• IDEO’s 6 step human-centric design thinking process is key to creating products users actually want.
  • Different from standard 5 steps, this approach includes Observation, Ideation, Rapid Prototyping, User Feedback, Iteration, and Implementation.
  • This proven method leads to innovation and differentiation, giving brands competitive advantage over linear design ideologies.

Human-centric design has become an empathetic powerplay for brands around the world.

Empathizing with your users allows you to get an up close and personal view of their likes, dislikes, struggles, and motivations as they use your products.

Businesses are taking advantage of design thinking models found on the web, and have quickly realized that these methods are key to creating products and services that actually work.

No one way is right. But it’s possible to get started solving any product or service issues by using a design thinking train of thought. Employing this process and tackling complex problems is easier than you think. Regardless of the type of problem you’re solving, these 6 phases will help develop a product that meets users needs.

1) Observation

This first phase is all about visualizing and understanding who your end user is. Similar to the widely known Empathy phase, this lays the foundation for designing a product that brings value to your users.

Your goal is to observe and collect information about users and create a user persona. Do this through:

  • Survey answers
  • In person interviews (digital and physical)
  • Research notes

One fascinating example of observation comes from MailChimp.

When redesigning their app, the team traveled to different cities around the world to meet with clients in their workspaces. Here they learned how their users worked day-by-day, their goals, the obstacles they faced. This allowed them to empathize with their users accurately and prototype a new app that met their needs.

2) Ideation

Now that your team understands your user’s needs, it’s time to explore all solutions possible your team can offer. Ideation can be structured in many different ways, but the most effective way to get diverse ideas is collaboration from multidisciplinary team members.

Remember, no idea should be evaluated in this phase. You have two goals here: (1) create an open environment where people can freely contribute (2) record every idea on whiteboards, sticky notes, random bits of paper, backs of hands (not really) – but you get the idea.

If you’re a moderator, make sure the team stays on the same page: solutions for your users. After brainstorming, discuss and narrow down ideas until you select a few to prototype.

3) Rapid Prototyping

In this phase, you want to develop low-fidelity prototypes such as wireframes or paper prototyping to rapidly test user ideas with minimal investment.

The purpose here is to explore different solutions for user feedback to what features work, and which don’t. Without it these simple prototypes, you risk completely missing the problem and wasting everyone’s time (and money).

4) User Feedback

Getting feedback is the most important phase of the process. This involves getting real users to interact with your prototypes and gathering feedback.

Take notes, listen carefully as they engage, and find common problems to make more advanced prototypes. The fewer questions asked, the more on target you are for a viable solution.

5) Iteration

Use feedback from users to continually design advanced prototypes. Odds are, you’ll revisit this phase a few times before nailing down the final solution. This is all apart of making sure your product empathizes with users needs.

As you move through Iteration, you’ll see the final product take shape – which is great because the last stage is to materialize and implement your solution.

6) Implementation

Here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – implementation. You’ve gone through multiple rounds of testing, validated new elements with users, and brought this vision to life.

But the process doesn’t stop here. Whether you’re designing landing pages or an updating a new app, the goal is to transform the user’s life – and this involves constantly resisting the cycle to build the best products and services on the market.

Final Thoughts:

The IDEO design thinking methodology is a hands-on, human-centric approach to problem-solving that can bring innovation and differentiation to tired products and services.

If you want to gain competitive advantage and improve your end users lives, use these 6 phases as a guideline to develop new products and services.