Phase 1: Observation
The first phase is all about observing the end-user, learning, and being open to creative possibilities.
Your goal is to understand the people you’re designing for.
Identify patterns of behavior, pain points, and places where users have a difficult time doing something—these all lend to tremendous opportunity. If you can, put yourself in their situation so you can see what their experience is, and feel what they feel.
Phase 2: Ideation
In this phase you start brainstorming ideas with your team based on what you learned from your observations and experiences in Phase 1.
Your goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can.
As you’re coming up with ideas, stay focused on the needs and desires of the people you’re designing for. If you do this, your group’s ideas will eventually evolve into the right solution.
Phase 3: Rapid Prototyping
In this phase you’re going to quickly build a simple prototype of your idea. This makes it tangible and gives you something to test with the end-user.
Don’t try to build a fancy high-fidelity prototype right now. IDEO is notorious for creating simple prototypes made out of cardboard.
Ask yourself this: What can I spend the minimum amount of time building that will allow me to get user feedback as quickly as possible? The purpose of this phase isn’t to create the perfect solution, it’s to make sure your solution is on target.
Phase 4: User Feedback
Get your simple prototype into the hands of the people you’re designing for.
This is the most critical phase of the human-centered design process. Without input from your end-user you won’t know if your solution is on target or not, and you won’t know how to evolve your design.
Phase 5: Iteration
Once you get feedback from your users, use that information to fuel the changes to your design.
Keep iterating, testing, and integrating user feedback until you’ve fine tuned your solution. This may take a few rounds, but don’t get discouraged. With each iteration you’ll learn something new.
Once you’ve gotten your solution to a point where it’s ready to be used, it’s time to move on to the next and final phase.
Phase 6: Implementation
Now that you’ve validated the usefulness of your solution with the end-user and gotten your design just right, it’s time to get your idea out into the world.
If you’re designing software products, apps, or websites, go back to Phase 1 and repeat this process. With each new update that you implement, continue to observe your users, design for them, and use their feedback to direct your future solutions.