How to Use the Design Thinking Processes to Improve Your UX Design

In this article, we’ll explore the step-by-step process of design thinking, discuss how it can be applied to improve your own UX design, and provide advice for ensuring you can create outstanding software products for your customers.

In a recent blog post, we explored the important topic of user experience (UX). In that article, we covered in detail why UX is crucial to businesses today and provided some tips for using UX to improve your relationships with your prospects and customers.
As mentioned in that article, when talking about UX these days, we’re most often referring to the experience people have when interacting with your organisation online. Most often, that will be using digital products like your website or mobile app.
You want to ensure that experience is as positive and seamless as possible. With that in mind, some key aspects of UX are to make those products simple, efficient, and easy-to-use. In practical terms, though, how you actually achieve great UX design is through the process of design thinking.

Understanding UX Design

UX design refers to the concept of planning, creating, and optimising the experience your users will have with your website, app, or any other digital product or service. Of course, this isn’t to be confused with user interface (UI) design or usability, which are separate components that sit within the wider area of UX. 

The aim of UX design is to make your customer journey through your brand’s digital channels convenient and satisfying, with as little friction as possible. But, like so many organisations, you’ll probably agree that’s much easier said than done. 

Achieving great UX design is a complex challenge that requires specialist skills and a great deal of expertise. For this reason, many businesses are unable to produce digital products that meet the expectations of their customers.

To help ease this challenge, it’s beneficial to embrace the concept of design thinking to take a more user-centric approach and improve your own UX design.

The Design Thinking Process

The key to great UX design is using processes and best practices to guide you towards making the best decisions for your end-users. Although most people associate the word ‘design’ with artistic creativity, to really succeed with UX you should approach it more like a science, following certain laws that are in place for good reason.
For example, while the more superficial elements of design could be subjective, like a colour scheme, font choice, or the positioning of a logo, there are some fundamental, objective steps to the process of creating a positive user experience.
Of course, you should still embrace your creative side to give your software products a unique quality, but the proven principles of design thinking should be followed to ensure the user’s best interests are at the heart of everything you do.

Step 1 – Empathise

Start by conducting research in order to learn more about who your users are, how they think, what they want, and what they don’t. 

Put simply, it’s almost impossible to design UX that your customers love by guessing or making assumptions. To give your users a satisfying experience, you need to find out what they want from them directly. 

This could involve running surveys, conducting a series of one-to-one interviews, or observing a group of users in a scenario relevant to the product you want to produce.

Either way, you should be looking to be able to understand and empathise with your users, allowing you to see your product from their perspective. 

Use this research and your findings to inform all your subsequent decisions.

Bonus tip: While your end users must be the focus and target of all your UX design, it’s also beneficial to research what your competitors are doing in the same area as well. Don’t just research your target audience. Research the market to find what already exists that works well, examples of things that don’t work well, identify gaps or opportunities to innovate, and so on. 

Step 2 – Define

Your research should make it clear the common goals and problems your users are facing when interacting with relevant services or products.
By analysing that, you can identify and define how you will solve a problem or meet a need for your users. Perhaps you’re allowing them to do something easier than they’ve ever been able to do it before, or removing a frustrating step in a time-consuming process.
Whatever it is you define, make it clear and specific to ensure your team is as focused as possible throughout the next steps in the process.
In some cases, it may also be beneficial to encourage collaboration between UX designers and other key stakeholders to answer all these questions.

Step 3 – Ideate

Once you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to do, it’s time to begin thinking of creative, innovative ways to do it.
At this stage, there’s no such thing as a bad idea. The point here is to think of as many ideas as possible that can solve the problem you defined in the previous stage.

To help get this started, ask questions like:

  • What purpose will it serve?
  • What problem will it solve?
  • What value will it provide?
  • What is the best format for it to exist in?
  • How will it work in practical terms?
  • How can we make it as efficient as possible?
  • How can we simplify it?
  • How can we differentiate it from similar products?

Once you have plenty of ideas, bring them together and see if there are opportunities to improve by combining two or more different concepts. Some ideas may hold the key to improving or simplifying others.

It will soon become clear which ideas are the most suitable for you to move forward with based on your goals and objectives. You can then narrow them down into a final short-list.

Step 4 – Prototype

Once you settle on a few of your best concepts, it’s time to build prototypes of those products to explore how well they work in practice. 

Based on your ideas, figure out what works and what doesn’t. If it’s a website or mobile app, build some wireframes, get feedback on those, then iterate based on those responses. 

Once you’ve done that, build a working prototype and then gather more feedback on that to help improve it further.

Step 5 – Test

Test your product out on real end-users to understand whether it provides the intended value and solves their problem when put into practice.

Run usability tests to validate your design and understand whether your users’ needs have been met through the decisions you’ve made.

Ask questions like:

  • How does using the product make them feel? 
  • Is it easy to use? 
  • What do they like about it, and what don’t they like?
  • Does it help them?
  • Has it improved a task or process for them? 

Based on these tests, you can iterate your product again to refine and tailor the UX further.

Step 6 – Implement

Once you’ve built your product, gained user feedback, and iterated, you’re ready to release it out into the world.

As valuable as true design thinking can be for your business, it’s pointless spending all this time and effort on UX design if you’re unable to then implement the solution properly. 

The success of design thinking lies in its ability to solve that problem for your end users.

Do you want to find out how to improve your UX Design and improve your customer journey?

Get in touch and we’ll help you understand the best approach for your business

The Benefits of Better UX design

Improving your UX design will obviously allow you to develop better websites, apps, and other digital products and services. This will help you attract and retain more users, while also standing out from competitors. 

When your prospects and customers are having a more convenient and satisfying experience interacting with your brand online, you’ll begin to experience a number of other valuable benefits as a result, such as: 

  • Increased conversion rates online
  • New customers becoming aware of your brand 
  • Higher levels of customer retention
  • Improved customer loyalty and online sharing 
  • Competitive advantages
  • Faster development time and reduced costs
  • Stronger ROI on your digital assets and marketing

Final Thoughts

Even though UX was previously a concern mostly for companies in the tech sector, so much of our daily lives now take place online that it must become a priority for everyone. In fact, it’s difficult for any business to survive today if your customers aren’t having a positive experience on their digital channels. 

If you ignore design thinking and settle for poor UX, you’ll inevitably lose customers to competitors who have taken a more customer-centric approach when building their website or app.