What is Outsourced Product Development

Design thinking in product development

Design thinking methods in product development

Briefly about my background: I have been accompanying the product development of YAKINDU products at itemis for almost four years as a usability engineer, i.e. my main task is to represent user needs and design an intuitive user interface. From usability engineering, I know how important it is to first deal intensively with user needs, as this is the only way to ensure that a product is accepted and used by the user. Design thinking is therefore not that new to me: it packages known methods from usability engineering in a slightly differently structured process and supplements this with a variety of other methods. That is what makes the topic so exciting for me. That's why I decided to deal intensively with this topic and train as a moderator for design thinking workshops. I find it fascinating to see how the participants in these workshops develop their own dynamic, motivation and energy to solve a problem over time.

However, when I think of my job in product development, in which I look after several products at the same time, I and my teams don't always have the time to hold workshops lasting several days. So I started to introduce individual design thinking methods into product development if necessary:

Interviews - specifically inquire about user needs

When it comes to understanding what users really need, there is no avoiding direct contact with users. The best way to do this is through interviews. Interviews can always be used: if a new feature is to be developed, I can prepare key questions that address precisely this aspect. But also, if I want to find out where the users are having trouble, I let them tell me how they are currently doing their jobs and then dig deeper to get to the core problems and needs. The advantage: You don't need a process or a long workshop to use interviews. You just do it.

For example, when developing the YAKINDU Model Viewer, a tool for viewing Matlab Simulink models, we are addressing the user group of calibrators. First of all, we wanted to understand how this user group works and what they use the product for. We have therefore interviewed several calibrators and learned a lot from them; Among other things, that they travel a lot in the vehicle and use the product on the laptop - without a mouse. Simple keyboard operation is therefore essential for this user group. This immediately created a design challenge: How can calibrators interact with the YAKINDU Model Viewer using only the keyboard in order to be able to quickly analyze errors in the vehicle?

Creative methods in a team - collecting solution ideas

Once you have identified such a need, you can move on to the creative space. While interviews can easily be conducted by two people (an interviewer and a note-taker), I believe that creative methods work best in an interdisciplinary team.

For the design challenge described above, we set up a somewhat more extensive creative workshop lasting four hours because we wanted to address as many use cases as possible for keyboard operation. Participants were the project manager, three developers from the Model Viewer team, two usability engineers and a developer of another product. The basis for the workshop was the “idea tower” method: we set up ten stations on the walls of our room, each with a use case, e.g. B. the search in the model addressed. For each use case, an idea should be developed of what keyboard control and visualization in the tool could look like. These stations were rotated over the course of the workshop: each participant had five minutes to put their thoughts on the use case on paper. In the next round, the ideas of the previous station visitor were built on and these were supplemented with their own ideas. In the end, many different solution ideas emerged for each station. At the end, these were discussed, aggregated and finally prioritized as to which ideas we want to continue working with.

Such and other creative methods that are known from design thinking can always be used quickly in the development process. For example, we regularly run design studios that take around two hours. In short iterations, people scribble individually, the ideas are presented to the team and evaluated and then built on the ideas of the others in the next iteration.

Build prototypes and collect user feedback

We have an idea, but what now? Design thinking is now about making the ideas tangible and tangible in order to obtain feedback from users. The fastest way to do this is to use prototypes. A prototype can look very different: it can be a quick implementation, a paper prototype, a click prototype or a drama.

We constantly use prototypes in product development because they are easy to create and enable quick feedback. For example, we are currently working on optimizing the tool start of the YAKINDU Model Viewer. We have developed a concept for this and implemented it as a click prototype in the “UXPin” tool. Such a prototype can be done by one person in a few hours of work - so it doesn't need a large team or a workshop.

In order to get user feedback, we took our click prototype to a usability test dinner - an evening event in which applications and prototypes are evaluated by users in short, 10-minute usability tests. Independent of such events, we also organize usability tests ourselves in order to get feedback. They can be integrated into the development process at any time.