5 Steps of Design Thinking Part 5: Excellence in Test Design

5 Steps of Design Thinking Part 5: Excellence in Test Design

Welcome to the final installment of our design thinking series. While design thinking is often used to create innovative new lines of business, you can easily apply it to any problem-solving situation.


In the beginning of this series, we talked about the wreckage in the market left by solutions that nobody wanted. You could count roll-up fabric keyboards, Google+, and the Zune among the solid concepts that starved from lack of customer enthusiasm. Other technologies, like HyperCard in the 1980s, personal digital assistants in the 1990s, and LoudCloud in the early 2000s, prefigured successful technologies, but simply arrived too early.


Let’s revisit the previous stages of design thinking that we’ve covered:

In stage 1, we learned to Empathize with our consumers and understand what their needs are. We then used that data in stage 2 to Define the most comprehensive problem statement. Next, we brainstormed without limits in the Ideate stage, and then settled on the best plan of action in the Prototype stage. Now we are ready to push our idea out of the nest and see if it can fly in the final Test stage.


The Best of the Test


It’s common for concept design teams to try to test too much at once or to be blind to the power of confirmation bias. Even following the “fail fast and fail cheap” mantra, it is easy for teams to get overly attached to certain ideas. They tend to test for things that will confirm what they already believe about the value of a minimum valuable product.

The best testing environment allows users to explore the prototype in an open-ended, non-directed environment. Don’t lead them through the process and give them extensive instructions. Allow them to encounter the prototype as users would in the real world. Minimal instruction engages their curiosity and creativity, often uncovering uses and approaches that designers never imagined. An open experiment makes it possible to find serious flaws and discover what makes users truly happy.


4 Areas of Interest for Iterative Improvement


When testing your product, take notes on developments in four categories:

People – Describe who is testing the prototype and who is observing. Make educated guesses about their assumptions.

Objects – Discuss what kind of support would make it easier for subjects to test the prototype. Describe how it would work in the real world with objects that make it easier to use and objects that are likely to get in the way.

Location – Detail where and when the users are interacting with the prototype. Consider what the ideal conditions would be.

Interactions – Observe how the subjects treat both the prototype itself and each other during the test. Take note of their emotional state and what they want to share with others about the prototype.


Life After Design


Design Thinking is a way of thinking about the world and the roadblocks to getting what you want. Approach each problem with human centricity, not from the standpoint of business objectives. Try to fully inhabit the user’s viewpoint and their emotions. Don’t get attached to any one idea too early. Create a range of possibilities and spend more time on choosing the best one. The biggest takeaway from the design thinking framework? Even the best ideas don’t matter if they don’t set off a fire in the hearts of users. 


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