For software and product designers, it has never been more vital to ensure that users are fully satisfied with the customer experience. That’s why designers are doubling down on the concept of design thinking – the advanced process of problem solving that seeks to uncover and address customer needs on a deep human level. It involves understanding customer requirements, creating user personas, developing strong user empathy, and mastering ideation, experimentation and prototyping.
And the strategy of leveraging design thinking techniques is growing in popularity. Among the most forward-looking companies, close to 90 percent are expected to increase their investments and resources significantly in design-thinking-related activities, according to Forbes. Companies are taking a step back and focusing on how customers interact with their software products. Some of the results might surprise you because they often dig beneath the surface and reveal what most would not have guessed. Here are a few great examples of how companies are using design thinking today.
As a company that produces financial software for individuals and small businesses, user design and comfort is a key priority. The company knows that users sometimes struggle with using tech products, especially spreadsheets, and they often face a steep learning curve. Intuit’s design thinking push was focused on making products that were not just easy to use, but also pleasurable to use. The company revamped QuickBooks Online, TurboTax and newly acquired Mint web-based software with the customer in mind, improving the tedious tasks most people hate when they manage their finances.
The company’s design thinking techniques program called “Design for Delight” emboldened their teams to go beyond customer expectations to evoke positive emotions during the customer experience and deliver dramatic improvements in customers’ lives. The program embraced three principles:
- Producing deep customer empathy: an inspiring edict to embrace the unexpected. They sought to understand key customer pain points, innovate, and impact customers’ lives so profoundly they couldn’t imagine going back to the old way.
- Going broad to go narrow: the goal was to focus first on quantity to brainstorm ideas, then narrowing down later to the most innovative ones. Going broad then narrow helped them define the ideal design state.
- Rapid customer experiments: the objective was to make better decisions based on user behavior and facts, rather than conjecture. This included experimentation to discover what drives customers and align teams before building a product.
Design thinking techniques helped transform Airbnb from a tough-luck startup to a global billion-dollar business. The ideas began sparking early on when the team reviewed search results from New York City listings to determine why they were not growing. They realized that all the sub-par listings had one thing in common: bad photos, taken by the people using their camera phones or using images from classified sites. People couldn’t see what they were really paying for, so they simply left those listings.
The solution was to do something non-scalable and non-technical. The team simply traveled to New York, rented a camera, spent time talking directly to property listers, and took and posted better high-res pics for each listing. It was not a “data-driven” decision (typical for Airbnb development teams) but rather a design thinking mindset to think differently and come up with a solution more amenable to customer desires. A week later, the strategy had doubled their weekly revenue. It was a revelation for the company to do something that didn’t rely simply on metrics, but instead focused on creating a hypothesis, implementing a change, seeing how it impacts business, and finally repeating the process.
Normally a machine learning-driven business that helps determine music to suit users’ listening tastes, Spotify realized that lines of code that analyze volumes of data do not have all the answers. Even ML-type products must be created with people in mind, which is where good design thinking techniques come into play. The company realized it needed to ask the right questions to create a user experience that is unique to human taste, not one-size-fits-all.
The company’s recommendation engine used to suggest content based on past learning history, but that only answered the “what” side of the equation, not a full holistic view of listening habits. Algorithms were reshaped in a more human way to accommodate when users listened to certain music, why, and in what context. They put humans in the loop to help create designs that understood user preferences, engendered customer trust, and focused on the “mental models” to manage expectations with designers and users.
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Design Skills Make the Difference
Design Thinking skills training can put design teams in a position to leverage the most important modern UX techniques. Programs provide in-depth look at understanding and defining customer requirements, building a design plan with actionable goals, and improving user engagement, conversion, and retention rates that will help grow and scale the development organization. Getting design teams into the right design thinking mindset can make all the difference in such a competitive marketplace.