Design thinking approach

UX design starts with understanding the challenges, behaviours and needs of your users so your solution improves their experience.

Design Thinking is one approach we use to solve complex problems with solutions that are desirable, viable and feasible. There are five stages of Design Thinking that are intended to be iterative (sometimes in more than one cycle):

1. Empathize

This stage aims to understand the user, their needs and goals, as well as understanding the business objectives so the solution can also achieve business outcomes. It involves doing research and gathering information from the business and users to understand the issues/problems that exist. Partners should be collaborated with to verify the problems that need to be addressed in the design. Ideally, this happens before design starts.


  • If your goal is to become healthier/more fit, you need to find a class that meets my need/skill level, schedule, price range, etc.

2. Define

This stage aims to define the specific problems that need to be solved for your solution to be effective. It involves creating a problem statement to narrow the focus of your design work. Your problem statement should describe the current state and end state a solution will bring.

Problem statement format:

We have observed that [product/service/organization] isn’t meeting [these goals/needs], which is causing [this adverse effect]. How might we improve so that our product/service/team/organization is more successful based on [these measurable criteria]?

All prototypes should be evaluated against whether or not they solve the problem, and if users can fulfill their tasks. You may need to periodically revisit and reconfirm that the problem statement is still true.

City digital property must also meet objectives outlined in The City's Digital Strategy.

3. Ideate

This stage aims to generate as many ideas as possible to solve the problem identified. It involves allowing yourself the freedom to think outside the box and not worry about constraints so you can produce a large quantity of ideas. Sometimes other perspectives or expertise can help develop ideas.

4. Prototype

This stage aims to narrow down the selection of ideas based on the ability to solve the problem identified. It involves designing and creating a prototype of your solution. This can be in the form of, but is not limited to, a wireframe or mockup for a website. Your prototype should include consistent language so there is a clear connection between all pieces of your content.

5. Test/evaluate

This stage aims to validate your prototype by having users test it. It involves putting your prototype in front of users to learn how they use the solution and if they can accomplish the main tasks. Based on what you learn from the user tests you can go back and iterate on the design until it is ready to be implemented.

Activities can include:

  • Qualitative usability testing
  • A/B testing
  • Tracking usability over time
  • Training research
  • User group outreach