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The design thinking process helps UX designers understand users’ needs related to a product or service. It is an easy and organized way to break down complex user problems and make the solutions’ implementation easier. To understand the design thinking process more easily, we have broken it down into 5 main stages. Moreover, we will also talk about the significance of design thinking and its non-linear nature.


5 stages of the design thinking process

The design thinking process can be broken down into 5 main stages. These stages are:


  1. Empathize

The first stage in the design thinking process is to gain an understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve. To do this, you’ll need to speak with experts in the field, as well as observe and engage with others. This will help you obtain a deeper knowledge of their perspectives and experiences.

In a human-centered design method like design thinking, empathic designers must set their worldviews aside, in order to learn more about users. You will often collect a  significant quantity of data at this stage. You then use this data in the next stage to establish the best possible understanding of the consumers, their demands, and the difficulties that underpin the production of a specific product.


  1. Define (the problem)

Put together the knowledge you developed and received throughout the empathize stage during the define stage. At this point, you and your team should have an understanding of the obstacles and how to overcome them. To approach the problem from a human perspective, you should try to formulate a problem statement.

Early on, facilitate designing features, functionalities, and other qualities that help your team’s designers solve problems or at the very least aid users in overcoming hurdles quickly and easily. The best way to ensure you are making the right choices with your design is to define the problem your product is solving.


  1. Ideate

It’s now time to move on to the next phase of the design thinking method. Designers are ready to start coming up with ideas at this point. You better understood your consumers’ requirements in the empathize stage, and you synthesized and evaluated your results in the define stage. Now, you and your team will need a strong foundation to “think outside the box.” This will lead to fresh, new ways of approaching the solution to your defined problem.

Ideation techniques such as Brainwriting, Brainstorm, SCAMPER, and Worst Possible Idea are just a few examples. There are a variety of brainstorming and worst-case-idea sessions that you can use to stimulate creativity and widen perspectives on a given issue. It is crucial to begin the Ideation phase with as many potential solutions or ideas as possible. At this point, you should have selected some different Ideation strategies to help you investigate and test your ideas to identify the best way to either repair a problem or provide pieces necessary for avoiding it.


  1. Prototype

The design team will now create a lot of low, scaled-down replicas of the item or specific elements discovered within it to study the problems and solutions. Prototypes can be tested and shared within the design team, in other departments, or on a small group of people who are not part of the design team.

Experimentation is what this stage is all about. The goal is to come up with a solution for each of the problems in the previous three stages. You, then, can input the answers into the prototypes one by one. Based on what the users say, you can accept, enhance, and re-examine. UX designers have a better idea of how real people will act, think, and feel when they use the product at the end of this stage.


  1. Test

Designers or assessors test the complete product using the best solutions discovered throughout the prototype process. A suggested technique generally relies on user testing results to reframe an issue and better understand users, and how to empathize with them. During this stage, you can complete changes and improvements to rule out potential problems and gain a thorough grasp of the product and its users.

Read More: Designer’s Guide for User Testing in 2022


The non-linear nature of design thinking

We have established a linear and direct design thinking approach in which one stage appears to lead to the next and user testing serves as a logical conclusion. However, the procedure is carried out in a more flexible and non-linear manner in practice. For instance, multiple groups within the design team may work on more than one stage at the same time, or the designers may collect data and prototype throughout the project to help them visualize problem solutions and bring their ideas to life.

In addition, the outcomes of the testing phase may offer certain user insights. This could lead to another brainstorming session (ideate) or the creation of new prototypes (prototype).

The component stages described in the graphic above serve as a guide to the actions that you would generally take out. You should not view design thinking as a rigid and inflexible method to design. You can switch these steps around, execute them concurrently, and repeat them numerous times to extend the solution space and zero in on the best available options for your specific project.

One of the key advantages of the five-stage paradigm is the knowledge you gain at later phases, compared to feedback you received at earlier stages. You constantly use information to improve your understanding of the problem, as well as reframe the challenge. This generates a never-ending loop in which the designers learn fresh insights, develop new perspectives on the product and its potential applications, and obtain a much deeper understanding of the users and the difficulties they confront.


What is the significance of design thinking?

Developing skills in UX design is essential to recognize and respond to rapid changes in user behaviors. Businesses of all kinds are turning to design thinking to help them solve problems for their customers.

To solve wicked challenges, design teams employ design thinking. That way, they may reframe things in human-centric ways and focus on what’s most essential for consumers. Design thinking is one of the most effective methods for “thinking beyond the box”. Users’ demands may be better met by conducting better UX research, prototyping, and user testing with this tool.



Hopefully, you have now developed a good understanding of the 5 main stages of design thinking. We have also discussed the non-linear nature of design thinking along with its significance.


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