Dive into design thinking and explore why UX is its integral part. Discover why design thinking is important for a new product development process.
Design thinking, a user-centric methodology, offers unique solutions to existing problems in a product development process by focusing on user experience. By prioritizing user experience, this methodology ensures the creation of products that resonate with their intended audience. In the context of new product development, understanding the interests and pain points of users becomes paramount.
The key principles of design thinking are:
- Immerse yourself in the user experience;
- Think out of the box;
- Avoid putting yourself in frames.
Design Thinking Stages
Design thinking follows a process comprising five key stages:
- Empathy Stage;
- Focusing Stage;
- Ideation Stage;
- Prototyping Stage;
- Testing Stage.
The distinctive feature of the design thinking methodology lies in its unique ability to shift your thought process from abstract to concrete and vice versa throughout all stages of the process. The process could be broken down into:
- divergent thinking;
- convergent thinking.
The former emphasizes expansive thinking to explore various possible solutions to the identified problem, while the latter involves evaluating and narrowing down the proposed ideas to arrive at the most viable and effective solution. The 2 processes complement each other and allow you to take into account all possible solutions to the problem, carefully evaluate each option, and then blend them together, resulting in an unconventional and innovative outcome.
Empathy is the first practice of design thinking which requires deep research of the user experience (UX). At this stage, it is of importance to determine:
- Target audience;
- Its pain points.
Empathy Stage implies the collection of requirements for a future product's design to be based on user experience (UX). Empathy stage requires collecting unmet needs of potential customers in a particular area of interest.
During focusing, we search for a common, pervasive problem, analyze and systematize the data collected at the empathy stage in order to formulate the problems and needs of our users. This stage aims to highlight the most significant problem in the market, one that is lacking a solution for the majority of users.
Upon defining the problem and discovering what the user lacks, ideation starts. In most of the cases, ideation is accompanied by brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming is just one of the techniques which is better done single-handedly, with the results further discussed with the team.
At this stage, it is important to:
- write out ALL ideas;
- encourage thinking creatively.
After generating a range of potential solutions during the ideation stage, our next step involves careful consideration and evaluation of these ideas. The goal is to select the idea that not only addresses the needs of consumers but also aligns with our own objectives. We narrow our choice down to one idea, cutting off options that require a lot of labor or non-viable options.
Prototyping stage implies the transition from hypotheses to actions. This stage is of special importance in a new product development process as prototypes help test your idea quickly. Prototyping assists in either confirming or refuting the idea we have chosen. In the event that the prototype fails to meet user expectations, we actively seek feedback from them. This helps us better understand users' needs and not waste our resources on launching a useless product.
Usability testing is the final stage of design thinking which allows us to try out our prototype and unleash its drawbacks.
One of its principles is that the developer wins regardless of which stage they will have to return to after testing the prototype.
It is completely normal to return to the previous stages of the design thinking process. The whole process is structured in such a way that we can return at any time to any stage and start working again.
Example of Design Thinking in the Development of a New Product
To illustrate the essence of design thinking in developing new products, let us share our journey with the Rodent Detector project. The Rodent Detector represents a cunning device, adept at documenting the passage of rodents while dutifully transmitting its findings to a central server.
In the realm of the food industry, vermin and insects pose a vexing threat to both businesses and consumers alike. For this reason, this industry lies under the watchful eye of sanitary authorities, governed by an array of regulations.
Sanitary standards differ based on the type of business, but one thing remains consistent: if pests exceed the allowable limit in a place, specialized pest control services must be called upon. EnCata was approached by a customer with a unique requirement. They needed a device that could smartly decide when to call pest control services without harming the critters or risking people's well-being. This solution would also help reduce the costs of pest elimination.
The first step was determining the potential customers:
- cafes and restaurants;
- food processing plants;
- warehouses with products.
The common "pain" of our potential customers is a lack of non-lethal devices for counting the number of pests in their premises with minimal labor costs.
During the empathy stage, we carefully selected potential clients and grouped them based on a common feature – the size of their premises. This led us to identify two main directions:
- Small premises, such as cafes, restaurants, and canteens. In these places, rodent activity becomes apparent relatively quickly as they tend to visit every nook and cranny at least once a day.
- Large premises, like factories and warehouses, where traces of rodent activity may go unnoticed for months due to their hard-to-reach and less-visited areas.
Having gathered information on both directions and recognizing their unique characteristics, we established three crucial requirements that will guide us in crafting a solution:
- Ensuring effective communication and easy deployment of traps in different types of rooms, while also allowing for simple maintenance and folding.
- Striving for operational autonomy of at least one year or more.
- Developing a non-lethal detection method that optimizes energy consumption while remaining efficient in identifying rodent presence.
At the stage of the Ideation, we formulated a general concept of the future device, which was to include three main components:
- Sensor for detecting rodents.
- Enclosure through which the rodent will pass.
- Connection by which the signal about the passage of the rodent through the trap will be transmitted to the cloud storage.
At the ideation stage, we considered the following options for detecting rodents:
When considering the characteristics of each of the sensors proposed above, we excluded options 1, 2 and 3 since they are not able to provide the desired battery life of the trap due to their own current consumption.
Therefore, to detect rodents, we chose a capacitive sensor, the energy consumption of which is only 3 µA, which is approximately 1 year of battery life of our device.
When working out the types of communication for transmitting a signal to the cloud storage, two communication options were considered:
- NB IoT;
Preference was given to the first option (NB IoT) since it was easier to implement and was a quick way to test the chosen concept.
During the prototyping stage, we set out to test the feasibility of our signal tracking and recording concept. Our initial prototype was quite humble - just a simple cardboard box with a network of wires (active area) placed at the box's bottom, all connected to a capacitive sensor.
During the testing phase, we wanted to ensure the sensor's effectiveness, so we decided to place a pet hamster in our prototype (don't worry, no harm came to any animals during our experiments).
The prototyping and testing stages are closely related to each other. With each test, we fine-tuned our prototype, going back and forth several times. Through three iterative cycles of prototyping, we finally arrived at the first functional prototype of the Rodent Detector device, ready for real-world field testing.
Design thinking is a fantastic approach for crafting innovative solutions to your challenges while nurturing your team's creative thinking. By integrating it into new product development, you can uncover unconventional ideas that will breathe life into your projects.