The design thinking process is a high-octane methodology vital in building user-centric digital products. It enables companies to craft software solutions to overcome obstacles and ease users’ lives. However, many firms fail to understand this crucial concept, resulting in low-performing products. So, in this article, you will understand the design thinking framework and 5 steps of design thinking with an example so you can create platforms based on users’ needs. 

What is a design thinking process?

Design thinking meaning refers to an approach to solving user problems.

Design Thinking Process

It is an iterative process that the software development team uses to understand users and challenges to create solutions to eliminate the issues that users face. There are 5 stages of design thinking process to overcome unknown or ill-defined problems.

Also Read: 10 Benefits of Using Design Thinking for Innovation

5 Important stages of design thinking process

Here are the 5 steps in design thinking that help create innovative, effective, and problem-solving digital products with minimum risks of failure. 

Design Thinking Process

Empathize – know your customers’ requirements

The first stage of the design thinking process starts with empathy. This means truly understanding the customers you aim to serve. The problem begins when most companies believe they know their audience well. But unfortunately, their assumptions are just preconceived notions rather than walking in their shoes. This is an essential step for design thinking and helps create effective solutions. So, instead of only paying attention to clients or business goals, you must comprehend your customers deeply.

Design Thinking Process


To achieve this, it is necessary to understand your consumers’ needs, attitudes, hurdles, and dreams. This will help uncover untapped opportunities and areas for your company. This process involves engaging with people, understanding their experiences, and giving consideration to their psychological and cultural contexts.
o do that, you should ask the questions like:

  • Are there any important cultural shifts?
  • What does the industry look like?
  • How do people react to design?

These questions help you gather real insights that will act as a roadmap during the design process to develop significant solutions. 

Define – let your stakeholders know about the design

The second stage is about being focused and clear. Here, you must gather all the essential information you have attained about your customers. This includes their needs, obstacles, cultural influences, and lifestyles.

Design Thinking Process

You should look for the patterns and themes, the unmet requirements, and obstacles of users that haven’t been recognized before. Then, question yourself whether you are walking the right path. All these elements help you in the design thinking process and enable you to look at solutions from the users’ perspective.

Likewise, it is also important to have an inspiring and strategic plan. It will help you find the optimal solutions, and you will be able to get all the stakeholders on the same page. At the same time, a solid plan guides your design team and leads to early discussions with clients to achieve momentum.

Once you have determined the challenges and discussed them with the stakeholders, you can move on to the next stage of generating creative ideas. 

Idea generation

The above two design thinking stages will help you develop a problem statement. This phase of design methodology allows designers to generate ideas. They deeply analyze users and their needs (stage 1). Next, they understand their findings to develop a problem statement based on users (stage 2). Then, the design team begins thinking creatively about users’ problems through brainstorming ideas.

Design Thinking Process

You can use several ideation techniques for this stage, including SCAMPER, Brainwrite, Worst Possible Idea, and Brainstorm. These techniques help generate several ideas initially. And as the ideation progresses, you can use other methods to test and refine ideas. Next, pick the best ones that solve problems. 

Prototype the design – see what’s working

The fourth stage is all about trying things out. You will turn the ideas into a reality by creating a design thinking prototype. For instance, developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for an app with all the core features for users. This will help you find out what is working and what isn’t. And most importantly, it will allow you to understand what users think about your product so you can determine the flaws.

Design Thinking Process

It is also a very important stage, as it gives you the opportunity to modify your product design based on teams’ opinions and feedback. Acting upon the suggestions of everyone in the design thinking process has several benefits, such as collaboration and finding more sources of inspiration to make the product better over time.

Also Read: 7 Steps on Building a Great MVP

Testing and refining

In the 5 stage of the design thinking process, for creating digital products, your designers test the final product thoroughly using the best ideas from the previous stage (prototyping stage). Although this is the last step of the initial process of design, in an iterative approach, such as design thinking, the results often prompt potential problems and, therefore, require reevaluation.

Design Thinking Process

The insights attained in this stage allow you to investigate how people use your product and their feelings about it. This may also lead to revising the earlier design stages for betterment. The entire gist of this stage is to gain a deep understanding of your offered solution and its users for further improvements. All this process ensures that your final software solution aligns closely with customers’ needs and experiences. 

Example of design thinking process

Here’s one of the easiest examples of design thinking process.
Imagine you want to create a mobile application that helps people stay healthy and fit. First, you will need to understand the customers who will use your solution. You will talk to potential users, such as adults in the age range from 18 to 50. You will learn about their challenges and needs when it comes to staying healthy and discuss them with the stakeholders and team.

Design Thinking Process

Based on the information, you will define the particular problems the potential users face. For example, most people find it difficult to stay consistent and motivated to exercise daily. Now, you will come up with creative ideas to solve defined issues. For instance, giving rewards for finishing workouts or adding fun elements to your app that will encourage users to stay motivated.

After having a couple of ideas, you will pick the best ones and create a simplified version of your app, like a clickable prototype. This helps you visualize how the application will work. Next, you will test the prototype with real users and gather their feedback about your solution, such as their likes and dislikes.

Likewise, based on the feedback, you will improve the app. You might amend how it looks and functions and even add or remove features. Then, you will test it again. Once you get positive feedback, you will start working on the real and fully functional mobile application and market it.

Also Read: 5 Steps to Increase Engagement with User Retention Design


Through the design thinking process, you can build and offer advantageous products to customers seeking solutions for specific problems. It is done using the 5 design thinking steps, like empathizing with users, highlighting their issues, brainstorming ideas and prototyping, and testing so you can create problem-solving platforms.
At Slash, we use the power of design thinking principles to transform your ideas into exceptional digital solutions. Our company procures expert designers and developers with vast experience crafting sensational products. Contact us for a collaborative journey to develop software that makes a difference.

FAQs – design thinking process

What is design thinking process?
The design thinking process can be best defined as a human-centered approach to innovation and problem-solving.

How many stages are there in the design thinking process?
There are 5 stages of design thinking – empathize, define, idea generation, prototyping, and testing.

What is ideate in the design thinking process?
Ideate in the design thinking process means generating innovative and creative solutions.

What is planning output from the design thinking process?
When the software product is tested using the design methodology, the strategies for implementing the product in the market are known as planning output.

Panha Henry Seng
Henry Panhna Seng
Lead engineer
As a frontend wizard with over 10 years of experience and expertise in frontend and full-stack development, I constantly strive to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies. During these years, I have held many roles, including Lead Full-Stack Developer, Lead Mobile Developer, UX/UI Designer, and Tech Lead. Professionally, I has been a software engineer and UX/UI designer for six years. In 2015, he co-founded Flexitech, a software agency that focused on solving tough technical problems and delivering fast solutions.
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