Design thinking: A human-centric approach to developing innovative product solutions
Jim Woble | Data Solutions Group
October 25, 2021
Design thinking is an approach to creative problem solving that has been described as a methodology, a culture and a philosophy all in one. Design thinking shifts the focus from a business-centric engineering solution, where we invent a product based on a bunch of assumptions and cross our fingers that it will work for clients, to a customer-centric solution. We aim to explore cultural phenomena, observe how people behave and think, gain insights into what they need, then design a product to account for these criteria.
FIS® is using the design thinking approach to create new and innovative product solutions. Our cross-functional teams are using the five phases of design thinking – empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test – to understand users, challenge all assumptions, redefine problems, create innovative solutions, then prototype and test with users. The financial services industry is at the beginning of a new wave of data analytics, and a human-centric approach will help us better tackle unanticipated challenges.
The amount of data, the demand for more data and understanding the importance of data are all critical to success in today’s business world. Without data, how do you know who your clients are, if they will like your products, if your marketing efforts are effective or how much money you are making or spending? Data is key to understanding your clients and business, and the more pertinent data, the better.
However, it can be easy to get lost in all the data without the right tools to help you access and understand it. The term “data overload” can describe a problem within a product or the difficulty in understanding what the data is telling us. In many instances, users of data routinely make bad decisions because they have trouble sorting through the data presented to them. Data overload can come in the form of:
- The product used to access data presents data that is irrelevant to the user. This ultimately results from not understanding the users. Rather than understanding users, the product is designed to use whatever data seems to make sense, or more likely, to take advantage of whatever data is easy to collect and provide in an organized table or grid. This is data overload because there is so much noise to wade through to find the relevant conclusions.
- The product was designed without knowing how to present the data to the user. Data visualizations are extremely important and should be used to help users understand their data. Not all charts can be used for all data sets, however. When the wrong visualizations are used (or no visualizations at all), even valuable data can cause data overload and lead to user frustration.
Human-centered approach to identifying the right problem
Design thinking is not about just building products or services, but also about providing the right solutions and solving real problems. It focuses on identifying the right questions and core problems that are important to the users. It necessitates interactions with users and an understanding of their environment.
Establishing a deep understanding – empathize and define
A deep understanding of your clients is crucial for building the right solutions for them. The best products and services are built by putting the needs of users first with an emphasis on solving problems for clients and not merely creating enterprise products. By gathering and synthesizing first-hand user feedback to appreciate user experiences and motivations, you can then define core problems and solutions that will improve user satisfaction. Solutions built using feedback and iterations from end users promote engaging and delightful experiences.
How do you get it right? Rather than start with the data you have and figure out how to simply present it to users, start with the day-to-day decisions the users are making and figure out what data they need and in what context they need it to best make those decisions. Once this is identified, then define how to present it to the user in a way that best reveals the relevant data patterns. A user can be presented with thousands of data points on a screen and understand it with ease. The number of data points is usually not a barrier, it’s the presentation of the most relevant information that is most important.
User collaboration is a continuum – ideate, prototype and test
Design thinking is all about putting the user first and developing an understanding of what they need to do and the environment in which they must perform. The user's needs and experience must remain central as we ideate solutions, prototype features and layouts, and test our design. By remaining user-centric throughout the entire product lifecycle and testing early and often with the aid of real user feedback, we can better identify flaws and usability issues before the product is released to the broader market.
At its heart, the design thinking process is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between FIS and our clients, with the emphasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave.
The FIS Data Solutions Group is currently working in collaboration with many users from our merchant and financial institution client base in this human-centric approach to product design, with the mission to provide users with the tools to proactively access, manage and discover the hidden information that helps our users drive intelligent and impactful decisions.