Sylvia Jensen
Sylvia Jensen 11 April 2018

Why businesses need to adopt ‘design thinking’ to improve digital experiences

This article discusses the importance of design thinking and why it should be at the heart of every business wanting to successfully implement digital transformation for a better digital experience.

It’s no secret, a great digital experience is a key customer expectation in today’s real-time world. Another reality we all face is that the process of creating and implementing a successful customer journey on a website is being driven by various disruptive forces; the growing power of the consumer, technology, regulations and data.

To truly improve a business’s digital experience, you first need to look at your company’s digital transformation strategy. It is my belief that design thinking should be at the heart of this process. Design thinking helps you focus on the business’s specific needs and sets you on the right path to creating a successful digital experience.

Organisations that implement a design-led strategy to their digital transformation have a much greater success rate in terms of innovation. But even with this being widely known across the industry, some businesses have still not adopted a design thinking approach to their company’s digital set up.

One of the key reasons for this is the lack of understanding of what design thinking actually is. Other barriers, such as lack of internal support and rushing the process of creating a successful digital experience, are two more roadblocks that prevent innovation and therefore stunt an organisation’s digital transformation.

What is design thinking?

Do not be fooled. Design thinking is not about design, in fact it is a structured framework that’s used by designers to solve complex issues and find solutions for clients.

To give you an example of what ‘design thinking’ is; if you get 10 of your colleagues to draw you a picture of a vase, all the pictures you receive will look roughly similar to one another. A vase is a vase — and will largely have the same structure and shape, give or take a few minor differences. But if you get your colleagues to draw you a picture of “a way for people to enjoy flowers”, they’ll think outside the box, and come up with all sorts of innovative things. One may draw a picture of an app on your phone that delivers flowers to your door when you’re feeling a bit down. Someone else may draw a pop-up book that contains all sorts of rare flowers. Someone else might draw a VR game where you can visit the Chelsea Flower Show.

That kind of thinking is ‘design thinking’. It goes back to the problem itself and gets people to design solutions around that — rather than thinking first about what solutions are out there (vases) and how you can improve those. It’s about thinking logically, being imaginative, using intuition and systematic reasoning - all of which help to create the desired outcome for the customer.

A typical design thinker will rely on customer feedback, research and experimentation to minimise risk of innovation and create something more human. The less robotic a digital experience feels the more successful it tends to be. This is why we now see more personalised experiences on websites, it’s what we think the customer wants, but it’s only through trial and error that design thinkers have been able to implement it successfully and make it less ‘creepy’ for the end user.

The best thing about becoming a design thinker is that you do not need to be a designer to think like one. It begins by setting strategic intentions. However, marketers need the support from the powers that be to be able to introduce this way of working in to an organisation’s digital strategy and set-up. This support will only come with knowledge of its success.

Lack of support from higher up the food chain

Many C-level executives struggle to implement a design-led strategy because they have little knowledge of the power of design thinking. But this way of working is what makes a business’s entire digital setup stronger.

It is the lack of knowledge from those that hold the budget that creates a stumbling block when it comes to implementing digital experiences successfully. It is difficult to support a new way of thinking if you do not know or understand the benefits.

Evidence of this lack of understanding can be found in the Beyond the Hype report by Acquia, where 37% of C-level executives responded with a lack of support from board members when it comes to implementing digital across the business and even less support from other team members (53%).  

This is ultimately the fear of change. If this sounds familiar, try taking a step back and not rushing the process. Present the benefits other businesses have had to strengthen the argument. By slowing down, you give yourself and your team the ability to look at what the business actually needs in terms of digital and by prioritising those changes, the process of becoming more design-led should be smoother and less daunting. Baby steps may feel like a prolonged approach, but this will lead to more support and, in return, more successful digital transformations.

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