How to Use the Design Thinking Process to Develop a Product?

design thinking strategy

As a startup founder, business owner, or CTO, you have surely heard about using the design thinking process for product development. 

Successful companies like Apple, Google, and Airbnb use design thinking strategies for launching successful new products and services in the user market. The design-led companies are reported to have yielded 56% higher returns than other companies.

No matter how common the concept of design thinking has become across industries, you may feel ambiguity while adopting it as your product development strategy.

In this blog, we are going to clear the dust around design thinking. We will answer questions like, what is a design thinking process, why you should follow it, and most importantly, how you should apply it for successful product development. So, let’s get to it.

Design Thinking Process

Design thinking is a product development methodology that focuses on a user-centric and creative problem-solving approach. It helps to understand and solve complex problems by keeping users’ needs and experiences on top priority. 

The second aspect of a design thinking process is to get hands-on by swiftly converting problem-solving ideas into products and services that users can readily use and experience.

With a human-centric approach, a design thinking process comes up with a solution that is desirable, technically feasible, and economically viable for both users and a business. 

Established in 1959 as Creative Engineering, the Design Thinking process has evolved a lot as a way of thinking and approaching problems. In 2005, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, also known as the d.school, was the first institution to introduce Design Thinking as a course at the university level. 

Design thinking became prominent across multiple industries after the creation of the design agency IDEO.

According to the executive chair of IDEO, Tim Brown, “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success”

Why Adopt a Design Thinking Process for Software Development?

Every product owner has one end goal – to make the product successful in the user market. There is no set rule, though, to ensure product profitability. Sometimes best-funded ventures also fall out when released to the customers.

The design thinking process offers a strategy for minimizing the associated risk by paying attention to what users need and rapidly delivering it through product prototypes, usually known as a minimum viable product in software development.

Some of the benefits that businesses enjoy while adopting a design thinking approach for product development include:

Innovative Thinking

Design thinking encourages designers to look for problems worth solving. It pushes them to step aside from the usual thought process, seek challenging problems the common people are facing and design innovative solutions for them, thus, maximizing the user experience. 

Collaboration

The design thinking process encourages all minds to come together and generate ideas. The business applying design thinking holds brainstorming sessions and design thinking workshops involving people from multidisciplinary fields. 

Developers, designers, and stakeholders collaborate to put forward as many ideas as possible for the problem statement and challenge each other’s thought processes to identify innovative solutions.

71% of companies have reported that they experienced better working culture when adopting the design thinking process.

Market-competitive Advantage

The design thinking process has proven to be successful in the market. The problem-solving solutions developed with user needs in mind and delivered through rapid development while undergoing early testing phases are likely to be welcomed by the users.

As the user-desirable product solution is figured out to be technically feasible and economically viable, there are fewer chances that it will give less profitability.

Research has shown that design-driven companies have performed better in the market by 200% according to the S&P index.

So, the design thinking process is an innovative tool, encouraging internal team playing, and proving successful in the user market. But how to use it? Next, we will discuss this.

How to use the Design Thinking Process for Product Development?

The design thinking process comprises the following stages of design thinking.

  1. Empathize

The first step involves a deep understanding of the user. You, as a product developer empathizes with the user’s point of view regarding a problem. By finding out about their challenges, you are likely to find a solution valued by them.

  1. Define

In this Define phase, you analyze the data collected in the previous phase of user research and define problem statements from them.

  1.  Ideate

Now, your development team will start solving the problem through ideation. They will look for potential solutions by challenging common assumptions and trying to create outside-the-box ideas.

The idea generation phase leads to innovative solutions for problem statements developed in previous stages.

  1. Prototype

Your development team will create solutions by putting their ideas into action. Prototyping is more of an experimental phase. In software development, an assumption product with essential features only is created in the prototype phase.

You create a product prototype keeping in mind the practical user demands and limitations of the existing technologies.

  1.  Test

At this stage, you try out the created solutions by passing them on to users. The target user interacts with your product prototype and you gauge their feedback.

The rapid prototyping and testing inform you of user views on the proposed solution in the early phases of product development. You can make adjustments right from the beginning and change things that do not sit well with the real users without wasting resources.

Secondly, the quick delivery of a solution to the market ensures the timely fulfillment of user needs. You do not waste a long time in product development just to know that there is no more need for your product. 

Although testing is the final stage, new requirements and adjustments are redefined as new problems. Design thinking is not a linear process but follows an iterative approach.

This is also where the design thinking process accommodates the agile product development strategy. It develops products iteratively and facilitates faster market access for user testing.

Technical Expertise for Design Thinking Implementation:

For applying the design thinking process effectively, your product development team should have certain technical skills. Some of the design thinking skills to look for in your product developers are the following:

UX Design Skills:

Your developers should be experts in designing a user-friendly and interactive product. They should be skilled in understanding human intelligence and reflecting it in product design. 

Some common UX/UI design tools that your dev team members should be familiar with include Sketch and Webflow.

UX tools have built-in libraries for interface effects, sound effects, and animations. These enable designers to create product designs close to the real world efficiently.

Go through our guide on the design process for successful product development.

Wireframing and Prototyping Skills:

Wireframes are digital blueprints for web pages or mobile apps. They are static visualization of how the final web or app screen will look.

A prototype is more of an interactive experience. It contains basic product features showing how a final product will function.

Through wireframes and prototypes, developers offer real proof of concepts to stakeholders and users that what they are building. Your design team should have skills in using tools like PowerMockup to create digital prototypes.

Software Coding Skills:

Your end goal of using the design thinking process is to develop a software product welcomed by your audience. While design thinking will guide you through user market research and user-centric product solution, a skilled team of developers will help you to code a bug-free software product.

The coding skills for a software product will depend on the type of software you want to create – a mobile app or a web application.

Web Application Development:

For web developers, the foremost skill is knowledge of markup languages like HTML5. No doubt, websites today are built with frameworks like React but to efficiently understand, develop and debug website applications, knowledge of HTML elements is a must. 

Similarly, to effectively use web development frameworks popular today, a developer should know JavaScript.

To develop a dynamic and interactive website, your developers should be experts in frameworks like node.js and react.js. These frameworks provide resources and tools to develop and manage web applications without building everything from scratch.

Apart from frameworks, developers should be skilled in using tools like Node Package Manager to reuse existing libraries and code modules for efficient web application development.

Web application developers should also be familiar with IDE like VSCode. It is a lightweight IDE for web development that provides various plugins for front-end design, cloud service connection, and product deployment.

Mobile App Development:

Your mobile app developers should be skilled in cross-platform app development to target a larger audience. Frameworks like Flutter and Ionic help developers build apps with the same code base and portable UI that work seamlessly for various platforms like Android, iOS, and Windows.

React Native is a trending mobile app development skill that your developers should be experienced in. It helps developers already experienced in JavaScript and React to develop native cross-platform mobile apps.

Kotlin is a popular programming language for developing Android applications. It is compatible with Java and helps to develop performance and memory-efficient apps for Android hardware.

If you are interested in targeting Apple users with your mobile app, invest in a skilled iOS developer. The iOS developer should be an expert in Swift programming language to write secure code optimized for Apple devices like iPhones, iPad, etc.

API Integrations:

APIs are an integral part of software development today. They enable developers to use already built and tested third-party services by integrating them into your app. Your development team should be familiar with using API development and interaction tools like Postman

Postman helps developers to understand external APIs and also to develop and test their own.

Information Architecture Skills:

Information architecture is related to the structure and placement of content on a web or mobile app interface. A good information architecture ensures users find what they need on your platform quickly and without much effort.

The visual elements, their functionality, and app navigation are defined by information architecture. Your developers should be experts in IA tools like Microsoft Visio and Omnigraffle to create visual templates, sitemaps, smart guides, layouts, etc.

Latest Technologies:

Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality are game-changer for user experience. AI-enabled software interface help to customize the product experience for users through personalized recommendations and overall app display.

Google ML Kit, Deeplearning4j, and openNN are a few AI development toolkits your developers should know.

Augmented reality enhances user experience by providing ‘real-life’ like product interaction to users. Disney coloring book allowing children to color their favorite characters in 3D and L’Oréal makeup app that enables users to try out makeup virtually are incredible examples of using AR to enhance user experience.

Your developers should have sound knowledge of these technologies and skills to apply them to a software product. They should be experts in using tools like ARtoolkit to develop augmented reality experiences using features like GPS integration, 2D recognition, element mapping, etc.

Here is a blog showing how AI is changing the landscape of businesses in the near future.

Cybersecurity Understanding:

While thinking of creative solutions, make sure that your product development team is fully aware of cybersecurity threats and challenges. Your developers should know about possible data breaches and malware attacks. Furthermore, they should be skilled in techniques to protect your software from such malicious activities.

Some cybersecurity skills to look for in your software developers include penetration testing and governance, risk management, and compliance skills (GRC). 

Penetration Testing is an authorized cyber-attack on a software application to evaluate application security. GRC experts develop and implement solutions aligned with the business requirements and compliant with the industry security standards like NIST.

Have a look at this article discussing why you should invest in the cyber security of your software product.

Successful Businesses Using Design Thinking 

Let’s see how some of the top companies have successfully applied the design thinking process for their product development.

Airbnb:

The accommodation platform has proposed user-centric solutions to problems faced by users while traveling. Airbnb has been able to do so by gaining a thorough insight into users’ experience of travel and accommodation. It empathized with the user’s problems with expensive and impersonal hotel accommodations and services.

By using design thinking, Airbnb provides memorable traveling experiences to users by allowing them to enter the traveling and accommodation industry themselves and offer a personalized traveling experience everywhere in the world.

Using design thinking, Airbnb has become a fine example of how experimentation with innovative ideas leads you out of the ‘trough of sorrow’ in startup terms. The net worth of Airbnb in 2022 is almost $77.03 billion in 2022.

Netflix:

The content streaming platform adopted the user-centric approach by following five rules: thinking big, starting small, failing quickly, and scaling fast. The user-centric UX features like card design and AI recommendations make the platform valuable to the users.

Netflix was not hesitant to think big and challenge the traditional DVD business. In 2022, the brand value of Netflix is 29.41 billion US dollars.

Final Thoughts

The primary rule in using a design thinking process for product development is motivating yourself and your development team into user-centered thinking. The successful implementation of design thinking in product development involves using the appropriate tools and techniques.

If you are still unsure about how to incorporate design thinking in your product development strategy, contact DevTeam.Space. Our experienced product managers will guide you through the process according to your business needs.

Top 3 FAQs on how to use a design thinking process to develop a product

1. How can I adopt a design thinking methodology for my startup?

Discover human needs and insights to user problems, apply these findings to your business model and generate innovative yet user-oriented products and services.

2. What is the best tool for my design thinking strategy?

Any tool that helps you research, brainstorm, and simulate is a good option for design thinking. For example, Userforge and SessionLab. You can use different tools for different design thinking stages also.

3. How is design thinking different from other product development approaches?

The main difference lies in the first stage of the design thinking process i.e. Empathy. Design thinking is deeply dependent on putting yourself in the end user’s shoes and gaining user’s perspective on a particular problem.


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