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App Development
8 minutes read

2 Design Thinking Tools for Building Apps

by Diego Coronado
App Development
8 minutes read

Design thinking tools are a great way to help guarantee that your app is on the right track. Before you even start writing the first lines of code, it is important to validate your business hypotheses through a rigorous design process and the right design methods. This means not only testing your hypotheses, when possible, but also writing them down in the first place. The clearer your business idea, the more chances of success you’ll have.

Design tools like the ones used in design thinking allow you to focus on the User Experience design aspects of your app. This is one of the key aspects that ensure users will love your digital product. Thus, this means that using the design thinking process can make all the difference in terms of your app’s success. 

In this post we discuss two of the most important design thinking tools you can use to build your app. 

What Is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a specific method to come up with solutions. It uses design-oriented methods that can be used by professionals beyond the realm of design. The design thinking process has also been referred to as a mindset for solving problems and innovating. In recent years, it has moved beyond the realm of design and has been adopted by many other disciplines. 

The design thinking process is a systematic way in which designers innovate. It is both rigorous and creative. Through the innovative solutions designers come up with, they can address specific design-related problems. Design thinking works particularly well for building apps; most of the time it acts as a way of solving and identifying problems.

Instead of jumping to conclusions and developing solutions right away, the design process requires an app design team and developers to first identify the problem correctly. This, in turn, requires understanding an app’s users, what their needs are, and how to help them achieve their goals. By doing this, app development teams can be sure that they are addressing the right issue in the right way and not something that seems to be the problem but isn’t. 

Why Design Thinking Works

Design thinking works, because, unlike other problem-solving approaches, it accepts the fact that sometimes solutions can be improved. Rather than implementing a one-time solution, design thinking approaches problem-solving in a continuous improvement way. This means that a problem is never really solved, as there are always improvements that can be made. 

The Design Thinking Implementation Challenge

The challenge that many companies face when implementing design thinking tools is that they want fast results, but design thinking methods often take some time to show results. Because results are expected from organizations in the short term, it is sometimes hard for a design team to sell the idea of design thinking to managers.

Design thinking works best in projects where results are expected throughout a longer time span. This way, a design team does not have the pressure to show immediate results, allowing them to iterate over existing designs and towards a better solution. 

Implementing the Design Thinking Approach for App Development

Implementing the design thinking approach for app development requires:

  • Using design thinking tools.
  • Adopting the design thinking mentality to problem-solving.
  • Combining design thinking methods with an Agile software development approach.
  • Preferably using a dedicated design team.
  • Focusing on the user experience design.

Two Design Thinking Tools for Building Apps

There are many different tools available to build great apps, and design teams often have a hard time figuring out which ones to use. These tools are often used throughout the Ideation stage of the app development process. 

These are two of the best design thinking tools for app development: 

  1. Double Diamond

The double diamond is a double diverge-converge pattern introduced by the British Design Council in 2005. Its goal is to help discover, define, develop, and deliver solutions. It consists of a first diamond made up of divergence and convergence phases that are used to find the right problem, and a second divergence and convergence phase used to find the right solution. The discover and define phases belong to the first diamond, and the develop and deliver phases to the second diamond. 

During a divergence, app design teams brainstorm different ideas based on the diamond they are in. If it is the first diamond, they will discuss different possible ideas around the problem. If it is the second diamond, they will discuss ideas for a solution based on the previously identified problem. 

During the convergence, app design teams will try to bring down the ideas of the respective divergence phases. For the first diamond, they will try to narrow down the problem to a simple idea. Similarly, during the second diamond, they will try to find a specific solution to the problem. 

The repeated divergence and convergence pattern is very helpful to determine the right problem an app is trying to solve and its solution. Although it might look like there is no order in it, there is actually a lot of structure in terms of how the process is done by following this systematic approach.

A key aspect that needs to be considered for the successful application of this tool is the element of time. Design teams often have a hard time figuring out when to stop diverging or converging. Having a deadline can be useful to avoid this.

  1. Human-centered Design

Sometimes, by following the double diamond tool, an app design team may find itself too focused on the process rather than on finding actual solutions. To avoid this, it is important that team members keep an eye on human-centered design principles. In short, human-centered design helps teams stay focused on what really matters: finding human solutions for human problems.

In order to use the double diamond correctly, it is best to pair it up with the different stages of human-centered design. These stages have become a key signature of the design thinking process. They are to be implemented in a circular and iterative way that allows for constant improvements.

The different phases of design thinking according to human-centered design are: 

  1. Observation: Identify and observe potential customers for an app in order to understand their interests, motives, and needs.
  2. Idea generation (ideation): This step involves generating potential solutions once an app’s design requirements have been identified.
  3. Prototyping: App ideas need to be tested in order to determine if they are both viable and feasible. This can be done through an MVP. To build one, make sure to take into account the outputs of the previous two activities.
  4. Testing: Once an app MVP is ready, it can be tested. The challenge here is finding the right users to test it and establishing the right metrics to keep an eye on. Prototyping and testing occur during both diamonds to make sure that the problem and solution are correctly understood.

Sometimes the process will require going back and forth between the different activities in a non-linear way. This is known as iteration, and it often takes a couple of it to get it right. Don’t feel frustrated if this is the case. As for the double diamond, it is best to establish a deadline.

Design Research Vs Market Research

It is common that many people think of design research as being similar to market research. Although they are similar, they are not the same. To be more specific, they are complementary. That is, what happens in design research is a useful input for market research and vice versa. 

The main difference between design and marketing lies in the fact that design focuses on identifying what people really need whereas marketing focuses on what people want to buy. Thus, the double diamond and human-centered design tools, when used to build an app, should focus on identifying user needs.

Conclusion: User Experience Design

There are many more design thinking tools aside from the ones mentioned above. These are just two of the most potent ones, and if used correctly, they can make an important contribution to the app development process throughout its early stages. 

In general, no matter the design methods or tools used, the important thing is that your app design team understands that the goal is to deliver a powerful User Experience. To do so, the best alternative is to find an experienced app development company that can provide state-of-the-art design services for building world-class apps. 

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