Design Thinking For Product Teams - UserTesting

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Design thinkingfor product teamsHow to leverage human insight atevery stage of the development cycle

Setting the stageWe’ve entered the Experience Economy—where everythingcustomers interact with compounds to form a lastingimpression of a brand, good or bad. And as technology andsociety continue to become more digital—and integratedinto our daily lives—it’s more important than ever thatproduct teams leverage human insight to better understandand empathize with their audience, so they can build morecustomer-centric experiences.This process of building customer-centric experiences,however, is easier said than done. That’s why product teamsmust increase their exposure hours with customers—timespent seeing, hearing, and talking with them. After all, that’sthe only way to take the best possible steps toward becominga business focused on the customer’s experience (CX).

IntroAs CX emerges as a competitive advantagemore and more each day, it’s vitally importantfor companies to adopt strategies that aligntheir organization around their customers’ needs.One concept proven to be a viable methodologyfor this approach is “design thinking.” The conceptof design thinking has been around for decades,but many credit IDEO founder David Kelley forbringing the idea to the masses. He definesdesign thinking as:But design thinking isn’t just for designers.Swap out “designer” for “product team,” andyou’ll have an accurate description of whatproduct teams strive for on a daily basis.Design thinking also doesn’t have to be the onlyframework your team relies on. One of the biggestdraws to this framework is its consistent focuson keeping the customer at the center of everydecision in the development process.No matter what framework your team uses, theprinciples of design thinking can be incorporatedat every stage to help you leverage the power“.a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from thedesigner’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilitiesof technology, and the requirements for business success.”—David Kelly, Founder, IDEOof human insight. By focusing on human insight,product managers gain invaluable feedback thatthey need to proactively improve products—feedback that can be cultivated during everystage of the design thinking process.DESIGN THINKING FOR PRODUCT TEAMS 03

Design thinkingthroughout thedevelopment cycleAlthough the design thinking frameworkis often presented as a defined process,it’s important to note that each stage canhappen at any time, as often as needed.The only stage we suggest is mandatoryis the Empathize stage, as that will informeverything else your team does andensure your customer remains at thecenter of every experience you create.DESIGN THINKING FOR PRODUCT TEAMS 04

EmpathizeYour goal at this stage is to gain a betterAccording to a study by Capgemini, 75% ofyou’re trying to solve. Notably, the empathize stageyet only 30% of customers agree. We call thisunderstanding of your users and the problemsis when you’ll learn about your users needs, observetheir behaviors, assess the competition, uncoverchallenges, and define market opportunity.organizations believe that they’re customer-centric,the empathy gap—the disconnect between theexperience organizations think they provide versusthe one customers actually experience.Empathizing with your users is central to the designEmpathy is essential to closing this gap. Not only isproducts and experiences your customers will love.an underlying element to every other stage as well.thinking framework, and essential to buildingit a key stage of the design thinking framework, but it’sEmpathy gap:the disconnectbetween the experienceorganizations think theyprovide versus the onecustomers actuallyexperience.Source: CapgeminiDESIGN THINKING FOR PRODUCT TEAMS 05

A note about empathyIf “empathy” feels like a buzzword or jargonIn many cases, teams may think that they’re beingeverywhere. Companies know being customer-impact a user; however, only recognizing thatthese days, it’s easy to understand why: it’s usedcentric is the key to success, and having empathyfor customers is the best strategy to support atruly customer-focused organization.Despite all we hear about empathy, however, manyteams don’t really understand what it means.Here are a few things to keep in mind as your teamstrives to make customer empathy a key part ofyour development process:Empathy vs. sympathyEmpathy is often confused with sympathy—a mistake that can be costly in productdevelopment. Empathy is all about understandingan experience from the user’s point of view,whereas sympathy is about acknowledgingwhat the user is experiencing.empathetic if they recognize how a design mayimpact may actually be sympathetic. Teams needto go a step further to be empathetic: understandthe problem users face, so it can be solved.“.the true goal of design isnot to be nice to users, butto empower them.“—Nielsen Norman GroupUnderstanding why customer empathy is soimportant is the first step to designing greatexperiences, but it doesn’t stop there. Trueempathy is putting that understanding into action.Remember, although Empathize represents aspecific stage of the design thinking framework,its establishment lays the groundwork for infusingempathy into every stage.“Empathy is the experienceof understanding anotherperson’s thoughts, feelings,and conditions from thierpoint of view, rather thanfrom your own.“—Psychology Today

DefineAt this stage, your goal is to take all of theBy framing your problem from the lens of yourcustomers and define the customer problemand keeping their needs at the center of yourinsights gained by empathizing with youryou’re trying to solve.It’s important to remember that the problem you’resolving for should be for your customers—not foryour business. Product teams acknowledge theimportance of tying product developments backto tangible business results, so it can be temptingto try to solve for challenges on a business levelrather than on a customer one.For example, instead of defining your problem as:Increasing revenue for our mobile appfrom Baby Boomer users.Try this:85% of Baby Boomers use a mobile deviceand need apps designed to meet the needsof an aging population.customers, you’re empathizing with themproduct’s development. By putting the customerfirst and validating concepts early, you reducewaste, improve time-to-market, and ensure bettercustomer adoption.

IdeateThis is an exciting stage of your product’sexplore ideas without constraints. If you’ve everunderstanding of your customer’s needs andtrying to write, you understand this challenge.development. By now, your team has a solidchallenges, so it’s time to get creative andcome up with a lot of different ideas to consider.This is an important step for thinking creativelyand weeding out ideas that aren’t workable—remember, whatever your team decidesbeen stuck staring at a blank page when you’reWhile being open-minded and creative is the goal,sometimes a few creative constraints can helpgive teams just enough structure and guidance toavoid idea paralysis.upon will be turned into a prototype next.If your team is new to the design thinkingThere are many ways teams can approach thisrules before you begin your ideation sessions:stage, but most of them involve some sort offramework, it’s helpful to lay down a few groundbrainstorming or free-thinking activity. The goalǴKeep your customer at the centertraditional mental models, so they can approachǴThink quantity over quality—the morezero-in on solutions that they otherwiseǴof these activities is to get teams out of theirthe problem from a fresh perspective andwouldn’t consider.Ǵof every ideaideas the betterTake past ideas and build upon themNo idea is too far-fetchedThis stage can challenge some teams as itrequires individuals to be open-minded—andsometimes vulnerable—when sharing ideas thatmight seem far-fetched. It can also be tough toDESIGN THINKING FOR PRODUCT TEAMS 08

PrototypeReleasing a prototype of your design lets youexperience, enabling teams to empathize withcode, enabling your team to quickly (and cost-moving forward with building something no oneiron out the kinks before you’ve written anyeffectively) iterate on a design until you’reconfident you’ve got it right.Prototypes don’t have to be high fidelity—they can be anything from a sketch on anapkin to a rough wireframe to a videothat illustrates the core idea.But testing prototypes with real audiences canseem intimidating (or even impossible) given thecomplexity of your idea. Do you really want tohear that your users aren’t all that excited abouta concept? Or that some major changes need tobe made to make it appealing? Can you even buildand test a prototype for an idea that’s not fullythe real problem they’re trying to solve and avoidreally wants in the first place.Testing prototypes, however, can be a challengingendeavor. Not because it’s difficult to do, butbecause it can be hard for teams to let go ofthe ideas and designs to which they’ve becomeattached thus far. After all, if you’ve gone throughthe Empathize, Define, and Ideate stages, you’llhave a lot of important information about whatyour target audiences might think about a productor feature. But it’s not until you put something abit more tangible in front of them—even if it’s asketch on a napkin—that the idea comes to lifeand faces the scrutiny of your users.formed yet? Would you even want to?The answers are all “yes.” The prototyping stageis an important step because it directly connectsteams with the people at the other end of theDESIGN THINKING FOR PRODUCT TEAMS 09

The important thing to remember about testingprototypes is that what you find out is crucialinformation that could save your team andcompany from launching a costly mistake. It maysting a little to realize that your target audiencedidn’t seem to find value in the feature you want tobuild. Fortunately, understanding why that featurewasn’t working for them will drive your team tocontinue to improve until you’ve landed on anapproach that users can’t wait to get their handson. While this may seem like an extra step, thetime and budget you’ll save by avoiding a reworkfrom a failed launch make it well worth the effort.Remember, no matter how well you think youknow your users at this point, testing yourprototypes with them is still crucial. Your teamwill be too close to the project; fresh eyes andperspectives from real users are essential toensure you keep your customer at the centerof your product development.

TestNo matter where your product is in its lifecycle—from concept to prototype to shipped—yourteam should continuously test and iterate basedon what they find. Every human insight yougather leads to saved time and budget, theelimination of guesswork, and more confidentproduct decisions.It’s important to remember design thinking isa non-linear framework. Although the test phaseis listed last, it, in reality, is something your teamwill do consistently throughout development.When you have a concept or idea, you test it.When you’re trying to understand the customerproblem, you test. And, when you have aprototype, you guessed it—you test.DESIGN THINKING FOR PRODUCT TEAMS 11

SummaryAt the heart of your product development lives the goalof solving an unmet need for your customers.By effectively leveraging the design thinking framework,you can more quickly and efficiently:ǴǴǴǴSurface the unmet needs of your customersReduce risk associated with launching new productsGenerate solutions that are disruptive rather than incrementalAlign teams across your organizationWhether or not you adopt the entire design thinkingframework, what’s most important is that you recognize howembracing human insights allows you to better empathizewith your customers—thus creating better products andexperiences for them.

About UserTestingUserTesting is an on-demand human insight platform that quickly gives companies a firstperson understanding of how their target audience behaves throughout any experienceand why. To learn more, visit www.usertesting.com.HEADQUARTERS690 5th Street,San Francisco, CA 94107CONTACT US1-888-877-1882 UserTesting, Inc. All rights reserved

design thinking as: But design thinking isn’t just for designers. Swap out “designer” for “product team,” and you’ll have an accurate description of what product teams strive for on a daily basis. Design thinking also doesn’t have to be the only framework your team relies on. One of the biggest draws to this framework is its .

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