Problem solving can be creative, and our best ideas often come as jokes. Therefore, make your creative and your thoughts as funny as possible.

In Silicon Valley, life moves fast. Usability has become the new metrics of market success. As the Design industry grows, companies can create better solutions while increasing revenue, loyalty and share values.

Every dollar spent on UX brings in between $2 and $100 dollars in return.

This summer I completed a UX design bootcamp at GrowthX. In design school, we learn how to simplify complexity and build beautiful, meaningful products. In six weeks we learned the design process. Designers use research and innovation tools, like design thinking, to turn obstacles into challenges.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success,” — Tim Brown, IDEO.

With design thinking, work can be fun. Failures become iterations, and feedback becomes a gift. By thoroughly understanding the problem, we can build better solutions.

Using the Design Process

The design framework presents frustrations or “pain points” as opportunities for innovation. Empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test make up the five iterative design phases.

This image includes the problem and solution space, two larger and simultaneous cycles.

With the first project, I explored how people get into states of “flow” or engagement. Research shows that happiness and fulfillment happen indirectly.

With that in mind, I researched my target audience to identify physical or mental barriers.

1. Empathize

Start in the problem space with discovery research. This phase focuses on understanding people, their problems and behaviors. With in-depth 1:1 interviews, you can begin to break down the pieces for more clarity.

Start by acknowledging your assumptions and creating testable hypotheses. During interviews, strive to be as unbiased as possible.

Effective user experience interviewing is an art. Put yourself in observation mode and ask tons of open-ended questions. Focus on user stories and then dig deeper to get a clear picture of their journey and to identify pain points.

During flow interviews, I found that worrying was a primary mental barrier to flow. Rapid task switching, excessive notifications, addictive social media and fatigue were some physical barriers.

Continue interviewing until patterns emerge. Then create surveys to test your findings. Now you’re starting to understand the problem.

2. Define

Spend a long time digging around in the problem space before moving into solution designs.

Affinity mapping is a simple yet powerful technique to organize a large number of ideas. After initial research, put all of your findings onto sticky notes and categorize them to create an affinity map. This exercise will help you to create personas.

Personas are fictional characters based on real feedback. They help designers, developers, founders and stakeholders to become more intimately familiar with their target audience.

3. Ideate

It’s time to move carefully into solution space. Identify your primary and secondary personas. Start sketching potential solutions with their motivations, goals, behaviors and frustrations in mind. Now imagine the ideal user experience. The sky is the limit.

A journey map is a visual representation of an individual’s perspective. This process helps you to generate user empathy for stakeholders and developers.

Journey maps include user phases, feeling, thinking, doing, the overall experience and opportunity areas for designers.

The Sketch tool becomes your best friend and pen and paper sketching becomes your new form of communication. With these visual representations, you can tell a story and conceptualize desired success.

4. Prototype

A prototype is a working representation of your solution that’s good enough to gather user data but scrappy enough to quickly iterate. Prototypes are learning tools. Create wireframes of your app or website with Sketch.

The design rationale becomes especially important here. Note your reasoning behind each design element and constantly refer to user notes.

Card sorting is a research tool to help you identify the best terminology and sitemap for your design.

Take all the concepts and tools from your design and create cards. Then ask participants to organize those cards into categories and label them. Similarity matrixes and dendrograms provide visual feedback from these studies.

After iterating on your prototype, it’s time to put it in front of users.

5. Test

InVision allows you to quickly turn your wireframes into working prototypes. In minutes, you’ll have a working app model with touch points.

Usability testing helps you to quickly identify functional or conceptual flaws in your design. The user experience should be smooth and seamless.

“Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.” –Joe Sparano

Each operational task should include intuitive design.

During flow usability testing, I quickly found tons of problems. When you hear a participant say that they’re panicking during a task flow, it really puts the purpose of the process into perspective.

But remember, feedback is a gift, and iterations are endless.

Creative Confidence

As children we believe we can do anything. Ask a room full of adults if anyone can paint, and a small percentage will raise their hands. But ask a room full of pre-schoolers, and every hand in the room will go up.

An essential aspect to creativity is not being afraid to fail. Many people lose their creative confidence at a young age when paintings or drawings are criticized. Creativity is crucial to effective problem solving.

“You’re the best version of yourself when you manage to have fun doing your work.” — from Chris Flink, Ideo

The iterative process allows you to make mistakes and quickly assess the usefulness of your designs. After all of this work, you bravely move forward and present your ideas.

In Conclusion

Design empowers you to make changes where you are. Throughout this design bootcamp, I often think how useful these mentalities in life. If people used design thinking and iterations in any realm, solutions would be easier.

“Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible.” –M.C. Escher

People are meant to be loved, and things are meant to be used. With human-centered design, people are right where they should be: at the heart of every innovation.

The UX Design industry is rapidly developing as technology use grows. Check out some of the resources below for a fuller picture of design thinking as well as inspiration for your own creative projects.


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