Innovative products don’t just happen. They may begin as a flash of inspiration or a brilliant idea, but they have to be nurtured into something tangible. Most times, there is no epiphany. Instead, innovation comes because of a systematic process that involves “more perspiration than inspiration.” That’s design thinking.
Don’t wait for a brilliant idea to strike. Instead, take control and make it happen. This getting started guide is the perfect place to start.
Empathize and Understand
It’s nearly impossible to come up with an innovative solution unless you know a problem exists. To do this, understand the customer or user experience. That can be a difficult stage for designers because it involves letting go of all assumptions. Anything that you believe you know about the customer, the product they are using, and the processes they understand may not be reality.
Instead, this is where designers and developers listen and observe with a single goal; understanding. There are some steps you can take to help make this process fruitful.
- Conducting Qualitative Interviews: Asking open-ended questions of users intending to understand their experience
- Immersion: Taking on the role of the user to better understand them
- Observation: Watching users to see what they do and what is important to them
Designers can use empathy maps during this phase to help them better document what the user says, thinks, feels, and does.
Define The Problem
Now that you understand the user experience, you will have a better idea of their challenges. It’s time to define the problem. If you’ve uncovered multiple issues, this is an excellent starting point to prioritize based on needs and resources. You can address additional issues in another iteration.
Write out a simple problem statement based on what you have observed. Be sure to do it in plain, conversational terms from a human perspective.
For example, a business-centered problem statement might be, “Reduce friction in the user interface, and lower related support calls by 20%.” A human-centered problem statement would be, “Help people track their habits, and improve their fitness goals.”
How Do You Agree on a Problem, Let Alone Make an Empathetic Problem Statement?
During the empathy stage, you should have gathered together observations, answers to questions, quotes, and other materials. Now, it’s time to analyze all of that data to identify themes and patterns. Essentially, what problems do users experience across the board? How are they solving those problems? Which issues are causing the most frustration?
By knowing the most significant issues, you better understand the problems that have the biggest impact. When you see how they solve those problems, you have a leaping-off point for creating a more innovative solution.
Ideation is a process that brings on the spark of creation and excitement that allows you or your team to conceptualize a necessary solution in your life or business. It’s essential at this stage to know what solutions currently exist and outline the reasons you think your idea is significantly different.
Ideation shouldn’t be confused with brainstorming, although brainstorming can undoubtedly be helpful. Instead, it’s a multi-step method used in product design for years. Here are the steps involved.
1. Plan the Ideation Session
Planning is essential to ensure that something useful comes from this stage. Here, you will choose a facilitator, determine the technique you’ll use, gather any needed tools, and decide who will attend the session. Prepare “how might we” questions to stimulate the exchange of ideas.
Your ideation session agenda may look like this:
Subject: Ideation Session For Fitness App Interface Goals
Attendees: UX design team, Business analyst, Product Manager, Interface developer
Facilitator: Joe Smith
Goals: Produce a list of workable ideas that improve the app user’s ability to enter and track their habits to improve their fitness.
Notes: Whiteboards, note paper, index cards, markers, and other materials will be provided.
Time Limit: 60 Minutes.
2. Conduct the Ideation Session
The most important thing here is to get as many ideas on the table as possible. Remind everyone present that quantity is better than quality and that there are no bad ideas.
As the session begins, introduce the technique that the team will use. Then, go over the basics of that for anyone who isn’t familiar. The most common techniques are:
- Body mapping
Again, warn participants that editing themselves at this stage is counterproductive.
3. Narrow Down The Best Ideas
Now it’s time to look at the merits of each idea. Take a systematic approach here. Ideas that may seem incredible at first may not be feasible. Seemingly poor ideas might have more value than they seem.
One way to determine which ideas are worth pursuing is to ask two questions about each of them?
- Is this a workable solution from a technical standpoint?
- Will the user get enough value from it?
If the answer to either question is no, toss that idea.
4. Rank the Best Ideas
How do you identify the solution that is the best of the best? Try a scoring system. Create a list of criteria that each idea should meet. For example:
- No similar solutions on the market
- Low development cost
- Reaches a broad customer demographic
- Lack of technological barriers
The idea that hits on the most points will be the winner.
You have an idea to pursue, but there’s more to consider. Once you understand how you will stand out, you need to outline everything necessary for the concept to be a success. Those are the business requirements.
Remember that you started by taking a human-centered approach, which is how perspective now connects with the business side of things. You may accomplish this by taking a step back and getting feedback from stakeholders who aren’t directly involved with the design or use of the product. Their perspectives, combined with what you’ve gained from users, will give you the data you need to create a business requirements document.
What Is a Business Requirements Document?
This is a key document for any design project, where you justify the need for the project, state what you are trying to accomplish, set the parameters, and come up with a detailed list of requirements. These are the terms you must address for a successful outcome.
Here are a few examples of what requirements you might outline in this stage:
- Calorie tracking functionality
- Interface with meal planning apps to upload meals automatically
- Daily, weekly, and monthly performance report
- Goal and milestone checking
- Monetization through premium products such as wearables
The idea is to establish requirements you must meet to be successful from a business perspective.
A competitive analysis will give your designer the proper direction and enable them to understand what is currently successful. For instance, why not look at Amazon for the way they built a shopping cart when they invested millions of dollars in research to find the best methods. That information is free to you!
Take advantage of the work that has been done before you, and learn from your competitors. They say the early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. Besides, when you know about the competitor’s product, you can use that as a baseline for creating something better.
This is a critical stage and shouldn’t be taken lightly. This stage sets the course for your entire product and dictates the direction for development. You want to make sure that you lock in your logo and style guide (fonts, color scheme, etc.) in your design phase. Then, work through some rough wireframes, giving the idea and direction for the sections of your product. Then, once you approve the structural design (aka framework), you can begin filling in the details such as actual content (e.g., images, vocabulary, etc.).
If you create an entirely new product, you will produce a standalone set of design documents, prototypes, and other deliverables. If your design is an improvement on an existing product, you can build off of documents and plans already in place.
This step isn’t always necessary. However, you should take it if you’re building a project with significant development costs. It will help you to avoid creating something in the wrong direction. Basically, you bring the designs into the real world and get feedback from those in your target market. For example, if you were developing a sports meetup app, you might go to a local basketball court to ask some people what they think about the product. That will ensure that you are investing in a solid product. You might also gain some helpful design feedback.
Assuming your product makes it past the market validation stage, it’s time to make all the work your team has done into something real. To do that, you must find a company that can work within your budget. They must act as a partner.
A technical strategic partner will give you your best solution, including industry-leading solutions and future-proofed architecture. You should never feel strong-armed into a relationship with a development firm. Instead, they should be thrilled to provide you with a proposal that you can review thoroughly, even take somewhere to get a second opinion.
Be wary of any company that pressures you to make a fast decision. Ask questions. Ask how they came up with the timeline they’ve given you. If you’re being promised a cheap product that’s delivered quickly and of high quality, there’s a good chance that you are being misled. Some companies promise a short timeline to earn your immediate investment. Instead, remember the old software development adage, “Fast, cheap, or good? Pick 2.”
For you to communicate and understand better, it’s helpful to grasp some basic concepts. It’s also essential to know how the software development company works. What processes and methodologies do they use?
Software Development Life Cycle
The software development life cycle (SDLC) is the entire process that is used to produce an app, software, or other digital product that is viable. For example, if a developer states that they have full SDLC experience, what they mean is that they have worked on software development projects from beginning to end. The software development life cycle includes:
A development firm may use slightly different terms to describe this, but the concept remains the same.
Scrum/Agile Development Process
Development methodologies have encouraged best practices and get the best outcomes. Developers also follow them to get products completed efficiently. Scrum/Agile has emerged as the most widely adopted of these. Agile is the project management philosophy, and Scrum is the development methodology based on that philosophy. Here are some benefits of Agile/Scrum:
- More transparency
- Process helps keep business goals and technology aligned
- Faster development of additional features
- Easier to manage changes in priorities
Ask your development partner what methodologies they use and why.
Importance of Timeline And Communication
Like any other project, work with the developer to establish a timeline and communication plan. It will help to avoid misunderstandings, miscommunications, and poorly managed expectations. It also keeps everyone involved accountable and assures you that the process won’t be never-ending. Remember to hammer out important details, such as agreeing on the method and frequency of communication.
Here at Lexima, our vast expertise in the digital space fuels our mission of improving the way companies do business. We focus on delivering unique experiences to help differentiate your business from others. Our ultimate goal is to become a valued, long-term digital partner to help your business grow.
No matter where you are in this process, we can help. Our team specializes in developing unique, intuitive apps, websites, and software for clients like you. Contact us today. We’d love to partner with you.