Design Thinking

Design Thinking

To design a human-centered product, there must be a clear balance between thinking creatively and thinking critically. These two concepts fused together are what sets the backdrop of design thinking. Design thinking is a process that UI/UX developers and designers utilize within their workflows to better understand users, refine any fault points, prototype, and deliver innovative solutions. Not exclusive to the UI/UX realm, but highly applied, design thinking has allowed innovators across a litany of industries to open their ways of thinking and widen their perspectives of new modes of problem-solving and ingenuity.

Design thinking intersects with user-centric ways of thinking because it heavily revolves around unveiling a deep understanding of the audience and the context of use in which they will navigate the design.

In turn, with that level of curiosity and prioritization of their audiences, design teams tap into an unequivocal sense of empathy to elevate the experience. It streamlines problems with solutions, that ultimately benefit the end user, and in essence, creates a better digital product through extensive experimentation and testing. Design thinking is composed of 5 essential steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Empathize

To kick off any level of design thinking, the first tier is to fully understand the audience the digital product is meant for through careful analysis and observation. Whether it is to solve a problem or create new ideas for innovation, developers and designers alike will utilize user testing, analytics, contextual inquiries, surveys, and other modes of analysis to understand their interests, motives, and overall needs/expectations. This is the catalyst to a design process because if design teams are able to centralize their work around the user, it creates a more focused design through empathy and understanding their perspectives. Shedding assumptions or a designer’s personal preferences means a user-focused, experiential experience.

Define

Within the ‘define’ stage of design thinking, the observations accumulated in the empathizing stage become observed and implemented into the next steps of the design thinking paradigm. To follow the next step in the ideation process, defining your discoveries and user preferences or needs should be clearly defined, and fully understood from all viewpoints. Typically, the ‘define’ stepping-stone pacifies any problem. “Problem” doesn’t always carry a negative connotation, rather it focuses on how often certain aspects of a design be modified to fit the end user. For example, if a brand claims its user retention has been faltering, the solution here will reveal itself once analytics are defined, and audience feedback is distinguished. Designers and developers can then ideate how to navigate said solution.

Ideate

Establishing the context of use is streamlined and pain points are identified, a clearer picture comes into view that allows design teams to ideate new ideas and solutions. In this stage of design thinking, teams can creatively ideate on design and development methods, while of course, remaining dedicated to the established data analytics of users’ preferences. There is also a level of freedom in this stage to remain broad and creative with the design with different design directions before streamlining further with stakeholders and their feedback. Ideation allows for innovation to thrive, and ideas to come to life.

Prototype

Within the prototyping phase, ideas and early versions of a design/solution are mocked up to test out if an idea will work or understand a clearer picture of how it will function. Prototyping commences the early stages of development to reveal if an idea will offer a real solution that would then be moved on to development and further tested. A sketch of the design layout or a high-level design of a digital product is one of the ultimate ways to prototype. This phase is forgiving in the sense that it will continuously be iterated and adjusted through different sprints and phases to ensure that once it is in a solid state, it can successfully be carried on to the next corresponding phase.

Test

A great idea and solid prototype are important to design, yet, without testing, if it will meet the needs and abilities of users, it loses its validity. With contextual feedback from users, stakeholder input, and internal expertise, refining a prototype ensures it will hold up as it moves down the path of its final development. Once tested and certain structural components are reshaped for seamless usability, refining the results will help streamline any unwanted occurrences. The testing phase also requires a considerable level of iterative design thinking so that every adjustment is refined, tested, and refined again if needed. In essence, testing places the user at the centerfold of the design because it is ultimately tried to ensure it works best for their end experience.
Design thinking is an impactful way to create digital products and uplift any experience. It is a process that has been utilized to create the most experiential designs today. The liberating part of it all is design thinking does not follow a strict outline. Rather, these individual steps can occur in any order, be utilized more than others, or can be practiced on their own depending on the stage of a project. Design thinking is also heavily nuanced with other design principles such as iterative, conceptual, contextual, and experiential designs. With all these interconnections, an innovative design is always at the cusp of something amazing.

Design Thinking
Conceptual Design
Experiential Design
Contextual Design
Iterative Design

Conceptual Design

Conceptual Design

Conceptual Design

No matter the scope of a UI/UX design, every project must commence at a starting line until it gradually makes its way toward a trajectory of completion. Although early stages of development allow more room for the liberty of design building with broad ideation, they are paramount to the integrity of a project’s eventual lifespan.

The preliminary process of design is known as the conceptual design phase which sets an outline in place that aids developers and designers in defining a project’s form and function. 

Conceptual phases build the initial ideation of interactions, experiences, and strategies that embody stakeholder objectives, user research, task prioritization, and iterative refining.

People Collaborating at Versions office

The process of a conceptual design phase often includes:

  1. Project Scope & Goal Identification
  2. Define End User
  3. Task Prioritization
  4. Wireframe Design
  5. Evaluate and Regroup

Goal Identification

Identifying the goal of a project occurs in the conceptual stage as a prerequisite before the design ideation occurs. This initial kick-off allows designers and developers to work together with stakeholders and clients to determine the underlining goals that the web design needs to achieve, the purpose of the project, and what the stakeholders wish for the interface to fulfill.

By communicating these essential aspects and considerations, the UI/UX team can begin organizing these priorities and objectives to streamline the project scope.

User Research and Definition

Research is a fundamental stepping-stone for data-driven and user-centric design. Prioritizing the needs and preferences of the user is best achieved when backed by data that highlights the specificity of what an end-user prefers. This pivotal area of research allows UI/UX teams to better capture design tonality and alignment.

Task Prioritization

Once there is an overall alignment of what a project scope will entail, a further focus on what needs to be designed and developed ensues. Team leaders can provide a general breakdown of the project’s fruition, such as what needs to be included and considered and as well as the timeline of the project build-out. This step is essential because it ensures team members are on the same page and have the same understanding of the upcoming process.

Wireframe and Concepting

Within a wireframing stage, there is an intersection in which research and design intersect to create design concepts and site mapping. Wireframes allow a high-level visual outline of how a project will be structured while simultaneously offering a clearer project direction to an interface as it begins to set the stage for pathway buildouts and navigation. Concepting and wireframing can consist of concept sketching, information architecture and hierarchies, and site mapping.

Refinement and Delivery

Wireframes are iteratively refined internally and shared with stakeholders before truly delving into visual designs and further functionality structuring, which promotes productivity by aligning with a client to ensure their expectations are matched with the conceptual vision. An important component of an iterative design methodology that is inherently embedded into conceptual phases is the understanding that refining and testing must occur often to build the foundation of functionality down the line.

Conceptual design embodies the preliminary steps to design but holds the weight of immense importance for the vitality of an upcoming user experience.

Design Thinking
Conceptual Design
Experiential Design
Contextual Design
Iterative Design

Experiential Design

Experiential Design

Experiential Design

The standards of design and innovation are never static. The digital world is continuously changing the mold of conventional ways of design. In the realm of UI/UX design, experiential design comes to full fruition when it challenges the traditional and transcends the standard with interactive, intuitive, and industry-disruptive modes of design. UI/UX designs that take a user on a journey with interactive components and innovative design crafts what is known as experiential design.

Designing and developing a UI/UX interface into one that builds experiences in meaningful ways can be achieved when designing with a human-centric and data-driven approach.

VERSIONS Office strategy session

Those who delve into the experiential realm refuse to remain stagnant and push the boundaries of digital design.

Human-Centric Design & Emotion

Designing experiences prioritizes human-centric approaches because one of the core aspects is prioritizing the integrity of human enjoyment, engagement, and connection throughout the design. Heightening human emotions is achieved through engaging visuals with graphic design, immersive storytelling through the content building, and innovative functionality. Much like user-centric design, experiential design places the user at the forefront of design to build a connection to their interactive experiences and to connect to users in a meaningful way.

Graphic Design

UI/UX digital products that are built with experiential principles in mind engage the cognitive senses and emotions of users through design directions that diverge toward a bolder, untraditional path. Experiential graphic design elements often include bold, large typography, interactive scrolling animations, dynamic parallax navigation, videography incorporation, and more. Experiential graphic design elements and design systems are meant to pull in the users’ attention with an experience that becomes memorable through visual cues that will spark a level of recognizability.

Visually captivating elements, however, aren’t simply enough. No matter how aesthetically or visually appealing a design is, without fault-proof functionality, usability, and accessibility, a design cannot fully claim its experiential virtues in those core facets.

Branding

Many brands are incorporating experiential design in their processes to build audience connectivity that also enables them to stand out in a saturated market. From implementing AI chatbots to augmented reality eCommerce tools, exclusive storefront events online, and digital product design that advances traditional standards, experiential design strengthens any brand image. Experiential design for branding can also be incorporated to emphasize a core message that will help not only drive future conversions and loyalty but place a brand on an elevated footing against others.

Experiential eCommerce

In our modern day, eCommerce has become reconceptualized to match the demand of the digital world and its consumers. Many UI/UX web developers have leveraged this by implementing experiential strategies into their designs to engage consumers. As stated, brands utilize augmented realities to be a differentiator but to also create an experience as users shop online. From virtual “try-on” features, augmented item placement in real-time with a smartphone camera, or even VR headsets to shop online these new models are the epitome of what makes experiential design different than traditional eCommerce development.

As the digital design industry continues to grow at a meteoric rate, industry disruptive modes of creativity are optimizing what it means to challenge the conventional, and ingeniously place the user at the center of any experience.

Design Thinking
Conceptual Design
Experiential Design
Contextual Design
Iterative Design

Contextual Design

Contextual Design

Contextual Design

To firmly attain the best possible understanding in the layers of design, context is a fundamental asset for comprehension and data collection. In data-driven design, context can be facilitated as a tool to further propel the trajectory of a project scope after conceptual sculpting has been assessed.

Contextual design informs UI/UX developers and designers on the way in which current, and future, users are engaging with a digital product. These insights are then utilized to ensure that usability, functionality, and accessibility are at an optimal state. Additionally, the built context within every user interaction becomes a piece to the puzzle for user research, as developers are able to assess their audiences through contextual inquiries, and all modes of user testing.

In a contextual inquiry, UX researchers can observe participants as they navigate an interface, design, or digital product, how they interact with them, and the way in which they perform tasks. Researchers can prompt questions, access users’ thoughts and opinions, and learn ways to pacify pain points.

This process is achievable with its four guiding principles:

  1. Focus
  2. Context
  3. Partnerships
  4. Interpretation

Focus

Contextual inquiries often take the form of real-world observations and interviews, in which UI/UX teams focus their inquiry session with clear, streamlined questions for their participants. A stabilized focus on what key insights to uncover about your users is needed for the best possible data analysis.

Context

A majority, if not all, contextual interviews and studies are conducted in a user’s own familiar environment. This enables UI/UX researchers to understand how a user is utilizing an interface through the context of use, to fully punctuate how a user engages with a product. Researchers observe how the users are utilizing the digital interface by simply observing as the user navigates a website/app during the session.

Partnerships

For a contextual inquiry to run as efficiently as possible, users and researchers often collaborate together with effective communication. The optimal results in data can be gathered if researchers ask the right questions, while also allowing users the liberty to share their thoughts. Without the hierarchy of dominance within the session, users feel much more confident sharing their input with honesty, which in turn enables researchers to access clear data.

Interpretation

Nothing enables a seamless contextual design session than clarity and communication. Before concluding a contextual design session, it is vital for researchers to fully allow their users to expand upon their thoughts and conclusions. Reiterating information back to the users in interpretation also allows another opportunity for further accuracy. This ensures clarity in the process and allows data and feedback to be best applied to a UI/UX design once the session has been completed.

The result of the contextual inquiry is beneficial for discovering hidden data and insights to improve a process and learn about what is important to users for current and future designs. Although there is a plethora of user-testing tools out there, such as analytics tools or heat map tracking, contextual inquiries allow for real-world observations that insist on a deeper, first-hand mode of testing.

Design Thinking
Conceptual Design
Experiential Design
Contextual Design
Iterative Design

Iterative design

Iterative Design Explained

Iterative Design

This design model explains on how subsequent versions of a product lifecycle get progressively better with each iteration or version.

A linear process may automatically insist upon the idea of a straightforward and organized procedure. However, without room for flexibility and space to palliate any changes, the design directions become regimented and removed from an agile trajectory. Many designers have leveraged upon an iterative design framework to propel a productive and streamlined model of developing the user experiences within workflows.

Iterative design embodies the process of creating a design and refining it along the way based on user feedback, client collaboration, or internal strategizing. Building upon the cycled layers of a design allows unequivocal possibilities for design that places the user at the centerfold and emboldens a consonant workflow.

Iterative design discovers user needs and behaviors that can lead to a better product by doing cyclic changes in a design, influenced by collecting data during the testing process.

Iterative design discovers user needs and behaviors that can lead to a better product by doing cyclic changes in a design, influenced by collecting data during the testing process.

The Anatomy of Iterative Design

Iterative design, also interchangeable with rapid prototyping, is a pliable approach to digital design not only because it offers a forgiving process to mend pain points and improve touchpoints, but it can be interwoven into a design process within any stage of development. It functions to improve a design as it progresses with new insights and directives. Dissecting the anatomy of what constitutes an iterative framework comes into place within its functioning cycles.

The connection between iterations and user experiences is directly correlated. The graph shows the linear improvement in an average version performance across the array of measurable improvements to the user experience.

Initial Planning

As a digital design begins to take its first breath of life, initial planning acts as the stepping stone that kicks off the design process. Within the scope of preliminary planning, developers can determine the initial requirements, goals, and directions of a digital interface. The ideation of possible design routes unfolds here before embarking on a trajectory. The inclusion of initial planning within iterative design is subjective, as iterations or versions can occur within any stage of development, however, it does function as the catalyst that sets the process into motion as it pulls apart the layers until the final outcome is achieved.

Prototyping

Prototyping is a vital touchstone with any process of UI/UX design no matter the workflow framework, as it allows those ideations to take form. Prototyping secures space for initial wireframes and design mock-ups to visually solidify as well as for ideas to be polished. Working prototypes can then put the following cycle steps into motion which includes user testing. Prototyping, however, does not only occur at the beginning of development but it can also be used to create different changes within an already established design.

Testing and Evaluation

Prototype testing can come to fruition internally as a team of developers and externally between users and clients. With collaboration between clients and developers, it opens up the conversation on changes that need adjustment as well as flattening out any kinks that have surfaced—this truly propels productivity as it catches errors sooner rather than later in development. Internal and external collaboration not only insists upon a fluid approach, but it also strengthens a sense to human-centric strategies that prioritize the needs of a user and ultimately human connection within communication.

Refinement

Refining a design based on client or user feedback and internal ideation on the mending process, the contours of an interface begin to carve out. However, although refinement is considered one of the final steps of an iterative cycle, it does not necessarily mean completion. Rather, the steps repeat as often as necessary until a finalized product is ready for launch. The oscillation between feedback and mending functions at the core of iterative design to promote steady development.

Iterative Design Process

Why Iterative?

A malleable design configuration can transcend established procedures to encourage productivity and a happy user. Versioned iterations are beneficial to the entire spectrum of those involved—UX developers, UI designers, clients, and of course, the user.

Soothing Fault Lines

As stated, early detection of errors and changes can be caught sooner rather than deeper into the development process. This is achieved through constant feedback and analysis of a development’s delineation which in turn functions as a driver for internal productivity and a client that feels as included in the progress as much as a developer is. Iterative cycles offer an analysis of the process itself which simply put, results in continual improvement and rapid prototyping. Time, efforts, and overhead is greatly reduced because there is less time wasted on continual testing, and more time saved as a process is evaluated consistently before launch.

Design Workflow

Iterations work much more fluidly than say for example, a waterfall workflow which is much more linear in its process, and instead coincides with agility. Agile—or a workflow that is curated in a set of stages— utilizes versions within every step of its process, and it allows a digital interface that resonates best with users due to the collaborative feedback. However, this propels an efficient work system because team members become aligned with that feedback and ideations, which then allows project management to become diaphanous. The changes that need to be implemented can be broken up into different tasks between different designers, but the core scope of the project remains clear and focused.

Iterative design cycles the design, prototype, testing, and refining progression all within a full-circle approach. In UI/UX design, user experiences are at the heart of the interface, and iterative promotes an efficacious way of achieving that.

Design Thinking
Conceptual Design
Experiential Design
Contextual Design
Iterative Design