Software development is a discipline that can be both complex and convoluted. Many pieces of software require the most gifted engineers to develop them to a level of competent performance.
This need for deep technological wisdom can often cloud over the fact that software developers don’t just create software for engineers. It’s built for consumers. The average piece of software must not just perform incredible tasks behind the scenes. It must also present those equations and activities in an understandable format for end users.
This is why design thinking is critical to software development success.
What Is Design Thinking?
Design thinking, as defined by the CEO of MJV Technology and Innovation, Mauricia Vianna, is “a process of co-creating strategies that take all user needs and challenges into account. This inevitably leads to a better market fit for the software developers are creating.”
Vianna adds that approaching software development from this angle allows you to target your technology-related tasks and set benchmarks that are consumer-oriented.
The CEO goes further by emphasizing the importance of current and future customer needs, stating that “With the complexities involved in software development, it is important to stay focused on the most fundamental goal: meeting current and future customers’ real needs.”
To put it another way, by focusing on design thinking, you are setting goals that connect to genuine customer pain points. These should apply to both the present and the future.
Of course, when the inherent goal of a project is to create an effective solution to the painpoints of the end-user, you must discover these pain points for the project to proceed.
Realigning Goals and Shifting Perspectives
This goal of meeting customer needs can have a revolutionary effect on how your team goes about the completion of a project. The increased focus on a customer-centric goal tends to lower costs and lead to greater efficiency in execution. You don’t waste time going in circles or developing off-target solutions. Instead, you can add even greater value to the inherent functionality of a piece of software by targeting it toward actual rather than perceived customer needs.
In addition, design thinking counters the natural tendency for your team members to prioritize their own experiences. Engineers too often fall back on deductive reasoning as a guide to their end goals. Instead, Vianna stresses the need for abductive reasoning. This approaches the problem in a manner that utilizes the objective information available to try to arrive at a suitable solution.
Deductive reasoning tends to be dogmatic and limited by personal experience. Abductive reasoning opens up the door for intuition, innovation, and revolutionary new solutions. This doesn’t just lead to a superior end product. It can even generate unexpected additional solutions that lead to further revenue streams and product ideas. These can perpetuate your development process and continue to establish your brand as a provider of effective solutions.
The Most Important Benefits of Design Thinking
There are many benefits that come with a design thinking approach to software development. We’ve discussed some of these above. However, there are three major positive takeaways that deserve a specific shoutout. These include:
- Greater customer satisfaction: If a piece of software meets a customer’s genuine needs, they will have a satisfying experience. Customers love this because they they won’t have to jump through marketing message hoops that strive to redirect their needs.
- Higher customer loyalty: A piece of software that meets their need or solves a challenge will impact a customer emotionally, as well. This can lead to a greater feeling of loyalty toward your brand. It can also help your brand establish itself as an industry authority that offers real solutions.
- Reduced errors and investment: With a clear goal in mind, much less time and investment is spent on unnecessary tasks. This doesn’t just mean avoiding pointless work. It can also highlight where planned efforts are unnecessary. For instance, you may find that you can utilize an API to streamline part of the development process and still create a quality end product.
Of course, the natural prioritization of the customer doesn’t mean all other focal points fall off of the radar. You must still strive to keep all relevant stakeholders in mind when planning out a project. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for how to get a design-thinking-focused project off of the ground.
How to Develop Software with Design Thinking at the Forefront
Below, Mauricia Vianna recommends a few of the steps to plan a software development project that prioritizes design thinking.
- Start with Buy-In: If you want to focus a project on design thinking, it’s important to garner support from every stakeholder that is impacted by the decision.
- Leverage available data: Begin the planning by gathering and reviewing all of your customer data. This should include expectations, value propositions, and challenges as they relate to the customers and stakeholders related to the project.
- Understand the user: From there, strive to flesh out your available information. Abductive reasoning can fill in gaps in knowledge as a part of the creative process. However, you want to start with a solid framework of data in place. You can do this through further research, client interviews, customer feedback, and so on.
- Narrow the scope of the project: You should make it your main goal throughout this process to narrow rather than expand the project scope. Software development can be very open-ended when unrestricted. Use both your pre-existing and new knowledge of the customer to hone your objectives and set goals that answer genuine pain points.
- Pace yourself: Once initiated, it’s important to give the design thinking process time. Incubation is essential for the activity of mutual co-creation to take root and yield results.
Software development is an overwhelming process on a practical level. Including — and even emphasizing — the need for design thinking can feel like a hassle. However, in reality, it is a critical step to sustained success.
If you can apply a customer-centric lens to your software development endeavors you can save time, increase efficiency, build your brand, and generate a solid track record of loyal, satisfied clientele.