In this blog post, we will explore the design thinking definition, key principles and stages of design thinking, and introduce the design thinking tools for each stage to help you implement design thinking in your work.
What is design thinking?
Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that focuses on understanding the user’s needs and creating solutions that meet those needs. It encourages a hands-on approach, where ideas are rapidly prototyped and tested.
The design thinking process involves several steps that help bring this approach to life, starting with understanding the user’s needs and turning ideas into prototypes.
What are the principles of design thinking?
Design thinking is built on certain principles that are reflected in its methodology. Here are five key principles that are critical to design thinking:
1. User-centeredness and empathy
Design thinking focuses on finding solutions that meet users’ needs and responding to their feedback. People, not technology, are the driving force behind innovation; therefore, a crucial part of the process is understanding the user’s perspective and building genuine empathy for the target audience.
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The goal of design thinking is to bring together diverse perspectives and ideas, which leads to innovation. The approach encourages collaboration among teams that may only sometimes work together.
Design thinking is a solution-focused framework that prioritizes generating a wide range of ideas and potential solutions. Ideation is both a core principle of design thinking and a step in the process. The ideation step is a judgment-free zone where participants are encouraged to focus on the number of ideas rather than their quality.
4. Experimentation and iteration
Design thinking is about coming up with ideas and turning them into prototypes, testing them, and making changes based on user feedback. The approach is iterative, and designers should be prepared to repeat specific steps as they uncover flaws and shortcomings in the early versions of the proposed solution.
5. Bias toward action
Design thinking is a hands-on approach to problem-solving that emphasizes action over the discussion. Instead of guessing what users want, design thinking encourages you to engage with them directly and turn potential solutions into tangible prototypes that can be tested in real-world contexts.
Five key stages of the design thinking process
Now that we understand what design thinking is and the fundamental principles that guide it, let’s take a closer look at how the methodology is put into practice.
We will examine the five critical stages in the design thinking process. Click at any of them to jump straight to the list of tools!
Top 15 design thinking tools at each stage
Let’s take a closer look at each of the stages and the design thinking tools that are used during them.
In the Empathize stage, you must understand the user’s needs, challenges, and behaviors through research and observation. To conduct user research, some of the common research methods are surveys and user interviews.
Surveys allow for gathering quantitative data about the user’s needs, challenges, and behaviors. On the other hand, user interviews allow for a deep understanding of the user’s needs, challenges, and behaviors by talking to them directly.
UXtweak is a user research platform that offers a variety of tools for you to get to know your users better. Some of it’s tools that are useful in the Empathize stage are: surveys, card sorting and tree testing, moderated and unmoderated usability tests and others.
UXtweak also provides help with recruiting participants for your study.
- You can share your study link with your target audience in any manner you choose.
- Use the Onsite Recruiting feature to recruit testers from your own website.
- Alternatively, order testers from UXtweak’s 155M+User Panel.
The tool offers deep analytics of your studies and customized PDF reports of the results that you can share with your stakeholders and other teams.
UXtweak’s pricing is very transparent. Sign up for a free plan or choose one of the paid solutions, starting at $80/month, billed annually.
Typeform is a Spanish online surveying tool that helps you to design beautiful survey forms in no time. It’s great for gathering both quantitative and qualitative feedback from users and is perfect for the Empathize stage of the project.
A great advantage of this platform are numerous templates they offer to save you time on designing new forms. With typeform you can create evaluation forms, feedback and satisfaction surveys, marketing polls and other types of questionnaires.
Typeform’s pricing is 21 EUR/month when paid annually, but you can also make use of their free plan.
If you are looking for a platform for conducting real-time user interviews and usability testing, check out UserZoom – a cloud-based UX research platform.
UserZoom’s pricing is tailored to your specific needs, so a product demonstration is required before starting. Once the setup is complete, you can conduct remote user research sessions using the platform.
After gathering a wealth of information about users, their needs, and problems during the “Empathize” stage, you can analyze and synthesize this information to identify the true problem that needs to be solved.
A great tool for the define stage is EnjoyHQ, a centralized repository for UX research, that allows you to import, organize, and search through user research data in one location.
It is designed to help UX researchers and product teams collect, analyze, and share user research data efficiently and effectively. It provides a centralized location for all user research information, including interview transcripts, survey results, and customer feedback.
EnjoyHQ includes features such as auto-transcription of audio and video, keyword search, and data segmentation. It is available as a self-service tool with a free plan and paid options.
5. Make my persona
Make my persona in a tool by Hubspot that helps to organize all the information you have about your target persona. They also offer templates you can use to save some time on design. This tool is completely free and allows you to create as many personas as you need which is great for segmentation.
It guides you through 19 essential questions about your persona and then sends you results in a Word format via email.
Flowmapp offers a set of UX tools to help you visualize customer journeys, user flows, sitemaps and even create personas. Flowmapp makes collaboration easy so you won’t have a problem with involving other team members in the Define stage and user journey mapping process.
They have a free plan that allows you to have 1 active project at a time. Pro plan is $11/month billed annually.
With a solid understanding of your users and their needs, you can begin to generate ideas and explore creative solutions to the problem at hand.
At this stage, we can recommend two platforms.
The first one is Miro.
Miro is a web-based, collaborative virtual workspace that allows teams to brainstorm, plan, and organize projects and ideas using digital whiteboards, sticky notes, and diagrams.
It offers a variety of templates and tools for team collaboration, such as real-time co-editing, chat, and video conferencing. It can be integrated with other productivity apps like Trello and Jira.
Miro is used by teams in various industries including software development, design, and marketing to improve teamwork, creativity, and productivity.
Ideaflip is a simple tool to assist you and your team during brainstorming sessions.
It allows you to create sticky notes in an online space, collaborate, vote for ideas, and even discuss ideas in the breakout rooms. It’s a fun and effective way to gather ideas during the Ideation stage, especially for remote teams.
Their free personal plan allows for 3 boards, and 2-guest collaboration. Paid solutions start at $6/month/user.
The second great platform for the ideate stage is MindMeister, a cloud-based collaborative mind-mapping software.
MindMeister allows users to visually organize and structure their thoughts, ideas, and information. It is used for brainstorming, planning, note-taking, and project management.
MindMeister can be used as a standalone tool or as part of a team collaboration platform and can be accessed through web browsers and desktop and mobile apps.
With MindMeister, users can create and edit mind maps, share them with others, and collaborate on them in real time. MindMeister is a popular tool for individuals because it has a free plan.
The prototyping stage involves creating scaled-down versions of the product so that it can be tested in real-life scenarios after brainstorming and ideation.
For creating prototypes, we highly recommend using Figma or InVision.
Figma is a web-based design tool that allows for creating and collaborating on design projects.
It offers features such as vector networks, prototyping, and real-time collaboration, making it a popular choice for UI/UX design teams. It can be used to design and share interactive mockups, wireframes, and prototypes with team members and stakeholders, and it also allows for commenting, version history, and asset export.
Additionally, it is a cross-platform tool that allows multiple users to work on the same design file simultaneously.
Figma offers a free pricing plan allowing users to access most of its features, including the ability to work on an unlimited number of projects, access basic design components, and collaborate with 2 editors in real time.
InVision is a digital product design platform that allows users to create interactive wireframes, mockups, and prototypes of their designs.
It provides a set of tools for creating and prototyping user interfaces and allows designers to share and collaborate on their designs with others in real time.
The platform also includes user testing, feedback and comments, and version control. It’s used by designers, product managers, developers and stakeholders to build, test, and collaborate on designs before they are developed and launched.
It offers a free plan, which includes access to essential prototyping and collaboration features, as well as paid plans with additional features and capabilities.
12. Adobe XD
A prototyping tool from the Adobe family, Adobe XD is a great vector-based tool to create wireframes and interactive prototypes of your product. The tool has a familiar interface to all Adobe users and is frequently updated with new features.
Adobe XD pricing is $22.99/month. Alternatively, you can buy the whole Adobe package with 20+ Creative Cloud apps, Adobe XD included, for US$84.99/month.
In the last stage of design thinking, you’ll evaluate the final product to confirm that it effectively addresses the problem you identified. This involves conducting user testing and usability studies, which may lead to revising one or more issues based on the new insights obtained.
The best way to test your prototype is using UXtweak’s Prototype Testing feature.
UXtweak Prototype Testing tool.
UXtweak is a perfect tool for the Test stage of the design thinking process. It has all the features you might need in one place including moderated and unmoderated usability tests, prototype testing, mobile app testing and others.
Creating a prototype test in UXtweak is super easy, here’s what you need to do:
- Once you have created a prototype, import it from your favorite prototyping tool; for example, Figma and InVision. Alternatively, you can manually link together wireframes, screenshots, or sketches inside UXtweak.
- To recruit testers, use the Onsite Recruiting feature or order from UXtweak’s 155M+ User Panel. You can also just send a study link to your own testers at no additional cost.
- Create a realistic set of tasks for your prototype test, such as making a purchase or registering for a service, in order to identify any shortcomings of your design.
- Use survey questions to filter out testers and gather additional insights and feedback. Organize testers into groups based on their characteristics for further analysis.
- Explore your results or export PDF reports
UXtweak offers a free starter plan, and paid solutions for 80€/month. You can also ask for an enterprise plan tailored to your project’s needs.
Learn more about Prototype User Testing. Or watch this video where we show how easy it is to set up a prototype testing study in UXtweak:
UserTesting is a platform that offers multiple usability testing solutions at one place. They are known for their extensive user panel and a wide list of features which includes moderated and unmoderated tests, mobile app testing, prototype testing and others.
The tool is pretty expensive as they’re mostly targeted at large enterprises. Pricing is available upon request, starting at 15K/year.
Lookback is a powerful user research tool that helps teams to conduct moderated and unmoderated usability tests as well as user interviews. It’s a great solution for those who are not looking for a big set of features but just want to run a quick test.
There’ve been complaints about their customer service as it only gets 2.1 on Capterra, however, it’s still a nice tool for its price.
Their plans start at $25 per month and have a 60-day free trial for each.
Why can’t there be just one tool for everything?
We really hope that all of these resources will be helpful and will aid you in developing amazing, customer-focused goods and services for your users.
If you don’t want to use a different tool for each stage, remember that UXtweak together with Figma or InVision can help you in most of the stages. Just create a free account at UXtweak and get started on your design thinking!