Design Thinking – Seeing the world from your audiences perspective.

Design Thinking – Seeing the world from your audiences perspective.

Design Thinking - User Personas

The typical – Design Thinking – designing for a target audience that you know nothing about.

During a recent project we were faced with designing for a target audience that we knew nothing about. This is where Design Thinking excels. Especially when it involves new ways of solving problems. Design Thinking is a mindset that is focused on solutions rather than problems and is action-oriented, creating a preferred future while always keeping the audience in mind.

Entering the world of a security consultant.

I was eager to show a fellow designer one of the first projects I had been working on. It was a project that had challenged me – I was tasked with entering the mind of a security consultant. Now, I’ve never been in a role of a security consultant before so there we no preconcieved notions of what they do. Which we could probably right an article on itself but I’ll skip to the important aspect for preconcieved notions for now.

Having some perconcieved notions from being a security consultant in the past could help me quickly weed to the root of the problem. But I did not have those internal insights. Thus I relied on the power of Design Thinking.

The basic principles of Design Thinking place you in the mind of your audience.

Whether you’re a marketer, designer, product owner, etc. you must always understand your target audience and business needs. Whether you personally fit the target audience profile or not, this process starts with research.

Empathy through Audience Personas.

In the design world, research starts with creating Audience Personas. Audience Personas are the foundation of your design, and they play a very important role: Ensuring you always keep the user as your focus for whatever you’re creating. To create personas, you have to start by asking a LOT of questions – and I mean a lot.

For the security analyst, I had to think in hypotheticals, like: What happens if the user comes to work, logs in, the fire alarm goes off, and he runs out of the building, forgetting to securely log out of the system? What if two people sit down at the same time and want to see multiple notifications in their dashboard? What if the user forgets their password and email? Is there a good user experience outside of the app to reset and retrieve this information?

During this part of the process, in a way, you become a character designer and screenplay writer as you’re also crafting stories (scenarios) for each of the personas (characters.) Like, how and why they’ll use a product, how this product will make their life better or more efficient, etc. These scenarios become scripts which make or break a product.  

After creating your characters and scenarios the fun begins 🙂

Now, you get to start role playing and actually becoming your characters. It usually begins with storyboarding the scenario. Storyboarding allows you to walk through a scenario with the upmost detail. This methodology allows you to get in the head of a character to start to understand the stress, the information needed, the things going on around them or possibly, just the bordeum of this perticular re-occuring task. Understaing the moods and context of characters in the scenarios is crucial. That understanding will help open doors to the opportunities you may not have otherwise thought of – including and also potential problems that you may not have addressed otherwise.

As a designer, it’s critical to understand the character. Take for example this feature that is being requested from product management.

Unfortunately, humans don’t work like that. Take this example: Moana orders your product from Amazon Prime, and it arrives with two-day free shipping. She tears open the box with excitement and has the BEST unboxing experience of her life for her new wireless headphones. She ditches the instructions (because let’s be honest, who needs instructions anymore for setting up a Bluetooth connection?), and…they connect! She’s happy and ready to run off to the gym to use her new gear.

Great scenario, right?

Let’s try it again – but this time with a little human nature added in.

Moana orders…blah blah blah…ditches the instructions, and…sad trombone. When she tries to connect her new Bluetooth headphones to her iPhone 7, it doesn’t work. Err… She begrudgingly fishes the instructions out of the trash can, but the design is so simple it tells her to do everything she already tried.

Moana is frustrated and a little disappointed as she wanted to use them today at the gym. She searches online for some kind of contact info but only finds a 1-800 number – and not an online chat assistant or some type of online forum for easily troubleshooting.

Moana calls the company and trudges though nine automated steps before finding the right representative. She FINALLY gets to customer service, and the not-so-helpful rep takes her through some troubleshooting that isn’t very different from what she’s already tried. By ths point, she’s already spent 48 minutes trying to get her new “foolproof” headphones to work. Suffice it to say, she’s very displeased. Instead of having the company send a replacement pair, she asks for a return. She gives the headphones a poor review on Amazon, and then she restarts her search for bluetoothBluetooth headphone brands that tout the best reviews. She ends up spending a little extra money than she originally intended, but she ends up purchasing a well-known brand instead.

Enter Service Design

One (very important) thing that’s often forgotten in the product design process is the extension of the service design – that human element. Everyone is going to interact with your product differently, and often in ways you didn’t expect they would. It’s more than just the product alone! For example, if Moana had a better customer service experience, she may have asked for replacement headphones instead of a full return and refund. Thinking of all possible scenarios allows us to understand the overall audience journey.

The overall journey includes extensions likr – marketing, sales, customer service, customer engagement, etc.. The key is to include – instead of skipping over – the humanizing elements in the service design process in order to anticipate a lot of human error. 

When designing for the service experience, some things to think about are:

Context: Where will your user be using your product? Will they be at the office, home, outdoors, or underwater? If it’s a mobile app, when will they be using it? Will they use it while they’re waiting for a bus, cab, or train? Understanding where and when your product will be used can help add vital insight into specific functionalities that may be needed to accommodate for multiple scenarios.

Access:  Will the user only interact with your product on their phone? Can they use it on their phone, smart watch, and Alexa? If so, what do these conversations or interactions look like between each device? Can they access your product through Siri? Will they be using it while doing another activity like cooking where their hands are tied up?

Downfalls: Think about every single little tiny thing that could possibly go wrong, including how the user can mess up (because users WILL f*ck your sh*t up). So make sure they can – but that you’ve accounted for it with a solution.

Dimensions:  We no longer live in a 2D world. Now, even digital product design must be designed in a 4D arena – meaning they aren’t interacting with your app in the same place every time. You have to account for context, and the context is always changing.

When it comes to product design, you’re never going to get it right on the first try.

Without a doubt, you’ll always find something you missed or didn’t account for, because we are all human – and the beauty is that we are all different. We all experience things differently from one another and walk away with different perspectives.

The good news is, your product can only improve from here. When you think you’re ready to launch, it’s time for comprehensive user testing for feedback so you can continuously improve your design. Will products ever truly be “done” in an ever-changing technological environment? I’m not sure – probably not – but we can at least change with it, and sometimes even change ahead of it.

Product design isn’t always easy, but it’s rewarding in more ways than one.

And it’s when you embrace the differences of perspective and opinion of all possible users that you can truly design an innovative, holistic, user-focused product.

Let's create something amazing.

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