empathy, the more concrete user needs come into play. In this phase, all observations and information collected are analyzed in order to determine and define the core problems your audience is dealing with. The discover and define stage often features something known as a ‘problem statement’ that guides your team to focus on the specific needs of your users. A good problem statement is human-centered, broad enough for you to be creative, yet narrow enough to make it manageable.

3. Ideate & Create

Now it’s time to start thinking outside the box. In the ideate and create stage, teams develop user-centric solutions by challenging all known assumptions. During this phase, wireframes, visual design comps, and a style guide are created. It’s important that anything developed in this stage still aligns with the problem statement defined earlier and actually solves the problems of the user.

4. Prototype

In the prototype stage, the team produces a simplified version of the design to simulate the solution. These prototypes range in levels of fidelity and start simple and become more complex and interactive after it undergoes more internal testing. The idea here is to create a testable product to see if it will work and satisfy the user’s problems.

5. Test & Validate

After a viable solution is developed in the prototype stage, it moves on to the final stage to be tested rigorously. This testing can consist of moderated usability testing, candidate recruiting, and both qualitative and quantitative research. It’s important to note that while this is officially the last stage in the design thinking process, multiple rounds of ideation, prototyping, and testing can occur.  Create iteratively improved prototypes in order to test out solutions quickly, and then use the test results to improve your ideas.

At the end of the day, the full design thinking process should be iterative with a major focus on the end-user. Practice using this process in your everyday life to solve problems and create solutions that work. For a user analysis of your own website, contact our UX specialists here.  


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