Power Of Design Thinking User Centred Design In Ux

Harnessing the power of Design Thinking & User Centred Design in UX

Design Thinking and User Centred Design are two key methodologies with major advantages when applied with the goal of improving user experiences. While they share important characteristics, they are separate but complementary practices that can be used for solving problems and meeting user needs. We’ve put together a high-level summary of these two processes, highlighting their similarities and what differentiates them, plus how we weave each into the UX practice at Boxfusion so that the solutions we deliver meet our customers’ business needs while also having awareness of user needs, to create products which they actually want to use.

User Centred Design #

As the name suggests, User Centred Design (UCD)is a design methodology which puts user needs at the heart of the process, with the goal of creating products which make user lives easier. Central to the UCD process is using cycles of iteration to continually incorporate user feedback to create the best possible product for them.

There are a number of principles which are key to UCD, such as involving end-users as early as possible and at all stages of a project. The motivation is to get user input even when initial ideas are germinating since the earlier users are consulted the lower the risk of making large, expensive changes when a product is much nearer an expected completion.

There are a few core stages to the UCD process.

  1. Understand the user and their context of use through user research techniques such as interviews and usability testing. Ideally, this should begin before a design is produced.
  2. Specify the user requirements. Agree which areas should be addressed and the benefit of doing so to the users and the business. This is also the time to decide on which success metrics should be measured.
  3. Create a solution to meet these needs. Designers will dig more deeply into the ways the requirements could best be met through journey mapping and wireframing among other design approaches.
  4. Evaluate designs against the requirements. Here, usability testing by real users on prototypes of the solution at various stages means that designs can be fine-tuned through iteration.

Design Thinking #

Design thinking on the other hand is a non-linear, iterative process designed to solve especially complex problems in innovative ways. It does this through understanding users, challenging assumptions and focusing heavily on iteration and testing to solve these difficult problems.

The design thinking process has five steps.

  • Empathise - Gain a deep knowledge and understanding of the issue by speaking with those affected by them, typically through the various styles of user research.
  • Define - Analyse the knowledge gained through this research to define the problem at hand.
  • Ideate - This stage involves extensively brainstorming for solutions to the problem that has been defined and encouraging as many creative inputs as possible, since the issue may be solved by a novel idea.
  • Prototype - Create a prototype of the best solution ideas so that these can be evaluated.
  • Test - Test your prototype with end-users, gathering their feedback in order to iterate to improve the design.

Designers are free to follow these steps in an order which suits them, for example jumping from the empathise stage to creating a quick prototype if they think this might help with ideation.

Design Thinking is often applied to product design with a focus on end-users, but can equally be used to find solutions to improve organisational processes on a larger scale, or even applied to ‘wicked’ problems like climate change. At the same time, it aims to find solutions which are technically feasible, desirable to users, and viable (cost-effective to the business).

Comparing UCD and Design Thinking #

User Centred Design and Design Thinking are similar in many ways, while having some core differences. They share some process steps and a general mindset, each placing an emphasis on empathy, problem-solving, iteration and collaboration. This collaboration is between users, business executives, designers, developers and more, bringing together diverse perspectives to build more robust, considered solutions.

However, what differentiates Design Thinking is its application to complex or ‘wicked’ problems, and its greater focus on feasibility, desirability and viability for the business. By contrast, UCD is focused primarily on addressing user needs and wants.

User Centred Design and Design Thinking at Boxfusion #

At Boxfusion, we believe that products which enable and excite users are vastly more successful, with greater user adoption and streamlined user journeys providing immediate benefits. Central to our UX practice is how we incorporate elements of Design Thinking and UCD into our work to deliver outstanding customer experiences and business outcomes.

This means that…

  • Whether customers or internal staff, your users are always front and centre of our design process. At the discovery stage, through interviewing and shadowing we delve into users’ world to understand how they use your systems, which issues they encounter and how things can be improved for them.
  • User testing is essential for ensuring that our findings and the way these will be applied will work for users and your organisation in real life. We ask for users to be involved with testing prototypes of our designs so that at this early stage solutions can be validated and tweaked if necessary.
  • We use an iterative design approach, allowing space for prototype testing rounds to reach the best solutions for everyone.
  • Later in the process, checkpoints of our build progress provide another opportunity for refining solutions, making sure that what is being developed meets your user expectations and needs.
  • When a solution is ready for user acceptance testing, we always recommend that real users perform testing on the finished product as a final validation and opportunity to gather feedback for further iterations and improvements to the product.
  • Where appropriate, Boxfusion uses an agile approach to product development, crafting an MVP which can be built upon and improved through continuous user feedback. If you’re interested in our development methodology, have a look at our blog on the benefits of Agile vs Waterfall.

These are just a few examples of how we put Design Thinking and User Centred Design to work at Boxfusion.

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