The Five Stages of Design Thinking
© Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation
Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. Involving five phases — Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test—it is most useful to tackle problems that are ill-defined or unknown.
Stage 1: Empathize — Research Users' Needs
Here, designer gain an empathetic understanding of the problem he/she trying to solve, typically through user research. Empathy is crucial to a human-centered design process such as design thinking because it allows designer to set aside his/her own assumptions about the world and gain real insight into users and their needs.
Stage 2: Define — State Users' Needs and Problems
It’s time to accumulate the information gathered during the Empathize stage. Designer then analyze his/her observations and synthesize them to define the core problems designer and his/her team have identified. These definitions are called problem statements. Designer can create personas to help keep his/her efforts human-centered before proceeding to ideation.
Stage 3: Ideate — Challenge Assumptions and Create Ideas
Now, designer is ready to generate ideas. The solid background of knowledge from the first two phases means he/she can start to “think outside the box”, look for alternative ways to view the problem and identify innovative solutions to the problem statement he/she has created. Brainstorming is particularly useful here.
Stage 4: Prototype — Start to Create Solutions
This is an experimental phase. The aim is to identify the best possible solution for each problem found. Design team should produce some inexpensive, scaled-down versions of the product (or specific features found within the product) to investigate the ideas they have generated. This could involve simply paper prototyping.
Stage 5: Test — Try Solutions Out
Evaluators rigorously test the prototypes. Although this is the final phase, design thinking is iterative: Teams often use the results to redefine one or more further problems. So, designer can return to previous stages to make further iterations, alterations and refinements – to find or rule out alternative solutions.