Have you heard of Design Thinking?
Chances are you have.
It is one of the hottest buzzwords of today, easily found in articles and in the news. The education and business fields are going crazy over it, books are written about it, and service designers, creative agencies, career coaches, trainers and facilitators are using it. Perhaps you’re already applying it in your work or everyday life, too?
Since its debut in 1969 when Simon Herbert introduced the model in the Science of the Artificial, Design Thinking has revolutionized business models, education systems, processes of innovation, product and service design and human mindsets.
One of the reasons for its popularity is that it is human-centered, putting users and customers at the center of creation in order to understand their problems, thus making products and services more user-friendly.
Design Thinking may seem like just a tool, but this is not the case. Design Thinking is more of a mindset or a process with several different stages, and each stage can be supported with different tools to help in the understanding-designing process.
The Design Thinking process
Keeping in mind the stages of the model, we have collected some of the best Design Thinking tools to help you create real value for your customers and users.
- Empathize: Typeform, Google Forms, Creatlr
- Define: Smaply, Userforge, Pyoneer
- Ideate: SessionLab, RealtimeBoard, IdeaFlip
- Prototype: Boords, Mockingbird, POP
- Test: UserTesting, HotJar, PingPong
Let’s dive deeper to review each tool more in detail:
The first stage of the Design Thinking process is to empathize with your users by collecting as much information about them as you can with different set of tools. This human-centered approach helps experts focus on the user instead of their own assumptions about a problem.
Credit goes to Creatl.com for the image
For collecting (raw) information:
- Google forms is used by many as go-to solution for creating free, unlimited surveys. You can choose from 6 different types of questions, and as a Google product, it works perfectly with Gmail or Spreadsheets.
- Typeform arrived to the survey-making world with a fresh and simple look and an easy-to use interface. As you type, the application automatically evaluates the question and puts it into the right format. The free version includes an unlimited number of surveys of 10 questions and 100 responses.
For organizing the information:
- Creatlr is an open platform for visual thinkers and designers. You can browse through more than 200+ templates from empathy maps and customer journey maps to stakeholder analysis. The free plan includes 5 projects with 5 collaborators, access to the community and template library with an option for adding your own tools as well.
Once you have gathered a lot of information about the users, their needs and problems in the empathizing stage, you can analyze and synthesize it in order to sift out the (real) problem to be solved. To understand problems better, it is useful to create personas and define roles so you can attach needs and problems to different set of users. Once you have this you can see what patterns emerge and summarize problems into one problem statement.
Credit goes to Smaply.com for the image
- Smaply provides a beautiful and detailed persona and stakeholder editor, journey maps and storyboards to analyze all the data on your users. Short videos are also provided on how to use each tool as effectively as possible. Smaply offers a 14-day trial, after which you can choose a plan. The basic plan gives you 3 projects with unlimited personas, stakeholder and journey maps and access to learning resources for 1 person.
- Userforge promises to help you create in-depth and realistic personas with less clicks than it takes in design software. To foster collaboration and fast decision making you can share personas by URL instead of by the slow process of invitation. The application is non-designer-friendly, meaning anyone can create usable personas without the designer mindset. And it is totally free.
- An all-in-one solution for persona identification: Pyoneer. This app has two main parts: problem definition and solution finding. The former consists of everything you would possibly need to map out your problem statement from personas to journey maps. The latter has concept, validation and kanban storyboards for seamless solution finding. The app is not yet fully available as of the publishing of this post, but you can get early access by signing up.
This stage is about coming up with solutions based on the problem statement. At this point in the process you’re not concerned about finding the best solution but creating as many possible solutions as you can with the help of brainstorming and other ideation techniques.
- The open library of more than 400+ facilitation tools from SessionLab offers a wide variety of ideation methods. From brainwriting to 3-12-3 brainstorm, you can find the best stand-alone activities and complete workshop templates to get ideas flowing in the team. It is free to use, and by signing up you can also save your favourites or add your own tools to the library.
- For collective brainstorming, idea collection and note-taking use Realtimeboard. Imagine it as a huge, endless online whiteboard for whatever task you need whether its brainstorming with colleagues or stakeholders, creating a mindmap of ideas, or user story boards. It’s all up to you. The free version offers 3 boards for three-person collaboration but can also be shared with guest viewers too. It also integrates with Slack.
- Ideaflip is a simple yet elegant tool for brainstorming sessions either with your team or alone. Anyone can add their ideas on post-it like notes to the virtual space. Ideaflip enables commenting and idea groping for easy and fast decision-making. If someone invites you to a board you don’t need to subscribe, but you can also create your own unlimited amount of boards and have 2 guests per board for 9 USD per month.
By this stage you will have a few solutions or features that you will want to test. Prototypes do not have to be too detailed, high-quality or actually even working yet. The idea is to create a prototype that is sufficiently able to display a specific feature or working mode.
Credit goes to POP for the image
- Boords aims to be your complete storyboard toolbox. Their storyboard creator allows you to experiment with pictures and gifs, voiceover and action text or redraw existing frames. With the Animation tool you can actually make animation from your frames with sounds. Plus you can collaborate with anyone in real time. A basic plan includes 3 storyboards, 1 user and Boords branding for 12 USD per month.
- Mockingbird has a clean and user-friendly interface making it one of the best prototyping and wireframe applications. Features include drag and drop UI, linking together several mockups to make it interactive and smart text resizing. Sharing with direct links makes collaboration super easy. The basic plan costs 12 USD for 3 projects.
- Unlike Mockingbird and Broods, POP is a mobile application for turning your sketches into animations. It is very easy -just take snaps of your sketches or pictures and the app merges them into an interactive prototype. The best thing about POP is that it allows you to share your prototype and get feedback from users instantly. It is available for iOS and Android.
When testing the complete product or service, it often happens that data gained through testing will redefine the problem statement or several features, making Design Thinking a real iterative process. While nothing beats the ultimate experience of seeing your users interacting live with a prototype, there are various different tools you can use when you have to conduct user testing remotely. And if your prototype is a website, you can also benefit from website analytics and screen capture tools.
Credit goes to Hotjar.com for the image
- UserTesting.com one of the best and biggest names in user testing applications. Pick users according to what you want to test whether it’s a website or mobile app. The platform records every move your testers make, so you can truly understand how they navigate and perform the tasks you assign to them. Try it out for free, and it is 49 USD per video session after that.
- Another great tool for testing is Hotjar. This all-in-one analytics and feedback tool enables you to collect data on your funnel conversions, see where people click and how they navigate on your site. They offer instant feedback from users and feedback polls to identify problems the user may be having. The basic plan is free and collects data from 2000 page views/day.
- Pingpong is a user-research platform where you can find tens of thousand of testers from all over the world. The platform will automatically set up the best testers for you. You can easily schedule interviews which can be recorded and later analyzed. They work on a credit-based approach: 1 credit = 30 minute interview = 75 Euro.
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We hope that all of these tools will be useful and will support you in creating awesome, valuable and human-centered products and services for us and the world! If you happen to deliver workshops, make sure to check out our post on the best online tools for workshops, too!