Vasudevan Gopalan

Is the end-user at the center of everything you do? Do you consider human emotions while conceptualizing a product or a solution? Well, let us open the doors of Design Thinking

What is Design Thinking?

  • Design thinking is both an ideology and a process, concerned with solving in a highly user-centric way.
  • With its human-centric approach, design thinking develops effective solutions based on people’s needs.
  • It has evolved from a range of fields – including architecture, engineering, business – and is also based on processes used by designers.
  • Design thinking is a holistic product design approach where every product touch point is an opportunity to delight and benefit our users.

Human Centred Design

With ‘thinking as a user’ as the methodology and ‘user satisfaction’ as the goal, design thinking practice supports innovation and successful product development in organizations. Ideally, this approach results in translating all the requirements into product features.

Part of the broader human centred design approach, design thinking is more than cross-functional; it is an interdisciplinary and empathetic understanding of our user’s needs. Design thinking sits right up there with Agile software development, business process management, and customer relationship management.

5 Stages of Design Thinking

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  • Empathize: This stage involves gathering insights about users and trying to understand their needs, desires, and objectives.
  • Define: This phase is all about identifying the challenge. What difficulties do users face? What are the biggest challenges? What do users really need?
  • Ideate: This step, as you may have already guessed, is dedicated to thinking about the way you can solve the problems you have identified with the help of your product. The product team, designers, and software engineers brainstorm and generate multiple ideas.
  • Prototype: The fourth stage brings you to turn your ideas into reality. By creating prototypes, you test your ideas’ fitness.
  • Test: You present the prototype to customers and find out if it solves their problem and provides users with what they need. Note that this is not the end of the journey; you need to get feedback from the users, adjust the product’s functionality, and test it again. This is a continuous process similar to the build-measure-learn approach in the lean start-up methodology.
Design Thinking

Benefits of Design Thinking in Software Development

1. Feasibility check: Design thinking enables software development companies to test the feasibility of the future product and its functionality at the initial stage. It enables them to keep end-user needs in mind, clearly specify all requirements and translate all this into product features.

2. No alarms and no surprises: Once you’ve tested your MVP and gathered feedback from users, the team can confidently proceed to the product development. You can be quite sure that there will be little to no difference between the approved concept and final version.

3. Clarity and transparency: Design thinking approach allow product designers/developers to broaden their vision, understand and empathise with the end-users’ problems and have a detailed blueprint of the solution they should eventually deliver.

4. Continuous improvement: The product can be (and sometimes should be) modified after its release when user feedback is at hand. It becomes clear which features work and which can be done away with. The product can undergo some series enhancements on the basis of feedback. This leaves place for continuous improvement and software development process becomes flexible and smooth.

Real-world Success Stories

1. PepsiCo

During Indra Nooyi’s term as PepsiCo’s CEO, the company’s sales grew 80%. It is believed that design thinking was at the core of her successful run. In her efforts to relook at the company’s innovation process and design experience, she asked her direct reportees to fill an album full of photos of what they considered represents good design. Uninspired by the result, she probed further to realize that it was imperative to hire a designer.

“It’s much more than packaging… We had to rethink the entire experience, from conception to what’s on the self to the post product experience.”, she told the Harvard Business Review.

While other companies were adding new flavours or buttons to their fountain machines, PepsiCo developed a touch screen fountain machine, a whole new interaction between humans and machines.

“Now, our teams are pushing design through the entire system, from product creation, to packaging and labelling, to how a product looks on the shelf, to how consumers interact with it,” she said.

2. Airbnb

Back in 2009, Airbnb’s revenue was limping. They realized that poor quality images of rental listings may have something to do with it. They flew some of their employees to a city and got them to take high quality photos and upload it on their website. This resulted in a 100% increase in their revenue.

Instead of focusing on scalability, the team turned inward and asked, ‘what does the customer need?’ This experiment taught them a few big lessons, empathy being just as important as code was one of them.

3. Mint.com

Mint.com is a web-based personal financial management website. Part of their success is attributed to the human-centric design of the website which tracks and visualizes how a person is spending their money. Bank accounts, investments, and credit cards can easily be synchronized on Mint, which then categorizes the expenses to help the user visualize their spending. They built a product that illustrates a core principle of design thinking: truly understanding the position and mindset of the user. They had 1.5 million customers within 2 years.

Design thinking is a human-centred 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.

References

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226141981_Design_Thinking_A_Fruitful_Concept_for_IT_Development

https://blog.brainstation.io/how-5-ceos-used-design-thinking-to-transform-their-companies/

About the Author –

Vasu heads Engineering function for A&P. He is a Digital Transformation leader with ~20 years of IT industry experience spanning across Product Engineering, Portfolio Delivery, Large Program Management etc. Vasu has designed and delivered Open Systems, Core Banking, Web / Mobile Applications etc.
Outside of his professional role, Vasu enjoys playing badminton and focusses on fitness routines.