Design thinking is a holistic product design approach where thinking like the user is the focus and user satisfaction is the goal. It is a methodology that was made famous by David Kelley, the founder of IDEO at Stanford University’s School of Design. One of Kelley’s initial clients was Apple, which in 1980 tasked IDEO to develop a mouse for their radical new computer—the Lisa. IDEO developed a product so inventive that its basic mechanism and design impacts even today’s mechanical mouse.

Design thinking requires a hands-on, user-centered approach to solve problems through its five-step process:

1. Empathize

2. Define

3. Ideate

4. Iterate

5. Test

To create better software with design thinking, it is wise to integrate your test team early into the product design process. These are the people who will spend countless hours troubleshooting your software; if there is anyone who can feel a user’s pain, it is the tester. Now, let us look closely at the five steps.

1. Empathizing with the user

In the empathy stage, it is important to ask the right questions to help your team to solve the right problems. Getting into the shoes of the user is the best way to create a quality software product. Hence, leveraging your testing team’s knowledge and expertise to develop use cases and identifying limitations of the product is a good way to go. From defining the user journey to defining user personas, it’s important to understand who your users are and how they will fit into your product’s ecosystem.

2. Define user needs

Research done in the empathize stage can be used to define user needs. Your testers can be very useful at this stage. They can point out where problems will arise and can provide key insights during product development. Having clearly identified user needs can help you design a robust software with many features that will excite and delight your users.

3. Ideate

Never limit the range of possible solutions you can design. The very purpose of the ideation stage is to explore alternative solutions. During this stage, invite stakeholders to share and discuss their innovative ideas and to collaborate in finding viable solutions.

4. Iterate

Design thinking is all about using the best ideas and solutions in the ideation stage and then implementing them in the software in an iterative manner. Gone are the days when the idea of iterations carried a negative connotation. Today, it is thought of as being essential to the creation of a better product. This shift in mindset elevates your testers to a level significantly higher than that of debuggers, as they are now at the very center of the software development process.

5. Test

Deploy your software to knowledgeable user groups to see how they receive your product. Make notes on how users are interacting with the prototype and the kind of problems they are facing in the interaction. Allow your users the complete freedom to test your product, because all feedback is valuable.

The design thinking approach helps you discover points of failures via traditional quality assurance, which becomes a part of the creative effort. Iterations aren’t seen as wasted effort but a means of fashioning a finer product. Software testers have thus become an integral part of the development process. Essentially, design thinking aligns the QA efforts with the development efforts.

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