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What Is Design Thinking and 5 Stages of the Design Thinking Process

What is Design Thinking

We are constantly looking for new techniques suitable for solving usual issues and experimenting with approaches to find the very principles helping us increase the probability of success when working on our projects. It is not surprising, as the product quality is largely dependent on the approach we use when working on it.

From this perspective, it is worth paying attention to the growing popularity of design thinking as a technique meeting the modern innovative economy requirements to the fullest extent. We have decided to consider this issue in more detail in our article and provide answers to a number of important questions.

What Is Design Thinking and It’s Key Principles?

Let us word the design thinking definition:

The product creation technique focused on the end user interests when the whole range of creative and analytical skills are used to solve problems

What we mean is that the approach “there is a client for every product” is changed to the opposite one. First, we have to comprehend what exactly a potential customer needs, and then, we figure out how to develop the product which will satisfy their demands.

Design thinking is more than just a technique. We can confidently call it a kind of philosophy or mindset. Moreover, it is based on the following principles:

  1. Personality first. A quality product solves problems which its audience may have and fits into the context. It is necessary to study the audience, identify its problems, and offer a solution.
  2. Bidirectionality. Two types of thinking are used: divergent (quantitative) and convergent (qualitative). First of all, we work to identify a number of issues or invented ideas, and then, we choose the best one.
  3. Mistakes allowed.Accept your mistakes and have no scruples about them. It is often a mistake that leads to a remarkable solution.
  4. Create prototypes. A prototype is not a product yet. It is actually a model which clearly explains how it works. Its main task is to help people understand how the solution will work for them.
  5. Test them without delay. Prototypes are developed to test them. The audience provides feedback, interacting with them, and the feedback is used to improve the product. Testing a prototype is cheaper than product development and saves it from failure after it was launched.
  6. Improvements never end. At last, you have developed a cool and popular product, and everyone is happy with the result. Do you think you are done with it? Not at all! Firstly, you can do everything better. Secondly, your solution may eventually become outdated.

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5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process

The design thinking process is a set of specific steps. Different schools, teaching design thinking methodology, may have a slightly different list of stages and their names. Let us look at the algorithm, presented by the Stanford, which has already become classical.

Design Thinking Stages

1. Emphatize

At this stage, developers monitor users. Goal: to understand what people are doing and why they are doing it.

We plunge into the problem area as much as possible at this step. The user is the central object of our research. We are concerned with their needs, behavior, and thoughts. We survey them, listen to them and observe them.

The essence of the first stage is to understand the problem correctly. It is the only way to find the right solution.

2. Define

At this stage, developers process all data received. It is necessary to organize it and highlight important points. Based on the results, specific, meaningful, and achievable objectives are set.

3. Ideate

At this stage, the task is to generate as many different ideas as possible to solve the problem focused on at the previous step. However, it is better to avoid obvious solutions as they can divert the group’s attention from some creative solutions and reduce the probability of innovation.

An interesting result can be achieved when people with different experience levels take part in the project at this stage. Obviously, ideas turn out to be as different as possible.

4. Prototype

We select the most suitable ideas and create models (prototypes) to be tested. Prototypes should be simple. It would be best to develop several options and come out with an optimal solution.

The main task is to test the idea and get the initial user experience. As a rule, new ideas are generated and old ones are improved in the process of prototype creation.

5. Test

Testing is the stage when feedback from users is received. Developers should clearly understand what they want to test: which interaction areas, which problem areas.

At this stage, we receive feedback from users telling us about the prototypes we have already developed, check if our idea works the way we intended it to work and if users receive the expected experience.

It is very important first to create a prototype, not a product. The probability that the target audience will dislike something in it is very high. If it were a ready product, it would be difficult to redevelop it.

Design Thinking Concept as Applied by Airbnb

The project creators got acquainted at university, moved to San Francisco together, and shared a rented comfortable and spacious loft-style apartment there.

In 2007, the city held a design conference and hotel prices shot up tenfold. The guys had a simple business idea: to buy a few air beds and receive their colleagues at their home. To find the guests, they launched the website.

AirBnB logo

Both friends realized that their idea has great potential because conferences, football matches, and concerts are held around the world, and that means a temporary shortage of affordable housing eventually is the case everywhere.

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Our team is ready to implement your ideas. Contact us now to discuss your roadmap!

Joe and Brian used the empathy method which they studied in their design school and asked themselves:

  • What do people do when they travel?
  • How can anybody tell them the way from an airport to an apartment?
  • How do we recommend our favorite dinner place in a nearby street?

They updated their website and now offered accommodation, breakfast, and even networking: thus, a simple landlord has turned to be a friend. Using the design thinking principles, they solved the problem of distrust to “strangers”: reviews from both sides eliminated this barrier.

Now the Airbnb capitalization reached $31 billion, and 200 million people use the company’s services.


Viewing the world from other people’s perspective, being aware of their desires and challenges they face, as well as understanding their needs are the main principles the design thinking technique is built upon.

It makes no difference whether you apply this approach to develop a product MVP, a website, or a mobile application — these are the very five simple and clearly structured steps which will resolve all the emerging issues and help you find the right solution.

February 26, 2019

UI/UX Designer at Lvivity. I'm responsible for the design side of things in our agency.

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