Early and often, test your digital designs!

It is commonly believed in the business world that the company that pivots the most finds the most success. For example, Twitter was formerly a podcasting platform, and we all know how that turned out. Instagram, Airbnb, and even YouTube were all founded without any connection to the services they presently provide.

All of these businesses created something and iterated their solutions in response to market feedback. Each of them adapted to their situation and made business decisions that gave heaps of value later down the line after taking the time to cater to their users' demands.

In the field of design, this philosophy of pivoting, iterating, and trying new ideas is no different. You must include all stages of design thinking to be a great designer in the realm of technology. In this article, I'll describe my experience adopting design thinking ideas into my work, with a focus on the testing stage (typically the most overlooked), and explain how a simple mentality may help you get started.

What exactly is design thinking?

Right now, design thinking is all the rage. Designers aren't the only ones that apply this mindset to their job. It has been utilized by schools to improve their educational system, businesses to boost income, and product companies to help them produce better products.

But, first and foremost, what is design thinking? In a nutshell, it's a problem-solving method that involves understanding the user's needs, experimenting with different concepts, and receiving feedback from real users.

Design thinking is divided into five stages:

  1. Empathizing - The designer observes the user and how they interact with the problem. 
  2. Defining - The designer tries to understand and define the pain points. 
  3. Ideating - The designer comes up with numerous ideas to see what the best solution is 
  4. Prototyping - The designer makes the ideas tangible. 
  5. Testing - The designer tests the prototype with real users and observes their interaction with the prototype.  

This is a cyclical procedure that might continue through numerous rounds until the designer is satisfied that they have arrived at the best option. What matters is that the designer goes through each stage at least once to confirm the original concept.

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Testing: the forgotten stage

We do this process of design thinking without even recognizing it as designers, yet in my line of work, the 'Testing' stage is frequently overlooked or entirely forgotten. 


I've seen designers that don't test their prototypes with real users time and time again. Because of time constraints, a lack of cash, or a lack of capabilities, the testing step is just as vital as the rest of the process. How else can we prove the validity of our ideas? How can we improve and iterate on the solution if we don't get feedback? Are we just going to make educated guesses until the product is released?


Testing your designs is an equally crucial, if not more important, step that should not be disregarded.

Implementing the testing stage with a client 

I almost fell into the trap of ignoring the testing stage. 

We wanted to figure out the order and returns flow for the E-commerce site we were working on while working with a large client. We were attempting to improve the user experience while also meeting the client's logistical requirements.

It was a convoluted process. From logistics to money, there were numerous moving elements required just to commence a return, and don't even get me started on what was required to complete the remainder of the process.

We had spent weeks analyzing the requirements, coming up with ideas, and iterating the design while sitting alongside stakeholders, designers, and engineers. We were continually bouncing ideas back and forth, attempting to determine which option was the best. It was then that I knew we were missing something crucial.

Testing our ideas.  

We were so focused on building the solution that we didn't even ask the user what they felt about it. We were so focused on the business demands that we forgot to consider the needs of the users. We had been assuming that the user would have a positive experience with our present design solution up to that point.

I pressed the pause button and informed the client that we needed to test this flow with real users in order to validate our ideas. As designers, we sometimes get so caught up in the details that we overlook important details. Perhaps by putting our ideas to the test, we'll get tangible input that will help us steer the design in the right way.

We went away and set up the testing environment after the client agreed. We produced high-fidelity prototypes to give the appearance that the customer was dealing with a live website because we were dealing with a significant client. The setup required some time, but the end product was well worth it.

Getting validation 

Thankfully, the users in our testing environment were able to follow the flow. We had a few setbacks along the way, but these simply served to emphasize the necessity for us to iterate a few concepts. We came away from the meeting with a few concrete tasks to assist improve the solution. We could have saved weeks of wasted iterations if we had applied this method of thinking earlier in the project.

Testing doesn't need to be complex 

It doesn't have to be so difficult to test your prototype. You don't have to have a high-fidelity prototype available to test all of the time. To validate an idea, even a wireframe scribbled on a piece of tissue will suffice.

Figma (to help us construct the high-fidelity prototype and flows) and Maze (to help us set up the testing ground and record important metrics on how the user interacted with the prototype) were the technologies we used in our situation and with the client we were working with. We were able to build up a remote testing environment with just those two apps, and we were able to gain a lot of useful information.

Test Often 

I hope I've shed some light on the importance of putting your ideas to the test. We designers aren't only making things lovely; we're also coming up with new ways to solve problems. As a result, using a process like design thinking to ensure the success of your digital ideas is a terrific idea.

What matters is that you test your concepts with real people, and that you do it early and often. Getting direct input from genuine users has a lot of value. It can save you time and money, as well as indicate when it's time to pivot away from that notion.