Design Thinking Assumptions: Build, Measure, Learn and Ideate

Ellen Gregory

The design thinking process encourages you to focus on the end-user that you’re designing for. Considering how difficult it is for companies, products, and services to stand out from the rest of the competitors, implementing design thinking will give you an upper hand. A primary element of the design thinking process is testing assumptions and then ideating on those assumptions and data to see if your service or product will meet a customer’s needs.

By implementing design thinking tools, such as design thinking assumptions, you will employ successful results as they focus on solutions, rather than problems. When your design thinking process accurately reflects the needs and wants of the end-user, it results in better products, services, and internal processes. 

With design thinking assumptions, we identify assumptions by considering a number of solutions to a problem statement. Then we use data to evaluate the probability that these assumptions are accurate. The purpose of the problem statement is to establish the core problems and generate tangible and actionable ideas to solve the problems you and your team have identified up to this point. Then we move onto building, measuring, learning, and ideating on those UX assumptions quickly. The goal is to avoid spending a lot of time and resources on perfecting a design, and to focus on collecting feedback from your users to slowly improve it through a series of trial and errors.

 Identify UX assumptions
Build, measure, learn, and ideate on UX assumptions.

Why is design thinking important?

So to begin with, why is design thinking important? Consider this: how many times have you gotten together with a team to solve a problem, but left feeling nothing productive was accomplished? How many services or products have you encountered that missed the mark because it didn’t solve the user’s problem? This is where we can answer the question “why is design thinking important?” and truly appreciate it’s importance


Design thinking is taught at leading universities across the globe, and has been implemented in leading brands design strategy methods, such as Apple and Google. The design thinking process is a proven problem-solving methodology that revolves around a deep interest in developing and understanding the end-user. With it, you are pulling together the most desirable solution from a human point of view within the confines of what is technologically feasible and economically viable. By combining creative and critical thinking, information and ideas are organized in a way that ensures decisions are made, situations are improved, and problems are solved. 

why is design thinking important?
The design thinking process revolves around a deep interest in developing and understanding the end-user.

What is a design thinking approach?

Design thinking begins with a series of questions that get to the heart of the problem, the UX assumptions, and the implications, so that you can understand your end user’s needs, thoughts, emotions, and motivations. Each stage of the design thinking process is all about re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, thinking outside of the box, and adopting a hands-on approach. 

Here are some of the essential components of the design thinking process and UX assumptions:

  • capture the specific mindset and needs of your end-user 
  • identify and define the problem to form solutions around
  • create opportunities based on the needs of your end-user
  • find innovative solutions starting with quick, low-fidelity experiments 
  • provide insight into your end-users’ biggest challenges


Design thinking assumptions

By asking a series of questions and following a solution-based approach, the design thinking process aims to identify UX assumptions and use data to assess the likelihood and viability of the assumptions. Typically, the design thinking assumptions gathered are first tested through thought experiments, then by field experiments.

Once you’ve narrowed down the assumptions that seem to have the most potential, it’s time to identify the data that allows you to conclusively test the key assumptions. Basically, with this design thinking approach, we identify the necessary information, and then figure out how to get it.

Break down the data into the following three categories: 

  1. what you know
  2. what you don’t know and can’t know
  3. what you don’t know, but could know 
Design thinking assumptions
Identify UX assumptions and use data to assess the viability.


The last category is where design thinking testing comes into the picture. After you’ve investigated several problems and tested some thought experiments from the end-users point of view, it’s time to narrow in on the ideas with the greatest potential. 

It’s not about designing a finished, high-resolution product. Rather, it’s about designing a prototype that can be manipulated and adjusted throughout the testing process. As mentioned above, you want to build, measure, learn, and ideate on those UX assumptions quickly in order to get tangible feedback and tweak your design accordingly.

Design thinking tools

The key is to increase the potential, uniqueness, and effectiveness of your solution. There are tons of design thinking tools and methods that can help you achieve your desired outcome; rapid prototyping, storytelling, assumption testing, learning launches, mind mapping, visualization, journey mapping, etc.

Rapid prototyping

One of the best ways to test your design thinking assumptions is with prototypes. Prototypes are intended to quickly test design solutions. Prototypes are typically the best way to quickly test design thinking assumptions in the early development stages. Since it is the first time designers experience how users behave with the prototype, and learn whether or not the implemented solutions have been successful, it doesn’t make sense to produce a finished product for the users.

The goal is to quickly convey the look, feel, and functionality of your design. Typically it’s recommended to create low-fidelity prototypes. Here you build with the idea that the first few designs are going to need a lot of revisions. Don’t spend too much time on the prototype as they will undergo a lot of changes during and after the design thinking testing stage. And above all, remember what you’re testing for and who you’re designing for to avoid becoming too emotionally attached or bias. 

design thinking tools
Quickly convey the look, feel, and functionality with a design thinking test.

Build

Building quick prototypes is a great way to explore problems, ideas, and opportunities within a specific area of focus. Be cautious of falling into the pitfall of becoming discouraged and feeling like prototypes are a waste of time if they fail. Reframe the idea of failure into a learning mentality. That will also help you remain objective, eliminate becoming too emotionally attached, and just build the prototype without hesitation or worry. When you view prototypes and tests as learning opportunities, the results will provide you with more informed feedback that you can use to improve the next prototype.

They are intended to reveal invaluable insights and experiences that can inform innovative design decisions and either debunk or validate UX assumptions. The goal is to build a concrete version of your idea so you can observe how your target market physically engages with it, and accurately measure what is working and what isn’t. Understanding the problem your users face when interacting with the product in the intended environment will ultimately lead to better designs.

Measure

Make sure you have a central purpose and then keep that in mind when you build your prototype. It’s important not to lose sight of the purpose, but it’s also important to maintain an open mind. By balancing these two forces, you will build prototypes that are designed to solve a specific problem, but remain open to other lessons and insights it may bring to light. 

The crux of design thinking revolves around understanding the end-user. Testing the prototype against your expected user behaviors and user needs will help you identify gaps between the expected results and the reality. From there, you can learn from the gaps to improve your end product or design.

Learn and ideate

The results generated from a design thinking test are crucial. Prototypes are the tangible results based on the data you’ve collected from observing your end-user. They are meant to help you avoid costly mistakes, eliminate weak ideas or solutions early on, and narrow in on solving your end-user challenges in an applicable and appropriate way. 

design thinking test
The results generated from a design thinking test are crucial.

Whether you’re designing a low-fidelity or a high-fidelity prototype, CloudApp is a great tool for instantly sharing your prototype with others and getting invaluable insight based on direct input and real user interaction. Low-fidelity prototyping is intended to provide you with a basic model or example of the product that requires testing. 

With a low-fidelity prototype, it is likely going to be incomplete or utilize a limited number of its intended features. It can even be constructed using materials such as wood, paper, or metal, that are not intended to be used for the finished article. Typically speaking, when you design a low-fidelity prototype, you can expect them to be an inexpensive, quick and simplified version of what the final product will be. 

Simplify your design thinking process with CloudApp

CloudApp is a great tool for instantly sharing your ideas and prototypes with others and getting invaluable insight based on direct input and real user interaction. Plus, it can easily be integrated into your favorite apps, including Sketch, Slack, Asana, WordPress, Google Docs, and more, for a seamless workflow. 

Sketch, for instance, makes collaboration and prototyping easier than ever. Skip the stress over design communication. Get immediate feedback from teammates and clients on how to change any particular section of a design file, or share your designs with other designers to illustrate how to execute a technique. Paste your link into an email, Slack conversation, or document for smooth file sharing. 

Visuals are more powerful than words. Capture, annotate feedback, and share an instant link with your teammates. Captivate your audience and show them how your product works with a quick video recording. Add your webcam and sound to personalize your message. Or you can record your screen then quickly place the GIF or video in your documentation software of choice. With CloudApp's GIF screen recording, simply share your screen recording, and get user feedback to improve your design in any phase. This feature gives you the option to test your prototypes remotely, and can be moderated or unmoderated. Simply share your screen recording, and get user feedback to improve your design in any phase without having to upload to a third platform. Once you complete your video capture or webcam recording, a link is automatically copied to your clipboard that can be password protected and set to expire after any desired length of time.


Learn more about CloudApp for designers here.

What is a design thinking approach?

Design thinking begins with a series of questions that get to the heart of the problem, the UX assumptions, and the implications, so that you can understand your end user’s needs, thoughts, emotions, and motivations. Each stage of the design thinking process is all about re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, thinking outside of the box, and adopting a hands-on approach. 

Here are some of the essential components of the design thinking process and UX assumptions:

  • capture the specific mindset and needs of your end-user 
  • identify and define the problem to form solutions around
  • create opportunities based on the needs of your end-user
  • find innovative solutions starting with quick, low-fidelity experiments 
  • provide insight into your end-users’ biggest challenges

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