Design Thinking Process

23 October, 2020

People ignore design that ignores people

Frank Chimero

Anyone involved in website design or development or who keep track of website analytics know this to be true. The purpose of a website—in terms of its visitors—is to offer them information. However, a website with a design that ignores that visitor’s wants and needs would find itself unable to convert any of its visitors, no matter how good the design may be.

A website targeting high school students should not be using images of middle-aged people and the content should not have the tone of voice of a medical doctor, for example.

Here at Crubiks, we use the design thinking methodology when we design a product for our clients. However, those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept may be wondering, what is design thinking and what are the steps to this process?

What is Design Thinking?

The design thinking methodology focuses on human needs to create solutions to solve problems. It involves obtaining a personal understanding of the users and what their needs may be. By utilizing this methodology, you can create innovative solutions that will not only solve the most prominent problems but also the less obvious ones.

Design thinking not only helps you create a product that will entice your customers but the methodology also lets you understand the customer journey. This way, you can apply that knowledge not only to your web design but also to your business strategy.

A lot of businesses approach a problem by looking at the solution—it’s a very narrow way of looking at a problem.

The Design Thinking Process lets you think of a problem from the perspective of the user, enabling to see several different solutions. These solutions may even solve multiple problems—problems that may not have been obvious if you had looked at the problem from a business perspective.

Design Thinking Process: The Steps

There are 5 steps in total in the Design Thinking Process:  

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test


As mentioned earlier, “empathy” is the core of the design thinking methodology and it also happens to be the first step of the process.

This step revolves around understanding your users—what their needs are, what may be lacking, and as well as their journey. It’s putting yourself in their shoes: I’m a freshman in college looking for a laptop that’s both portable enough to bring to class and with powerful enough to act a media centre when I’m not studying. Or perhaps: I’m a 40-something homemaker looking for a mid-range cooking appliance.

You can start this step by creating a specific user map for your users and by utilizing personas—which we’ve started to do with the previously mentioned cases.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, a persona is essentially a fictional character that will represent someone who is or will be using your website. By having this persona in place, you can conceptualize what a particular user’s needs are.

It’s important that you have this step right—because design thinking is based on the user and if you start the process by identifying the wrong type of user and the wrong type of needs, then all your efforts will be for naught.


The main aim of this stage is to define the problem using the insights you’ve gained in the empathize stage. You’re essentially synthesizing a problem from the information you’ve gathered from your users.

What are some of the problems that your users face?

It’s also important that you approach this from the user’s point of view. If you’re applying design thinking to your website design, for example, you should map out the user’s journey and making notes of any issues that they may encounter.

A clear definition of the problem is necessary to move forward and to find suitable solutions to that problem. A vague definition will only serve to hinder you in the “Ideate” stage.


During this part of the process, you explore a side set of solutions to the problem that you’ve defined, ensuring that you avoid a narrow focus. You’re encouraged to look outside the box in order to come up with solutions that may cover multiple problems that you may have—and that you necessarily don’t see when focused on the solution for one problem.

Using multiple perspectives is useful, which is why brainstorming with a multi-disciplinary team is ideal for this stage. A person from the technical team may view a problem differently compared to a designer from the creative team. Having differing points of views will help you come up with a broader picture.

It will also help you come up with multiple solutions that you can prototype in the next stage.


The Prototype stage is where you begin creating the solution, it’s where the idea of a solution becomes something more concrete.

This stage is also when your users will see the solution or a version of it—a beta version of your website or application, for example.

Creating a prototype means you won’t be wasting your time on a solution that’s not viable and that you won’t waste resources on something that won’t work. Building a low-fidelity prototype, for example, will be cheap and faster to produce. This will enable you to create multiple protypes to test out in the testing stage in order to find the best one out of all of them.


The final step of the Design Thinking process is the Test phase. This is when you will test the usability of the solution that you’ve designed. Its main aim is to receive feedback for prototypes.

The focus for the Test stage is on the prototype that you have and whether or not it will be addressing the question that you’re testing out during this stage. During this stage, you will be able to see how the user reacts to the prototype and it will determine if that prototype is viable—and if it is, then what other changes may be necessary in order to make it into a viable solution.

The testing stage may be done multiple times as the prototype receives feedback from the user and you design a new prototype based on their feedback to test on the user again.

Design Thinking and Airbnb

With a better understanding on the design thinking process, you may now be wondering about design thinking examples that exist today. Perhaps one of the best known of design thinking examples is Airbnb.

Startup companies oftentimes find themselves stalling, perhaps due to incompatible strategy or in Airbnb’s case, back when it was struggling in 2009, because they thought creating the solution was enough. In their “Silicon Valley mentality,” as co-founder Joe Gebbia called it, they approached their problem in a scalable way due to their technical backgrounds.

However, this way of thinking only resulted in a business that made $200 per week. At least, until they changed their approach to the problem.

They began to ask why the business wasn’t working and to take on the point of view of their customers. They looked at their listings for one specific city to see what was missing—why they weren’t having enough conversions. What they saw was that the New York City listings in on their site had low-quality pictures that failed to entice any potential customers.

The solution?

Fly out to New York to take better pictures, ones that would interest their target market.

This was the first step of the changes that would take place in the company. No longer were they more focused on lines of code, instead, their team members would fly out and meet people, find out what their problems and needs are, and then fly back to their headquarters to share their findings with the rest of the company.

By changing their approach to a Design Thinking one—which focuses on their customer’s needs—they managed to change their business around.

Design Thinking Statistics

Airbnb’s case isn’t the exception to the rule. In fact, studies have shown that the Design Thinking method is beneficial for a number of other companies. To conclude part 1 of our Design Thinking series, let’s look at a couple of numbers with regards to Design Thinking:

In a study conducted by Forrester on clients of IBM who apply the Design Thinking method in their company, they found that:  

  • US$ 20.6 million of Costs Saved due to Project Acceleration from Design Thinking
  • US$18.6 million increase in portfolio profitability  

A study by HPI-Stanford Design Thinking Research Program found that 71% of the companies surveyed believe that the Design Thinking process improved their company’s working culture on a team-level.

The study also found that these companies have only applied the process to support-level programs or to “traditional” departments such as R&D and Marketing. Experts believe, however, that this type of consultancy model restricts the potential of Design Thinking.

Return to our blog for more articles on the design thinking process and how it can help to expand your business.

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Copyright ©2020. Crubiks Inc. All Rights Reserved
Copyright ©2020. Crubiks Inc. All Rights Reserved
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