“The Internet is for everyone. It’s a wonderful collection of tools, information, and communities that are, by nature, non-exclusionary. Anyone with a web connection can access them.” Maxy Lotherington.
The design thinking process is allowing designers to create accessible web designs, improving the internet for everyone, especially those with impairments that affect their ability to utilize the web to their full potential.
Design thinking refers to the practical, strategic and cognitive processes that designers use to develop concepts and products. The key to design thinking in the digital world is to think like a designer in the way you lead, explore, create and innovate.
In the digital world, it is becoming clear that design thinking is rapidly becoming the mindset of choice for innovative businesses. Businesses who are reaping the benefits of design thinking are realising that designing is more than creating products and services; it can be applied to systems, procedures, protocols and customer experiences too.
So how can your company adopt a design thinking business strategy to harness the power of a technologically-driven business world?
Well, we took the time to sit down and do a deep dive on the matter with three design professionals who are utilizing the power of design thinking to navigate the ever-changing tech world with ease: Darcy Mangan, Senior User Experience Designer at EY, Tim Cheng, UX Experience Designer at Objective and Maxy Lotherington, Digital Product Designer at A Cloud Guru (ACG).
Here’s what they had to say.
Design thinking in action
As you now know, design thinking is not a quick, simple process. It requires systematic implementation and needs to be a part of your organization’s DNA if you are to reap the rewards.
Setting a vision
Mangan highlights how the success of the project is determined in the early stages of the design thinking process. He notes the significance of “setting a vision and principles to follow, as it allows us to find and highlight unique advantages that a particular service or business has and also find quick and easy wins that result in a large impact.”
Before beginning a new design project, in order to understand the complexity of the concept and to avoid making mistakes, Cheng states that it is crucial that I “gather as much information as possible of what and why and how we are designing. Then I will draw on paper the broad user flows and steps of what is required and if possible confirm all assumptions are correct.”
Is key before designing the interface. Collaboration gives the designer the opportunity to discuss with the developers what their ideas are before drawing anything on paper. For Mangan, collaboration involves empathising with all the parties who will be interacting with the design interface. Mangan states that this will “Involve activities such as interviews with a lot of open questions and site visits to fully understand the problem at hand, looking at what different audiences think, feel, say and do, persona creation, usability testing, a review of any existing research and analytics and prospective and retrospective user journey mapping.” Collaboration is an imperative step to engage, understand and co-create designs with the client.
Is the next step in the design thinking process. Ideation is the process where you generate ideas and solutions through sessions such as sketching, brainstorming and prototyping. During the ideation stage, Mangan believes “People are often daunted by the idea of being an active participant in ideation or being creative. Good design is inherently social and should be human-centred. To be truly successful the social interaction needs to occur without judgement.”
Is crucial in every design thinking process. As Mangan states, “Testing is important to make sure decisions are being driven from a human-centred perspective.” Testing also allows for new and interesting perspectives from real users. Often those involved in delivery can have blind spots or unintentional biases about a certain process or technology, especially if it is a long-running project. Getting insights from real users through prototyping an interface or service brings those user needs back into focus
Absolutely essential in the design process, as based on all the feedback, you will reframe, ideate, design and bring to market the product and service experiences that deliver on the client needs.
3 Top Tips for Design Ideation Success
The majority of designers hit a roadblock when reaching the ideation phase. So, Mangan from EY has provided us with his top tips for successful ideation.
1. The Ability to Defer Judgement
As discussed above, people can be intimidated at the prospect of being creative or participating actively in ideation. However, good design is inherently social and should be human-centred, so, as mentioned, the social interaction needs to occur without judgement, to bring about success.
Mangan is passionate about “Making sure everyone’s voice is heard. This is crucial to coming up with useful insights and ideas that make meaningful change. Providing a space where all ideas are welcome often leads to noticing less obvious considerations that might have otherwise been missed.’’
2. Experiment Without Limitations
Ideation and discovery are stifled if there is an excessive amount of limitations and constraints put on people. Mangan believes, “To be innovative, experimentation needs to be encouraged with the freedom to explore different perspectives. People need to be encouraged to explore beyond the boundary of their current level of expertise, without fear of judgement of failure or without a predefined solution, system or technology limiting creativity.”
Mangan states that a company can stimulate creativity and inspire designers by:
- Encouraging people to be creative by doing things such as coming up with the worst idea possible
- Visualising ideas rather than writing or speaking them
- Brainstorming as many ideas as possible and then narrowing them down to a prioritised list of highest value. David Ogilvey said ‘The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.’
3. Make Ideation Tangible
There is a huge leap between talking about ideas and what may be required and actually interacting with a prototype or wireframes.
Mangan emphasises how “Showing someone a live prototype is very different from telling someone about an innovation point. It is when these ideas are made tangible that there is an increase in communication, problem solving and interaction.”
When ideating in a workshop or meeting setting, activities such as visually drawing ideas or allowing people to communicate and interact with physical objects allows people to be more creative and use different parts of their brain, prompting new and unique perspectives.
Design’s Impact on Usability
Usability is a measure of a user’s ability to arrive on a site, use it easily and complete the desired task. Design thinking has done wonders for opening up new breakthroughs and opportunities. It has the power to transform the customer experience by providing a more personalised, accessible experience, especially for users suffering from an impairment or disability.
Depending on what your website or application is for, you may have different proportions of accessibility requirements to consider, or some may have greater importance.
Lotherington highlights how “There are lots of types of disabilities or impairments that could prevent a user from enjoying the web to its full potential”.
Maxy expands on this note by sharing with us her guidance on improving the usability and accessibility of your website designs for end-users with impairments or disabilities.
- If your audience has a higher proportion of users aged 50+, you may have to consider text size to be of higher importance since they’re more likely to have trouble reading small close-up words.
- If your audience is mainly male, you may have to consider colour blindness more seriously as men tend towards this condition more.
- If your audience often uses your app while commuting, you may have to consider usability with limited dexterity, as they might be using their phone one handed, or while balancing things.
Design thinking improves the world around us every day because of its ability to generate ground-breaking solutions in a disruptive way. By mastering the design thinking methodology, and keeping in mind the key tips to successful ideation, you and your design team can come up with meaningful solutions to today’s business problems and push the boundaries of innovation.