Design Thinking Examples: Design Thinking Out Loud
The Ever lurking Threat of Bad Design
Before we get into the design thinking examples, let’s imagine a scenario…
A malicious entity has made its presence felt in your organisation, infecting those it contacts with frustration, lethargy, and dread.
It cannot be seen…
It cannot be heard…
It can only be felt…
And you have no idea that it even exists.
You only see a frequently burnt-out workforce, struggling to hit targets whilst the money keeps dripping away. What are you going to do?
A Word on Bad Design
Bad design is the problem, in fact it always has been. If you need proof, just have a quick glance around you.
- My desk – Someone had to design that. They had to consider the average height of a user, the average height of a desk chair, items that someone would likely have on their desk, the weight of said items, the footprint, adjustability, style, materials, etc
- My keyboard – Again, someone had to research and design it. How big are an average user’s fingertips? What’s their handspan? How close should the keys be to one another? At what point should a key register as pressed? What commonly used features could it include? What about durability? Or compatibility? Or aesthetics?
- My water bottle – Same story. How much liquid should it hold? What should the circumference be? What size it comfortable to grip? What should the sealing mechanism be? We want it to be watertight but easily opened. What if it gets knocked around in a bag? What materials are sturdy enough to take a hit, yet safe to drink from?
We don’t tend to think about good design because it just works. A well-designed product does exactly what you’d expect it to do, every time, whilst making it easy for the user to operate and is aesthetically pleasing. It doesn’t give you a reason to question it.
Bad design, however, makes its presence felt.
We can see it…
We can hear it…
We can feel it…
So why do we accept it in the software we use at work?
Dangerous Mentalities: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’
Also known as “It does the job”. And it might. You could be one of the lucky few using a well-designed solution. Or you could be even luckier and have a team of incredibly patient and inventive users who have implemented multiple workarounds, tricks, and bodge jobs just to perform the simplest task. Do you know for certain which one you are? If you think you may be the second, then check under the bed, lock the doors, barricade the windows…your malicious entity is lurking, and his work has already begun. In real terms, bad design is slowing your team down by creating inefficiencies and is costing you revenue, time, and training costs should staff turnover become prevalent.
The silver bullet to bad design
Good news everyone! You don’t need a shirtless, bandana wearing Rambo, an exo-suit wielding Ripley, or a wild eyebrowed, Scottish Time Lord. All you need is some design thinking. In my experience, the design thinking process can be summed up nicely in a single sentence.
“It puts people first”.
By spending a little time to truly understand and empathise with users, design thinking allows the creation of a solution that is built with them in mind. Their daily tasks, their routines, their responsibilities, their workflow, their devices, their operating system, their experience. In short, everything is designed to make their job as efficient as possible.
The Design Thinking Methodology contains 5 steps focused on creating the best possible user experience for your colleagues. These steps are:
- Step 1 – Explore: Explore Innovation Opportunities
- Step 2 – Discover: Discover and gain a deep understanding of customers’ and their end-users’ needs
- Step 3 – Design: Design and create a prototype of the solution
- Step 4 – Deliver: Deliver functional solutions for productive use
- Step 5 – Run & Scale: Run and scale the solution, and deploy across the company
Design Thinking Example & UI5
Tim’s Speedy Delivery Company is having problems with resource management.
Managers struggle to see which drivers they have available at any given time. This information is currently held in excel spreadsheets which managers then use to update a master spreadsheet once per month.
Leave/Sick request forms come through via emails from the drivers which managers must manually sort through and approve or deny before updating their personal spreadsheets. This process can take longer than necessary and often contains errors.
Tim’s Speedy Delivery Company also has employees overseas and struggles to track national and religious holidays, further compounding the problem and causes stress and frustration to their drivers.
As part of the Discover phase, questionnaires are sent out to drivers, managers, and other stakeholders to uncover the main causes of frustration.
Short interviews with a small group of employees are then conducted by the Design Thinking IT partner to gain further understanding.
Anonymous personas are then created based on the real information gathered. Here’s an example:
Role: HGV Driver
Background: Paul has 2 children and wants to book leave around the school holidays in order to take his family on holiday.
Goals: Paul wants to request leave and have his request reviewed as quickly as possible so that he can book a family holiday. He needs to see how many days of leave he has available and be notified promptly when his request has been reviewed.
Blockers: Paul can’t remember how much leave he has left and can’t afford to wait weeks for his request to be seen as holiday prices rise when booking at short notice. He doesn’t often have time to check his emails on the road so would like to be able to request leave quickly via his mobile and be sent a notification when a decision has been taken.
Frustrations: Paul has often experienced frustration when leave that was initially approved by his manager has not been communicated to the delivery manager or has been communicated incorrectly, causing him to be scheduled to work on days that he had booked off. He also finds it frustrating that his requests seem to take so long to be looked at and that he has to scroll through his emails to find out the results. On the occasions where his request has been denied, no explanation was given which leaves him wondering why.
Personas such as these are used to inform the design process. By understanding Paul on a much deeper level, we can avoid the pitfalls that plague “off-the-shelf” solutions.
The Design Phase is fundamentally the bringing together of data into a visual medium and design thinking does this by iteration.
Initially, tools such as Photoshop, Invision, and Mural are used to begin designing the look and feel of the product, with guidance from the user personas. These prototypes can then be replicated using UI5 in SAP’s Business Application Studio in the form of a clickable prototype, so that Paul can gain some early hands-on experience with the application and provide feedback and comments. Iteration then begins as we make tweaks and improvements before building the fully functional application.
Specialist UX tools such as eye-tracking software can also be used to record how a user interacts with a product. Using this, we can answer questions such as “Is this element where Paul expects it to be?”, “Does this workflow make sense to him?”, “Have we accounted for X use case?”.
These are all important factors to consider in order to create a great user experience.
Now that we’ve successfully navigated the explore, discover, and design phases, we can enter the exciting deliver phase.
In this phase, we see our user data and prototypes transform into a fully functional solution with a great user experience.
The delivery phase is broken down into short sprints, allowing the design team to work on different areas of the project simultaneously. These sprints should be tracked by a Project Manager in order to maintain momentum and visibility.
When the sprints are complete, we thoroughly and extensively test the solution before handing over to the deployment team for the next phase.
Run & Scale
During the run & scale phase, the app is deployed to Tim’s Speedy Delivery Company’s environment. Our aftercare team remain on hand to tackle any change requests that the customer may have.
Following on from the success of the initial deployment, Tim’s Speedy Delivery Company choose to scale the solution and deploy it across their entire operation. Adoption of the solution is increased and reinforced by drivers like Paul who have been telling their colleagues how much easier the new app is to use and other benefits.
We can often become dazzled by the latest tech innovations and new functionalities, but we rarely notice that these advancements would mean nothing without the UX research to support them. A little extra effort to engage with the design thinking process can reap massive business benefits down the line.
So, for 2024, let’s all make the choice to work smarter. Let’s review processes and ask ourselves “Does it really have to be this hard?”
When Design thinking is utilised correctly, the benefits to an organisation can be huge. For more information the benefits of design thinking, click here.