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Design Thinking: The process makes all the difference

13 Mar 2018 3:11 PM | Deleted user

By: Naomi Christensen, graphic designer at Minnesota Power and ATD Board Member 

Have you ever attended a training and received exactly what you needed? Have you ever purchased online and found the process for selecting your items and checking out was easy, intuitive and delivered exactly what you were looking for? If so, you experienced great design. Great design doesn’t just happen, it’s the product of an intentional process called “Design Thinking.” 

Design Thinking consists of 5 key components: empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping and testing.

Always begin with empathy, asking “for who am I creating something” and “what do they want or need.” You have to put yourself, as much as you can, into your customers’ shoes and try to see things how they see them. This may involve focus groups, interviews, online surveys or gathering statistics. If you’re developing training, who are you training and where are they coming from? What is common knowledge and what should be explained? Are there pain points they experience in using your website? This stage is foundational in the design process. Your end product will succeed or fail based on how well you empathize with your end user at the beginning.

Once you lay your foundation, then you need to define the project. This may sound backward; wouldn’t you already know what you want to do before you approach your customers for their perspective on the project? Think of it this way: when you began the process, perhaps you knew you wanted to create a new website, but you may have uncovered new insights in the empathizing stage that change how you’re thinking about the project or scope. In the definition stage, you use a newfound understanding of your audience to define the project in a more specific way based on what you learned.

Now that you know what you intend to create and for whom, we move into ideation or brainstorming. How are you going to address the customers’ pain points? What are others doing to innovate in your field? What  trends have you noticed in delivering services, and would they apply here? This is a team activity. Generate ideas and perspectives from your working group on how to solve the issues you see and how you can meet your viewers where they are. Gather ideas first, then refine them and make some decisions about what course of action you will take.

Next, prototyping! Put all the ideas you’ve generated into action within the project you defined. Pen to paper, nose to grindstone! In this stage, you build or craft the piece you defined for your audience with the ideas you generated. Give it your best shot!

Get your prototype in front of your audience and gather feedback. Depending on your audience, you need to tailor your approach to asking for their thoughts. You may use an online survey, a focus group, personal interviews or test environments to make it easy for test users to give candid feedback. The mode of testing will depend largely on what your particular project is or how people will interact with it. 

After gathering feedback, you may have to loop back to ideation if there are big issues that need to be addressed. Follow through to prototyping and testing again until you’re hitting the mark with your audience. 

Great design takes time, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to create a quality product or experience for your intended audience and ultimately achieve your goals. Remember that you must lay a solid foundation for any project by starting with empathy for your customer, end user or audience. Focus on who they are and what they need and let that serve as your compass through the rest of the process.

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