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Here, it’s about gaining an empathic understanding of the problem we are trying to solve, this is usually achieved through user research, working with users to identify the underlying user requirements that need to be addressed.
Empathy is essential for a user-centered design process, because it allows us to put aside our own assumptions and get a real view of the users, with their frustrations, hopes, fears, abilities, limitations, objectives, reasoning and needs.
At this stage, it can be very beneficial for our research to carry out surveys, interviews, workshops, competitors analysis and any other type of technique that could allows us to obtain relevant information to help us in empathic understanding.
It’s time to process gathered data during the Empathize stage. We then analyze our observations and synthesize them to define the core problems we have identified. These definitions are called problem statements.
We can produce materials that will aid the outlining of the Project. Extract insights, find tasks affinity, identify main user profiles to create personas, sitemaps, content inventories, screen flows, navigation models, task flows, user journeys and scenarios. All these artifacts can help us to keep our efforts user-centered before proceeding to ideation.
With this research in hand, we define the problem we’re trying to solve and establish a hypothesis.
We can start generating ideas, the knowledge acquired during the previous two phases gives us the basis to “think outside the box”, looking for alternative ways to view the problem and identify opportunities and innovative solutions to the problem statement we have created. Techniques like brainstorming are particularly helpful at this stage to explore many possible solutions in a spontaneous, free-flowing and “non-linear” way.
This is an experimental phase used to test or validate ideas, design assumptions and other aspects of its conceptualisation, so that the designer/s involved can make appropriate refinements or possible changes in direction.
The aim is to identify the best possible solution for each problem found. This could be done using simply paper prototyping, producing some inexpensive, scaled-down versions of the product (or specific features found within the product) to investigate the ideas we’ve generated. Using this prototype we test our assumptions, measuring against our hypothesis.
Although in the final phase, prototypes are rigorously tested, design thinking is iterative – so teams often use the results to redefine one or more additional problems. For this reason, sometimes we go back to the previous stages to make new iterations, alterations and refinements or to find or discard alternative solutions.
At each loop throughout the process, the fidelity of our prototypes increases. The earlier in the process we can identify and fix problems, the easier and the less expensive it is. The further into a process we get, as the fidelity of what we’re building increases, the more expensive it becomes to make changes. This is where prototyping comes in.
The testing sessions provide new information and are repeated until an MVP is obtained. Lastly, design specifications are created and the wireframes are converted into a complete design solution. The design is evaluated with interested parties for feedback.
To conclude, we must understand that each project is different, these detailed steps are processes that contributes to the entire design project, but their set is not a structure of sequential steps that can be executed in all cases.
The main objective in every project is to obtain the deepest understanding of the users and to find out what their ideal solution or product would be.