FAQ Embracing Design Thinking: Dianne's Guide to User Empathy and Problem-Solving

Jul 26, 2023Dianne Eberhardt

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify,  Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.



Dianne: Hello everyone. Welcome to Pixelated. Perfect. Today we're, I'm coming to you with an FAQ and we'll be talking about what design thinking is. So the goal of this episode is to equip you with a deep understanding of design thinking, how we can use it practically, and how to overcome and implement some challenges that designers face when trying to do design thinking and their current processes. So let's start from the beginning. What even is design thinking? So from a designer's perspective, design thinking is a different kind of process. A way of empathizing with the user and understanding the user and building towards that. So there are a few steps that are pretty common in a design thinking process, such as you empathize with the user. So you're gaining this really deep understanding of your current user, whether that's through user testing, understanding from your customer doing personal exercises, or anything like that.

Dianne: And then it's understanding that user and then defining the problem. So a lot of times with a lot of customers that we have at the design project, customers come to us and they're like, okay, here's the, here are the requirements we need for this feature. And something that we always do is we're like, hold on, let's take a step back and let's understand the problem that the user's having. So what is that problem? First and foremost, how are you defining it? Who is this target customer? Who are these users? How can we empath, empathize with the problem we're solving? Right? So defining that problem very clearly with a clear problem statement is super important. And after defining, it's ideate. So your clients' customers may come to you with requirements because they already have a solution in mind, but design thinking is like, hold on, let's iterate.

Dianne: Let's come up with a couple of solutions. Let's figure out what could possibly solve it. Maybe there's something completely out of the box that we've never even thought of. So ideas come up with a ton of ideas. More quantity versus quality. So just throw everything to the wall and let's see what sticks. And then it's prototyping. So building out some quick little, your top I ideas, the top ideas from the team, prototyping some quick little actions, whether it's just literally a wireframe or a quick design based on those ideas to solve that problem. And then you're going in and you're testing it with those target users. Quick, quick, quick tests. It doesn't have to be crazy, it doesn't have to be complex, but by gaining these insights, you, the designer, and honestly, the product team are coming in with data versus, oh, this is something that the founder likes.

Dianne: This is something that I like. All of these little things are not getting to the root of the problem, and that's going to have your company and your product just spinning in circles. So the real way to make a real difference is by using design thinking, empathizing with the user, coming up with some stages, testing it, and then going back to your team and saying, Hey, this is the idea. This is the solution that the target customers agreed to unanimously. Makes sense. So you can't argue with that. There's no discussion. It is what it is, it's a fact. And that's really gonna take out a lot of maybe those conversations and those arguments and those decisions because you can just back it up with data. So that's kind of overall design thinking as a whole. And then we wanna talk about how this differs from other problem-solving approaches, right?

Dianne: So some things we talked about were just user-centered approaches, right? So it's like, how are we just thinking about those problems and the users, and then we're just coming up with ideas without testing them in front of the users. I think that's like a big thing that a lot of companies do is like, we're not, we're just gonna say, Hey, we have a user-centered approach, and it's just like, oh, we understand our user, we know our user. We're building for that user. I think that is probably the number one, in my opinion, the number one place where companies do things differently. I guess the second one would be having a very development leading company. So they're coming in, and the dev team is working in a waterfall. So they're, they have a whole backlog, they're working through it. And then they're coming up and saying, Hey, this is exactly what we're doing.

Dianne: We need a little bit of design. Can you just build this design for us and send it to us and we will, and implement it without testing or anything like that. That's also something that I've seen with a lot of customers. And so how can you, the designer, really suggest and fight for a more design-thinking approach? I think it comes down to numbers and data. You can say, Hey, we can solve this problem. We can give you real data. We can actually build a solution for the users so that the users will churn less, and will sign up more. All of those main targets and numbers that teams need and companies need design thinking can adhere to those. So that's kind of what, I would suggest saying. So let's talk about some of the challenges.

Dianne: So what are those challenges and misconceptions that designers have about this process? I think it's, it's hard to kind of switch the way of thinking because this is an iterative approach, right? So there might not be set deadlines in the same way. It might not be like, okay, we're going to have a solution for you in two weeks. That's not really how design thinking works. It's like, Hey, we're gonna come up with an idea. We're gonna test it in front of a user. There might be iterations. You might need to do a couple more iterations to nail it down before we feel confident and hand it off to development. So I think that's probably the biggest hurdle, is changing your team to being not time-oriented but process oriented. So this is the process we're using. There are no set deadlines.

Dianne: We're gonna work through that. I think another big problem is that a lot of designers and design teams that are trying to switch to design thinking, they're trying to maybe do user testing or whatever that is into what the current framework and timeline is. So like, oh, we're gonna fit a two-week user testing kind of project into one week, because that's how the sprint cycles work. So it's not that you're taking a real con-like a new process and fitting it into your current. You have to break everything down and you have to get everyone aligned and you kind of have to start showing the value. So it's, it's, it's like all or nothing, in my opinion. That's how I've seen, I think a lot of companies do try to implement it slowly, but I think that if you really wanna see a difference and make a difference in design for the user, you have to be like, you have to get your whole team on board, which is much easier said than done.

Dianne: So kind of what I was talking about before, some tips and tricks to rethink that are like having data numbers to prove the success of design thinking is super important. Let's talk about one of the core values of design thinking: empathy, right? So how does design thinking, how does it emphasize empathy and understand the user's perspective? What, what are we doing to get that insight? Honestly, I think the biggest thing is just talking directly to the users. I think there are a lot of ways to go into user research, right? You can conduct intensely, like figuring out questions, comments, and all of that. And that is great. But if you're kind of starting from the beginning, honestly, any insights, anything we directly from a user's mouth, is valid. So when they look at this, it's not, I guess now I'm thinking about it.

Dianne: I guess the main thing I would suggest is don't have leading questions, right? So don't say, do you like this? Say, what do you think about this? And tell them, okay, this user testing session is to get insights and understanding. We're building a product for you and this is your opportunity to give us those insights. So, we're building something that is tailored directly for you. So you tell us everything, what's working, what's not working, this isn't gonna hurt our feelings. Whatever, whatever feedback you have is going to be super valuable. So you have to give them that permission, I guess that is something that's super important. And then have them kind of another, I guess another tip is telling them to kinda like, talk through what they see. Like what are their first initial thoughts? Like if you're showing them a designer, you're showing them a prototype, like just tell 'em like, Hey, talk me through everything that's going through your head as you're looking at this.

Dianne: Like, that's the key. And then if they're not talking, it's like, okay, hey, so what are you thinking? How are you feeling? And that's super important. I do also think that at the end of a session, some, some important, important questions to ask are like some baseline questions. So some questions that you should ask at every interview, like an NPS on a scale of one to 10, would you recommend this to a friend? I think that's a great baseline to get also like, what do you like the most? What do you dislike the most? If you had a magic wand, what would you want? So there's some of these basic questions that you can always ask, and that's gonna help you have this baseline framework for however many times you interview different users, you could kind of use these answers.

Dianne: So I think that's key and they might change over time. So you might get some really interesting insights out of asking those same questions over a decent chunk of time. So empathy is super important. It is the key to design thinking and it's the whole reason why you're completely revamping and redoing a process so that you're empathizing with your user and building something that your user can use. And I mean, that's who we are as product designers, right? Our goal is to advocate for the user. And using design thinking is one of the best tools we have to understand our users and advocate for them. So the next question is how can design thinking be integrated with other methodologies? So this is what I kind of said earlier, is like, I honestly, I think there are definitely methodologies that go hand in hand.

Dianne: And so I think that's great, but I think if you're trying to put design thinking in maybe like a waterfall or a dev forward company, that's going to lead to problems. But let's talk about some of the ones that do have design thinking. So the double diamond, that's probably something all of you have at least heard or are familiar with. This framework is very much very integrated with design thinking. It's thinking about empathy and defining the problem prototyping. It is design thinking in a double diamond. The next one is human-centered design. So IDOs, human-centered design framework. It also is focusing on understanding the needs and behaviors of user-lean startups. So I think this is a great one where it's all about rapid experimentation and iteration. And that design thinking fits into lean startups.

Dianne: So a lot of these are frameworks that maybe some of your companies do implement, and that is design thinking. And I think you can take the concept of design thinking and research and learn more to apply them even more to these. And I guess the last one I will say is agile. So this is development. This is usually, I think 90% of the customers we work with are using an agile approach to their development. And this does, you can insert design thinking exclusively into this because it is all about integrating or sorry iterating and coming up with different solutions that are solving those user problems. So those are the key, I guess, methodologies that lend a hand. And so I highly encourage everyone to dive deeper into design thinking and to make sure they understand it and they're bringing it into their company if they feel like empathizing with the user is important, which is kind of like our job. And so I think setting up a framework like this is gonna be powerful to make sure that you guys are kind of following a methodology and a process. And you are at the core advocating for your user. Thanks everyone!

Dianne Eberhardt

Dianne Eberhardt

    Let’s build something awesome together!

    Get Started!