“People ignore design that ignores people.” - Frank Chimero, Designer
If you are a mobile app developer or designer and haven’t read this quote, you will fail to design and develop the perfect app for your users. User Interface and User Experience Design are some of the most crucial and sensitive aspects of mobile app development. User-centric designs are mandatory for the success of your applications.
But, the challenge is in how to design the best UI/UX for your apps.
Planning the UI/UX design effectively improves the process, makes it efficient and leads to a successful end product. Design Thinking, an emerging trend in mobile app and website development, helps web designers, app designers, and developers plan UI/UX perfectly.
What is Design Thinking?
Design Thinking is a customer-centric and solution-oriented approach to creating mobile app development. It is a methodology that helps build great UI/UX. The Design Thinking approach generates experimental and innovative ideas that are a must for app success. It encourages multiple perspectives on problem-solving, so the resulting app is engaging and user-centric.
How Can Mobile App Developers Implement Design Thinking?
The Design Thinking process is implemented in broadly five stages. These are Empathizing, Defining, Ideating, Prototyping, and Evaluating. Let’s understand these stages briefly!
The Design Thinker sets aside his notions to accommodate user insights and perspectives. The Design Thinker gathers a lot of information to understand user needs, preferences, and the constraints or problems associated with such preferences.
Defining involves defining the problem statement in a way that is easy to understand and will lead to further processing for problem-solving. It is similar to the problem definition stage in research methodology.
After the problem is stated clearly, ideas are generated through various techniques or combinations. Brainstorming is the most common among them. Multiple ideas thus generated are then recorded for use.
Scientific problem solving is through experimentation. In the prototyping stage, realistic prototypes of the solutions are generated that give a fair idea of the solution that designers are trying to achieve. The prototype incorporates all the desired features. Prototypes enable better communication as they bridge the gap between expectation and reality. After a prototype is ready, designers and developers can then discuss what needs to be added or removed, thus curbing the scope of miscommunication. This saves time later and eliminates the possibility of doing the whole thing again.
These prototypes are investigated and examined in the evaluation stage of Design Thinking. Observations are collected to accept or reject the prototypes on their efficacy. Design thinking is iterative as after this stage, at times, new problems are defined that were not perceived earlier. This continues till a feasible and perfect solution is reached. Thus, this iteration leads to an end product expected to perform.
What Are the Benefits of Design Thinking in App Development?
Design Thinking is popular for the various advantages that businesses and end-users derive from this methodology. Here is a summary of the benefits.
Creativity & Innovation
Design thinking encourages ideas, multiple perspectives, and creativity. Also, through multiple perspectives, it is ensured that none of the aspects related to the app are missed out. As it is said, creativity is the mother of innovation; Design Thinking leads to innovative products through a process of creativity.
Design thinking makes the process more efficient by eliminating the errors and missouts expected from conventional methodologies. When time is not wasted on corrections at various stages, the end product is developed faster.
Design thinking presents incremental solutions developed through periodic modifications based on failures and errors encountered. It involves an iteration of the process when the solution fails. Thus, it eliminates the shocks of presenting ideas to the users without understanding the outcomes.
Better User Understanding
Design thinking facilitates understanding the target audience, their preferences, needs, and trouble areas. Understanding the user needs and incorporating them in the development stage ensures that the product meets requirements when released. It helps visualize the app from users’ perspectives and gauge how it will behave in a real environment.
Design thinking involves comprehensive user-centric testing of the data, ideas, prototypes, and solutions. The process is iterated with fresh ideas and perspectives on identifying the failure or error. Thus, the final product is generally free from errors and comes out as expected by the developers or desired by the users.
With all the shocks taken care of during the development, Design Thinking almost ensures that the app will meet user expectations through the iterative and creative process. If the user experience is engaging and the user interface takes care of users’ needs, the app will fulfill the purpose and keep the user engaged. This leaves no possibility of app failure.
Challenges in Implementing Design Thinking
Design Thinking is not something that comes easily and without any hassles. There are challenges associated with this approach.
Understanding User Requirements
The secret to any good solution lies in understanding what the problem is. In the context of apps, it means what the users need from your app. Comprehensive research is involved in understanding the user requirements, needs, and preferences. It is also important to identify the reasons for the success or failure of similar apps. This is a time-consuming process. However, once the research is done effectively, the burden of modification reduces, saving considerable time at later stages.
Spend time and resources for research so that the requirements are clear. Businesses can employ Big Data analytics to gather data on user requirements and preferences.
Resistance to Change
Designers and developers accustomed to following a particular methodology develop a block from accepting the new Design Thinking approach.
“The main tenet of Design Thinking is empathy for the people you’re trying to design for. Leadership is exactly the same thing - building empathy for the people that you’re entrusted to help.” - David Kelley, Founder of IDEO
Effective leaders with change management ability and a human relations approach make the team comfortable understanding the benefits and accepting the changes.
Lack of Expertise
Like any new concept, implementing Design Thinking requires an experienced trainer who can train the developers and designers with this new way of approaching the solution. Such experts are difficult to identify.
Hire experienced mobile app developers with expertise in similar projects who have received excellent past customer reviews.
Individual Vs. Team
Design thinking, by nature, is teamwork. Every team member has a role and responsibility towards the process and team. Some skip the responsibility and leave it to others.
Select the team wisely with the right mix and number of experts who are open to generating and sharing new ideas and do not avoid responsibility.
Knowledge of Various Industries
Different industries have different requirements for excellent user experience and user interface design in apps. Designers and developers can't perceive the intricacies of all the industries. Most of the knowledge comes after the experience with developing apps for some specialized sectors. If research and ideation are limited, the whole product is affected. So, overall, the Design Thinking process takes time to meet the specific needs of specific industries.
Select the developers and designers with expertise and experience in similar projects from the same industry that can solve this problem. Also, experience with varied sectors empowers the designers and developers to understand the crucial aspects of different industries.
Letting off Ego
The iterative process requires challenging one's assumptions and redefining problems time and again if needed. This requires the ability to question one's own notion despite having confidence in knowledge, expertise, and experience. Not letting ego block the way of development is a trait that is not found in everyone.
Developers and designers who are open to new ideas and can unlearn and learn again as and when needed are the perfect fit for a team following the Design Thinking approach. Such professionals should be identified to get the best results.
Power structures in a team suppress some individuals to contribute less than others. This limits the effectiveness of the ideation stage and can spoil the whole end product.
Hierarchy and power structures in design and development teams should be kept in check. An environment of open communication and knowledge sharing should be set up so that every team member feels free to communicate.
Technology constraints are a bottleneck for app development, irrespective of the methodology used. In Design Thinking, the outcomes will be affected if the team does not have access to the best and most upgraded technology and expertise for such technology.
Businesses should provide their Design Thinkers with all the upgraded technology available to derive the best results.
As we can see, Design Thinking is a very time-consuming process. If cut short due to time constraints, every stage will be affected, and results will be far from the desired. But, most app development projects have deadlines. At times, the deadlines are too strict and short, leaving no scope for methodologies such as Design Thinking that involve so many comprehensive stages and people to work together.
The clients should be communicated well that the Design Thinking methodology needs time for effective results. Also, reasonable deadlines and timelines should be made so that the methodology does not become an eyewash.
App development projects are strict on budgets. Design thinking is too creative and comprehensive to fit into poor budgets as it requires both time and resources that increase the costs. So, money is generally a significant constraint for designers and developers who want to use the Design Thinking approach for mobile application development.
“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” - Dr. Ralf Speth, Chief Executive Officer, Jaguar Land Rover
All leading app development companies would agree with the above quote. However, not all clients understand that quality comes with costs.
Clients who choose quality generally accommodate the costs associated with quality processes as they are aware of the expenses incurred due to poor quality outcomes. Businesses should communicate to the client that there are extra expenses of developing an inferior quality product that is sure to be rejected and the costs of modification to correct the flaws. Businesses should be made aware of how they can save such costs with quality processes that lead to better outcomes.
“Design isn’t finished until somebody is using it.” - Brenda Laurel, Ph.D., Independent Scholar
Every designer and developer must ensure that the solutions they make are helpful to the end-users. So, the Design Thinking approach is trending among the top mobile app developers. It is the key to successful app development as it ensures an app that is competitors’ envy and will top the app stores.
Design thinking is a multi-stage process that requires considerable time, money, and human resources. Understanding the benefits of the process will convince the designers and developers to go that extra mile and implement it for a successful solution. However, they must also study the challenges and find ways to overcome these challenges to derive the best out of the Design Thinking methodology in mobile app development.