How to Apply Design Thinking to App Development

Designer and strategist Rose Figliano recently spoke at the Ynext Incubator Boot Camp about design thinking, and how entrepreneurs can use it in their app development. She piqued our interest about human-centered design, so we wanted to share her three stages of proper design thinking.

Here’s what she told us before her talk:

The first part of design thinking is inspiration. In this stage, you’re spending time understanding the needs of your market — the audience you’re trying to develop for — and then using different approaches (we call them ethnographic approaches) to observing the market in context.

For example, you could spend time at a park looking at dog owners interacting with their dogs, or spend time in a home watching families put memories together about something that happened in their shared past.

After you have a good understanding of the market needs, then you’ll extrapolate those insights into ideas about how to solve the problem. You’ll come up with several different ideas and versions of your solution. From there, you’re developing and iterating your prototypes. You’ll get feedback on your designs and take them out to the market again to test the assumptions you’ve made about the products.

Finally, you’re ready for implementation. That’s when you have a pretty good sense that what you built is solving their problem. You empathize with the user and you listen, not just for the words they use, but for the emotions they exhibit.

Steve Jobs said that he rarely listened to what the users said, because they didn’t always know what they wanted. It was this thinking that brought us the original iPod®. No one really knew they wanted it, but he saw the problem and built the products to fix it. That decision ultimately led to the iPhone® and iPad®.

If Henry Ford had continued to listen to the market, he would have designed the best horse-drawn buggies in the world. Instead, he saw what the market needed and he solved it in a much more creative way, giving us the first mass-produced automobile, and revolutionized the transportation industry and the world’s infrastructure.

Ultimately, it all comes down to paying attention to the human aspect to solve problems. That’s the key to a human-centered form of design. It’s one thing to make a design that looks pretty, but it could end up being difficult to use.

Instead, do your research by listening to your audience, extrapolate their needs, and then implement (and test) your prototypes until your audience tells you that you’ve created what they needed.

If you have any questions about applying design thinking to app development, feel free to contact Rose at rose.figliano@gmail.com. Her presentation at Ynext Incubator Boot Camp on Designing User Experiences can be viewed here.

Have you leveraged design thinking to create engaging user experiences? Are you using APIs to create a seamless process for customers? Let us know and we may feature you in an upcoming blog post.