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It’s quite common for a company to offer products or solutions based on what managers believe customers need. From their personal experiences or from the subjective observation of the context, companies generate an idea of ​​what they think the user will value. However, the reality is that, most of the time, a brand and its collaborators’ ideas are far away from what the user really needs.

For this reason, it is important to have information and insights, combined with user feedback, in order to generate an optimal solution without risking high costs and failure.


What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a methodology of iteration, exploration, design and development. It is a process to generate ideas based on the understanding of the real needs of a user. It pursues the objective of thinking about the design of a solution following a detected need and counting on user feedback.

Last but not least, it is an iterative process. Although a series of stages are established, it is important to know that iteration means that one can go back and forth, skip stages, or perform them at the same time.

Let’s look at the stages of the Design Thinking process and analyze what each one represents. We will illustrate the process using the example of a UX/UI development project we carried out for YPF.


Understand What Design Thinking Is - Process


Step 1: Empathize to understand the user.

This stage focuses on getting to know the users for whom we are going to develop a solution. Understanding what their needs are, how they operate, how their context is composed and what they need.

For this we can observe and listen to the users through different consumer research techniques: in-depth interviews, focus groups, benchmarks, surveys, among others. In the case of the YPF project, the Huenei team had different instances of conversations with the areas of interest and future users of the software in order to fully understand their needs.

A very powerful and useful tool, which draws on the techniques mentioned above, is the empathy map. It is a canvas that allows us to land our findings and thus be able to know the user from four perspectives: understand what they say and what they do, know what they think and what they feel, understand what they hear, and identify what they see.


Understand What Design Thinking Is - Empathy Map

Illustration by Nielsen Norman Group


Step 2: Defining the problem

After the previous step, we have to start defining what the scope of our challenge is going to be; what we are going to work on. At this point we must define the problem and focus our objective. To define this goal, a key recommendation is to think about the following phrase:

How could we…?


All the information that we collect in the empathizing stage, which allowed us to truly get to know the user, will allow us to correctly define this question and thus develop our research problem. In our UX/UI development project for YPF, the company needed to provide its team with a solution to streamline tasks related to oil rig management.


Step 3: Ideate to generate concepts and synthesize to define courses of action.

Once we define the question we want to answer (also known as the challenge), the ideation stage arrives. It consists of being able to think as many ideas as possible to give a solution to that question. Quantity is more important than quality here. In this sense, work teams have a wide variety of ideation techniques, such as brainstorming, that allow thinking outside the box and arriving at disruptive ideas.

Then we will carry out a synthesis process, where the ideas are sifted through a process of convergence. For this, there are also techniques that teams use in order to select the ideas that are really appropriate from the perspective of the user (satisfaction of their need) and the business (viability of resources and financial outcomes).

As you can see, this stage is characterized by a great divergence (ideation) and convergence (synthesis) in terms of the process. In fact, the design thinking methodology in general is represented by a constant interaction between divergence and convergence.


Illustration by ICF International


Following the example of YPF, the Huenei team came up with a large number of ideas, which were subsequently able to converge based on the specific needs of the client: an application with high levels of usability, which could be integrated with the other management platforms of YPF.


Step 4: Prototype to show the user a possible solution.

Once we have defined some potential solutions, they shall be prototyped. Depending on the amount of ideas we had, we can prototype two, three, or four of them approximately. Prototypes are a powerful and essential tool in innovation because they allow us to turn ideas into something tangible at low cost. These prototypes allow us to implement the philosophy of agile methodologies: “test fast, at low cost, and iterate the solution quickly.”

Prototypes can be high fidelity but they can also be very simple concepts, such as storytelling, drawings, PowerPoint slides, among others. There are different types of prototypes and each team will define the optimal one based on the needs of the project and the resources available.

For YPF, we carried out an interactive prototype with the Just in Mind tool, which allowed us to validate the interaction and design of the user interface in the early stages.


Step 5: Test to get user feedback.

Once we’ve made the prototype, it’s time to evaluate it. This stage consists of letting a (generally small) sample of users interact with the prototype, in order to obtain feedback from them. When the prototype is considered as adequate to solve the challenge, it can advance the the development of the final product. But in cases where the prototype does not meet the user’s needs, you must go back to previous stages of the Design Thinking process to make adjustments.

Our solution for YPF consisted on the development of a mobile application that allowed the company to achieve an improvement in the employees’ performance.


Design thinking is a powerful methodology that can help your company to efficiently develop the right solution for your user. At Huenei we can help you get to your objectives through our developments based on agile methodologies.