Since its introduction in the Science of the Artificial by Simon Herbert in 1969, Design Thinking has refined business models, educational institutions, innovation processes, product and service design, and human mindsets.

One of the factors for its success is that it is user- and customer-centered, placing them at the forefront of development to comprehend its issues and create better user-friendly goods and services. Several design thinking tools and methods are available to help you during your process. Knowing the characteristics of design thinking helps determine when and where to apply design thinking tools and methods. This article will look at several design thinking tools and methods and how they may be tailored to your requirements.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a human-centered innovation strategy that emphasizes establishing empathy for customers' issues and challenges to produce products and services that fulfill their needs. Instead of your general "business as usual" and product design efforts, this framework or process necessitates alternative methodologies and technologies. 

Design thinking is more of a mindset or an approach with numerous stages, each of which can be supported by different tools that help understand the design process.

What are the Design Thinking Steps?

The design thinking process is broadly divided into four steps- 

  • Immersion: Conducting research to establish the issue, comprehend a scenario, and generate a hypothesis that can be tested and used as support.
  • Analysis and Synthesis: Compiling data into groups and reorganizing the basic scenario depending on the insights from the data.
  • Ideation: Brainstorming sessions supported by technologies to generate ideas based on issues or particular pain points identified during the Immersion.
  • Prototyping: Assembling prototypes and conducting concept testing to verify the solutions' efficacy.

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Immersion Tools 

Exploratory Analysis

Preliminary field research to help the team comprehend the circumstances of the issue.

Desk Study

Explore several resources for information on the project's topic, such as websites, books, blogs, articles, etc.

Detailed Interviews

A process of obtaining information through general conversations, mainly with users/developers, about the product/service/process.

Awareness Notebook

Instruments are used to obtain data, usually when the user is physically distant.

Ethnographic Study

It's a qualitative approach in which researchers casually observe and/or engage with study participants as they go about their daily lives, wherever they are and doing whatever they do.

Generational Research

This tool involves meetings with the team and the stakeholders to do tasks to provide their opinions and share their experience with the project thus far.

Focus Group 

Focus group surveys are designed to evaluate public opinion on a certain subject or product. The approach, regarded as an advanced qualitative research strategy, should be employed when attempting to comprehend customer behavior by examining its particular and individual characteristics.

Shadowing

It refers to observing a user over a predetermined time frame while considering their interactions with the product or service being studied.

Analysis and Synthesis Tools 

Here below are some analyses and synthesis tools for your design thinking toolbox:

The Insight Cards

Card-based reflections that help with information visualization are based on actual data from exploratory, desk, and in-depth surveys.

Affinity Diagram 

The Affinity Diagram is a tool that helps you arrange thoughts during brainstorming sessions. The objective is to acquire the essence of the content by collecting a lot of data and/or insights.

Concept Map

A concept map is a condensed diagram or visual grouping of depth-varying complex field data. It illustrates the connections between two or more thoughts or ideas, allowing for better logical thinking and the extraction of greater insight from the data.

Guiding Criteria

Guidelines must be followed continually throughout the development of a project in order to identify the limits of tasks while retaining the desired focus.

Empathy Map

The Empathy Map is a tool for visual analysis and description of the behavioral characteristics of the ideal client. Using this straightforward and didactic Design Thinking resource, it is easy to describe scenarios, thoughts, actions, challenges, and demands of your target audience.

Personas

Personas are made-up personas that symbolize the ideal customer and embody a brand's ideals.

Client/User Journey

A diagram that shows the stages of a user's interaction with a product or service.

Service Blueprint

A service blueprint is essentially a diagram that depicts the relationships between various solutions (such as products and services) and their directly related components (people, tangible or digital evidence, and procedures).

Reframing

Examining unsolved questions in a business from several angles allows for the deconstruction of misconceptions and assumptions about a business, product, or service.

Journey Maps

A customer journey map is a graphic representation of each interaction your clients have with your company, your goods and services, and generally your entire brand. Journey maps show all the points of contact that your clients might have through pictures that show how they progressed through each stage of interaction.

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Ideation Tools

Brainstorming

It is a creative approach that encourages project members to develop several ideas quickly. Before the creative discussion begins, everyone anonymously writes their ideas on pieces of paper, which are then shuffled.

Co-creation 

The Design team hosts a collaborative meeting that brings people from different areas together to develop innovative solutions.

Ideas Menu

A catalog that compiles and materializes all of the project's ideas.

Positioning Matrix

A matrix outlines the advantages and difficulties of putting each proposal into practice. This prioritizes the most strategic concepts for prototyping.

Prototyping Tools 

Proof of Concept

A proof of concept is implementing a specific technique or notion to show that it is feasible. It's how you decide if a concept has the potential to become a reality. A POC is frequently the crucial last cog in the process, serving as a deciding factor before the development and launch of a product.

Minimum Viable Product

It gives you a platform for product assessment and might help you in avoiding risks. It also differentiates between concepts and execution, theory and practice, and the abstract and the concrete.

Volume Model

The idea is taken and converted into a three-dimensional representation of a product with varying levels of realism.

Wireframing

Wireframing is a prototype used in interface design to quickly illustrate the relationships between a digital product's pages and other important interface elements, such as websites or applications.

Storyboard

Static frame representations of a storyline in visual form. Drawings, collages, photos, or any other form of graphic representation are used to make them.

Staging and Styling

We refer to an improvised replication of physical things, settings, or even human interactions with dialogue or other objects as staging. It is used to test, construct, or detail steps in a procedure, illustrate components of a solution and enhance the usability of a product or service.

Prototyping on Paper

To give an ideal physical form, simple interfaces are hand-drawn with varying degrees of fidelity.

Best Tools for Each Design Thinking Stage

The following sections will provide you some assets for your design thinking toolkit: 

Empathize

  • Typeform entered the survey-making market with a clean and straightforward design and an easy-to-use interface. The enormous number of - yet still intuitive - customization choices now allow you to construct forms and surveys that don't feel like "yet another dull survey,".
  • Zoom offers incredibly consistent quality, reducing any audio or video delay problems you could typically experience with most video conferencing software. It provides a wide range of features that are accessible for both personal and professional requirements, including call scheduling, a dial-in phone number, and call recording—even on the free service plan.
  • Batterii is a free platform that enables designers and visual thinkers to collaborate, organize their ideas, and produce work that is more visually appealing. You can look through various templates, from stakeholder analyses to empathy maps and customer journey maps. You can simply co-create with users using the Batterii communities feature, gather insights, and then organize the data in a collaborative manner to aid your design process.

Define

  • Smaply, a platform for managing your customer experience. It enables you to build, share, and present personas,  customer journey maps, and stakeholder maps.
  • Userforge pledges to help you construct detailed and lifelike personas with fewer clicks than design software. Anyone can easily construct viable personas with the tool without design expertise. It is also completely free.
  • MakeMyPersona by Hubspot is a useful tool for organizing the information you have about your (buyer) personas. It leads you through 19 key questions that address the key components of developing your personas. You can download your responses and the resulting personalities in Word format through email. It's an easy tool for beginners to use to begin developing personas.

Ideate

  • SessionLab's open library of over six hundred facilitation tools provides a wide range of ideation/ design thinking methods. To get ideas flowing inside the team, you can find the greatest stand-alone exercises and comprehensive workshop templates. It is free to use, and after registering, you can add your own tools to the library or bookmark your favorites.
  • Stormboard comes with a unique feature to handle sticky notes on various templates, permit collaborators to rate and analyze ideas, and provide robust reporting choices for the use case of gathering, brainstorming, organizing ideas, and prioritizing.
  • Ideaflip is a simple yet effective tool for brainstorming with your team or by yourself. Anyone can contribute their thoughts on post-it-like notes to the online environment. For quick and simple decision-making, Ideaflip supports commenting and idea grouping.
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Prototype

  • Boords aspires to be your whole toolkit for creating storyboards. You can play with images and gifs, audio and action words, or redraft existing frames using their storyboard maker. Additionally, you can work together in real-time with anyone.
  • Mockingbird has one of the greatest prototype and wireframe programmes because of its simple and user-friendly layout. The drag-and-drop user interface, interactive mockups linked together, and intelligent text scaling are among the features. Collaborating is quite simple when sharing direct links.
  • POP is an application which helps you in animating your sketches. Simply take a snapshot of your drawings or photos, and the software will combine them to create an interactive prototype.

Test

  • UserTesting, is one of the most well-known and well-known names in user testing software. The platform keeps track of each action your testers take, allowing you to fully comprehend how they navigate and complete the tasks you give them. Try it out for free; each video session costs 49 USD.
  • With Hotjar, an all-in-one analytics and feedback tool, you can gather information on your funnel conversions and see where visitors click and how they move throughout your website. They provide real-time user feedback and polls to gauge user sentiment to pinpoint any potential issues. The free basic plan gathers information from 2000 page views every day.
  • Pingpong is a user-research platform with tens of thousands of testers from all around the world. Interviews that can be recorded and reviewed later are simple to schedule. They employ a credit-based approach: An interview lasting 30 minutes is worth 75 euros.

For Complete Process

  • Sprintbase is a dedicated design thinking programme that excels at what it focuses on: Each phase of the design process is supported by a specific structure and feature in the app, and you are smartly guided through the entire workflow.
  • InVision occupies a broader sector as a digital product design platform that does not place as much emphasis on the design thinking process. But you may find solutions for gathering inspiration, organizing information, developing and sharing ideas, drawing, wireframing, and designing prototypes in its strong tools with excellent user experience.
  • Miro is a collaborative design thinking tool that operates similarly to a digital whiteboard online. Users can write sticky notes, make mind maps, add artwork or icons, create color schemes, or even draw ideas freehand after starting with a blank page or using a template.
  • The mural is a digital whiteboard and collaboration tool that enables your team to contribute to a shared visualization in real time or asynchronously. You can utilize a pre-made template for a more concentrated approach or let your team improvise on a fully blank board.

The Toolkit Handbook: 4 Steps to Enhance the Benefits of the Design Thinking Tools

  • Focus on the problem: Companies frequently fail to address problems effectively or accomplish goals because they do not appropriately identify the problem from the start.
  • Develop design thinking skills within your team: Everyone should participate in design thinking since it is the process of understanding, testing, and asking questions.
  • Iterate: The process of design thinking comes and goes. It is what we refer to as iteration. Since there is always space for improvement, it is customary to revisit topics and projects, but you must have feedback.
  • Embrace the feedback loop: The goal of Design Thinking is not perfection but rather the best possible answer. And the best solution is not always the first one. Thus, a continuous feedback loop is essential.

How to Select the Best Design Thinking Tools?

You can follow the following selection criteria to choose the best design thinking tools for you:

  • User Interface
  • Usability
  • Integrations 
  • Pricing
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Conclusion

Design Thinking provides multiple solutions to complex challenges, which is why most businesses seek specialist assistance and follow-up. You do not need to struggle alone. Start planning to build constant innovation at scale. Sign-up for our UI/UX Design Expert course to discover how to apply this methodology to boost the output and excellence of your team.

FAQs

1. What are Design Thinking Tools?

Design thinking tools, methods, practices, and frameworks are used in both visible and invisible work, which is always done "backstage" in most businesses' innovation processes.

2. What are the key elements of Design Thinking?

There are five key elements of the Design Thinking process: 

  • Human-centric
  • Creative and playful
  • Iterative
  • Collaborative
  • Prototype driven

3. Why is Design Thinking used?

With design thinking, you may extend creativity to create solutions for end users while keeping one specific challenge in mind. It not only teaches useful skills but also has the potential to boost your career. 

About the Author

SimplilearnSimplilearn

Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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