How has design thinking made an impact on you?

11m 34s

In their UX Roundtable video series, the UpTop Health UX team discuss how design thinking has made an impact on them.

Moderator: Michael Woo (Director of UX)
Interviewees: Abbey Smith (UX Designer), Deborah Roberts (UX Designer), Michael Woo (Director of UX)
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Episode Transcript

Moderator/Michael:  Welcome all to the first episode of the UX roundtable for 2021. Happy new year to everybody. I’m joined by Deborah Roberts and Abbey Smith of the UpTop Health UX design team. These roundtables are meant to glean insights, your stories from the team, to hopefully help you guys on your future projects or just in general, learn from us. The topic for today is how design thinking has impacted you guys in your professional career and I’d just like to hear how that has happened and how about we start with you Abbey?

Abbey: Sure. Being a UX designer hits every part of the job essentially, but some of the big ones for me, at least it helps me stay honest, especially to my conscious or unconscious biases that I have, like working through a specific problem. Because the entire process is so human centric, which is a really wonderful thing, it helps you make sure that the user stays in the front of everything that we do, especially when thinking of solutions. Then lastly, the last big thing is it helps me stay open to new possibilities at all stages of the project. So when you’re working on something solo and then you come back into working with a group, you get a nice balance of work and ideas that can build off of one another, depending on the project. At the end, when you are closer to prototyping and something more final, you may get a new possibility that comes knocking at the door. It could be something worth looking at, so it kind of helps everyone stay open to anything that could happen.

Moderator/Michael:  Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you maybe only practice certain aspects of the design thinking mindset, the tool set?

Abbey: I think that’s client based and project based; sometimes people just need help getting off the ground like getting out of the rut that they’re in and doing some ideation and strategy sessions and so maybe you’re not going all the way to a prototype and a final developed product, or sometimes people have kind of already done that with maybe another agency and then now they need help kind of pushing it through to the end. So I think it can be split up in any way that you need it to.

Moderator/Michael:  Right. what about yourself, Deborah?

Deborah: Yeah, I think for me, the big thing with design thinking is that it really starts and ends with the users. The process really helps you to make sure that you’re solving the right problems, because you can come up with a great solution, but if it’s not solving the right problem, then it’s not going to get you, or the client, the result that you want. For those that are new to the design thinking process, it starts with empathize. So we’re doing research to learn about the users and to help build empathy and then we’re moving into define and that part is really great because then your brain and ideally different people with different perspectives and that helps you to come up with different ideas because you all are coming from different viewpoints and then it can also help to bring alignment with the team, which is one of the things I really love about the process.

Then we move on to ideate and you’re looking at how you can make this customer more successful and trying to think outside of the box. That way you’re not narrowed in because sometimes it’s easy to just narrow in on one path but the great thing about designing is that it makes you try to think out of the box; you’re forced to explore crazy ideas and different ways of doing things. Then when you’re prototyping and testing, you’re really bringing it back to that user again, to validate and make sure you’re not just going off of your own assumptions, making sure that their needs are really met.

Moderator/Michael:  You guys have a favorite part of the process?

Deborah: It’s hard to say. I love the research in the beginning and learning about the customer. That to me is always super interesting. And then at the end, after you’ve done that research, coming back to see if you’ve actually solved the problem is really fun.

Moderator/Michael:  What about you Abbey?

Abbey: I mean ditto, I think all of us get into this work because we like helping people so learning what their issues are and then making sure you get to check those off as you go through your design process is pretty cool.

Moderator/Michael:  I just wanted to take a few minutes to talk about my thoughts. It’s a little bit different because coming from where I came from, I was an in-house product designer for many years. Most recently, before UpTop, was Big Fish games. At that time I didn’t really hear too much about the design thinking process, although we were actually practicing elements of it. I think it’s different when you’re in-house designer on a product team, because for one, oftentimes you’re working with a product manager or owner who is the one that’s gathering all the requirements. So in essence, they’re the ones who are doing all the discovery and oftentimes they’re told to not bother the designers until the requirements are fleshed out, otherwise you’re wasting their time.

And also when you’re part of working for a product company, your users are pretty much set. They don’t usually change. And so that persona is something that’s there. You don’t really think about, unlike us at an agency, where that’s always changing depending on the client we’re working with and we always have to do our own discovery, so I think that’s the biggest difference from where I came from to where I am now and being on that in-house product team, we did the ideation piece of it. I think that’s the same. We did, a lot of prototyping as well.

And I think that’s one of the things that I brought over to UpTop because when I first came here, there wasn’t that much prototyping going on. There was some, but most of it was focused on the output actually. There was a lot of annotations and red lining and that kind of thing. But to be fair, there was no Zepelin at the time, there was no XD. So super thankful for those products because now we get to focus more on the actual high value items and not those things where now it’s all automated, but yeah, I think that agency, the design thinking mindset, the tools, that process is very much highlighted end-to-end. And I think that’s the awesome piece of really leveraging this framework and I know a lot of folks have certain thoughts about whether it works or not but I think for us where we’re always budget conscious or resource strapped, we’re always thinking lean, I think it really fits into our mold of thinking. So yeah, I personally have found a lot of value in it and I think you guys would agree.

I think that especially in the prototyping aspect, having that tangible aspect has really changed things because back when we were just providing screens and PDFs, that didn’t do it because they had trouble connecting what went to where no matter how much annotations you put, this button would go to here, it’s not the same. Anyways, those are my thoughts. I don’t know if you guys have anything to add on top of that.

Abbey: I would agree with the prototyping, bringing that into any sort of work you’re doing. I know in previous jobs too, I was doing more experiential work and we made a mini model of what was going to go as the huge, big event and showed the client. And everything connected, it all worked and they were like, yes, go do it. So it’s small but it has a really big impact.

Moderator/Michael: Yeah. We didn’t even talk about the usability testing piece of it but that’s the icing on the cake and really wraps up all the work that is put into that process. And I think for the client, just because you put forward a concept design doesn’t really mean anything until you say, “Hey, we’ve actually vetted this.”

Deborah: Yeah. And then it really empowers them to take the next steps, whether that’s getting other stakeholders on board or gathering the data they need to make the best decision.

Moderator/Michael: So, super excited to keep working with this tool set and hopefully you guys out there who aren’t yet doing design thinking workshops or have yet to implement that into your process, don’t fear. It’s actually quite easy to do, and whether you’re a designer or you work in the digital industry, it’s not limited to that. There’s just so many aspects of the design thinking process that you can just apply to your personal life. I know that sounds weird but really the bias towards action can apply towards anything. Cool. Great topic. We’ll talk soon. Thank you.