How the Double Diamond Approach Helps Find the Right Solution in UX/UI Design
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Having been working as SaaS product designers for more than seven years already, we at Eleken can confidently state that good design is the result of a good thinking process. I mean, to come up with an effective solution, you first of all have to understand the problem you’re going to solve perfectly well. And this is where the design thinking Double Diamond model comes in.
The wonderful thing about the Double Diamond is that even if you hear about it for the first time, chances are you've already used it because it conveys how the design process should really feel.
This article will show you how following the Double Diamond approach can help you build a product that users will like. So, without further ado, let’s start with the definition.
What is the Double Diamond?
The Double Diamond model serves as a visual representation of the design process that designers can use as a framework when developing new creative solutions. Similar to other design thinking frameworks, it allows you to shift focus from the idea without jumping straight into development, but determine first whether the problem you’re going to solve really exists and whether you truly understand what your users need.
The Double Diamond framework resulted from the research conducted by the Design Council in 2004. The goal of this research was to discover how creative people process information in order to develop innovative solutions. The study involved such global companies as Apple, LEGO, Microsoft, Sony, Starbucks, and others.
"The result of this research was quite surprising: it turned out that no matter what challenges creative employees were trying to solve in each of the above-mentioned companies, they basically went through the same process to come up with innovative ideas."
The Design Council used these findings and formed the Double Diamond design model.
The phases of a Double Diamond design process
The Double Diamond model consists of two key stages (or "diamonds") that stand for "finding the problem" and "finding the solution." In their turn, these diamonds have the following phases: discover, define, develop, and deliver, each requires balancing between divergent or convergent thinking.
Divergent thinking supports your ability to consider various viewpoints and concepts. That is, it helps you come up with as many creative ideas as possible.
Convergent thinking helps you narrow down your ideas to those that are more likely to be effective.
The right combination of both ways of thinking lets you think creatively, and explore many opportunities but at the same time prevents you from getting lost in ideas and eventually leads you to choosing the right one.
The first Diamond, which includes the “discover” and “define” stages, is focused on in-depth research aimed to examine and identify the problem. The second Diamond, on the other hand, with its "develop" and "deliver" phases, concentrates on finding a solution, creating a prototype, and getting user feedback.
To give you a better understanding of each phase, let’s draw a parallel between planning our vacation with friends and using the Double Diamond methodology.
It’s the beginning of our project “Vacation” and we’ve just realized that it would be nice to take several days off and have some rest. But at this stage, we have a rather vague understanding of what we have to do to reach this goal. That’s why we need to start with the research:
- Ask our boss what dates we are allowed to take paid leave
- Ask our friends if they are willing to travel with us and what days they are free
- Consult with friends about where they'd want to go and what to do there
- Browse the Internet to find nice places and read what leisure activities are available there
- Watch photos of those places on Instagram, and so on.
Now let’s convert this info into discovery phase explanations.
In the discovery phase, you start with having an idea of what you want to create and your goal here is to get a better understanding of a problem space with the help of the research. It’s important not to base your design on assumption, but to collect all the necessary data that can give you the right problem’s context.
During the discovery, you’re diverging, which means you should think wide and collect as much information about the problem as possible. For this purpose, your team can imply one or several UX research methods. For example, they may talk to stakeholders, conduct user interviews, surveys, and competitor analysis, create customer journey maps, analyze existing metrics and KPIs, and review existing user data.
A tip from Eleken
When conducting user interviews
- Avoid using professional slang.
- Talk to people in an open-ended way choosing questions that require giving full answers. Instead of asking “Do you buy books online?”, try “What is your typical process of buying a book?”
- Instead of making value judgments, use neutral language. Not “Was it difficult for you to complete a purchase?”, but “Can you describe your feelings when completing a purchase?”. In case you can’t avoid making a value judgment, add an additional question that would give you more details, like “Was it difficult or easy to complete a purchase? What made it difficult to complete?”
- If your interviewee seems confused with a “why” question, try to replace it with alternatives like “What made you do a certain action?”, “What are you thinking of a certain action?”
And remember, you may develop your product in a more human-centered way after you understand your users’ needs firsthand.
Now when we have many wonderful vacation options to choose from, it’s time for a define phase.
- From the dates the boss and our friends suggested we choose those suitable for everyone.
- From all the proposed places, we choose those that everyone likes.
At the end of the stage, we know that we want to surf at Tenerife island from the 15 to the 25 of October and we need to find an apartment, rent a car, book tickets for a plane, and the like.
So, the define phase is where you start converging, taking all the insights from the research, and synthesizing them into a final problem statement and certain product requirements. This means you analyze the findings from the competitor analysis, user interviews, and so on, identify the key insights, and cluster them into related groups. These actions help you develop a product vision and a specific problem statement so that you can focus on when delivering an effective solution in the next Diamond.
A tip from Eleken
To formulate a problem statement, use the information from user research about user goals and pain points and choose the user need/problem that seems the most universal. Then use it in the “How might we…” sentence. This would be your problem statement.
Getting back to our “Vacation” project, at this point we already know our needs very well. So we can generate potential solutions to our problem that will work for our specific case:
- we look at Airbnb for suitable apartments
- check the available tickets on Skyscanner
- search for the local surf schools.
So, the develop phase is where we get back to divergent thinking again to generate various design ideas that can solve the problem identified during the previous stage. There are many design thinking ideation techniques that may help you cope with this task.
The develop part includes building user flows, wireframes, and low-fidelity prototypes to see how different pieces of user experience are going to work together. Also, it’s essential to conduct usability testing and show wireframes/prototypes to your design peers, and stakeholders so that you can iterate and improve concepts that you’ve developed.
At the end of this phase, you should have several concepts that you find the most promising.
A tip from Eleken
It may be tempting to move on to a solution right away after reducing the amount of data in the previous phase. Still, during the develop step, it's crucial to think creatively once more and come up with a variety of options. And choosing the right brainstorming strategy can help you generate many great ideas.
Don’t narrow down the solution too fast. Even the wildest suggestion may inspire the team and lead to other great ideas.
Finally, we choose the best solution from those generated at the previous stage to plan our perfect vacation: out of three hotels, four available surf schools, and five car options, we choose and book optimal variants in terms of location, budget, and preferences.
Then we go to Tenerife and see what kind of user experience we would have there. On the next vacation, we go through the whole process again, but take into account the mistakes that we made on this trip to make our next experience better.
As the deliver phase requires convergent thinking, your objective here is to validate solutions, choose the best one, and get it ready to hand it over to the engineers. For this purpose, designers build high-fidelity prototypes, test them, gather user feedback, and iterate to improve the future version of the product.
A tip from Eleken
In the deliver step, you validate ideas not with the help of usability testing, but your goal here is to prove the concept and determine whether users like the solution you've created and whether it serves their needs.
That's why don't fall in love with your ideas (some prototypes may still be scrapped at this stage). Instead, focus on feedback. Gather customer feedback and expert review every time you make changes or improvements to the product.
To sum up, it’s important to state that the Double Diamond design process is not a step-by-step guide. Consider it as a never-ending cycle of iteration and delivery that helps you find the right solution and keep bringing value to your customers.
How we created UI/UX design for a no-code graph visualization platform using the Double Diamond model
Cylynx is a graph intelligence tool that converts graph data into business insights and speeds up data exploration and analysis.
When Cylynx turned to Eleken for a UI/UX design, they had a demo version of the product, but with limited functionality. Our task was to turn the demo's user interface into a fully functional MVP.
It’s difficult for those who don’t work with graphs or data to understand the use cases of Cylynx. But to create really intuitive and consistent UX, designers should understand what problems users face. That’s why our main challenge was to figure out how and in what situations actual users would use Cylynx so that we can come up with a solution that is usable, valuable, and convenient for the end user.
We chose the Double Diamond to cope with this challenging task as it’s especially useful when you need to understand customers and explore creative ways to solve their problems.
The first step is to learn more about the software, its demo version, target audience, and competitors.
We started our research stage by talking to the representatives of the Cylynx team. Together, we examined the demo, dived into detail about how it works, defined why the features in the demo version work as they do, and identified cases when the software brings value to its users.
As a result, we managed to define the main app areas that people had trouble using.
- The graph editor: in the demo version its interface was made up of four equally important and independent tabs. And when the user took a certain action in one tab, they didn’t see the parameters they selected in the previous tab which made the interface confusing.
- Time series investigator: the feature that allows running the graph in a certain time sequence was difficult to use.
Next, we gathered the screens of popular graph visualization platforms (WeGephi, neo4j, Lnkurious, Tiger Graph, Graphistry, and Cytoscape) in one place, so that they were easy to compare and analyze.
Our findings showed that most of these applications were complex and required coding skills to use them.
At this stage, we had to identify our main problem statement.
Taking into account the findings from our research and the user pain points, we understood that to improve the existing demo and beat the competition, we should strive to make the Cylynx interface simple and intuitive so that users can faster explore and analyze data.
This was the time to come up with ideas on how to cope with the problems we defined during the first Diamond.
To generate best solutions for each issue, we ideated together with Cylynx developers.
Some of the decisions we made were:
- To improve the graph editor we decided to create three tabs (“Data to work with”, “Styles and filters”, and “View”), which now don’t overlap each other and allow users to clearly see what changes they make.
- As for the time series investigator, to make this feature more adaptable and easy to modify, we enlarged its size and added additional values.
During the deliver phase we created our final prototypes and handed them to the development team so that they could introduce Cylynx to real customers and start gathering feedback.
Use Double Diamond for innovative solutions
You'll find your path toward creating the right solution if you decently follow the Double Diamond approach. This method challenges you to reconsider your original idea, identify the real issue customers are experiencing, create the perfect solution for both users and your company, and, finally, test it.
If you want to learn more about how companies build innovative solutions using design thinking methodologies, read these five real stories of design thinking examples. And if you need someone to help you design the right solution, reach out to Eleken and have a free consultation.
4 Reasons You Might Think You Don’t Need User Research (Spoiler: But You Do)
All the startupers want to know why startups succeed, but few people want to know why startups fail. The way to success is not just following the successful, it is more about avoiding failure.
We all know famous statistics showing that 99% of startups fail. Basically, not failing is already a success: it means that you are in that top 1%. Luckily, there are already studies that explain the reasons behind such a dramatic result.
Forbes made massive research which showed that 9 out of the top 20 reasons why startups fail are related to user needs. People were just developing products that didn’t bring value to the users, didn’t meet their expectations, or didn’t address their problems.
At Eleken, we often do UI/UX design services for startups. The founders are typically in rush and want to get the product on the market or on the investors’ pitch as soon as possible. So at the initial stages of the product development cycle, when the budget is scarce, people try to cut costs.
One of the first things that gets cut is user research. We’ve heard from our clients many different reasons why they didn’t want to do the research. We’ll share the most common — and give some tips on how to deal with those issues.
1. We have no time
Time limits impact development decisions a lot. In the end, if we didn’t have deadlines, who knows how many products would make it to the final stage? That is to say, I totally understand people who opt to skip research to save some time. But there is one thing that they have to understand as well.
Developing a product without user research is like gambling. You have a chance to make something great and succeed, but you also have lots of chances to make something that people won’t buy because they don’t need that thing. And if you remember the statistics from the beginning of the article, you understand that the risk is big.
User research helps you find out what users need and what they think of your product — before it is even released. Saving is good, but going wise on saving is more important.
If you do a product without user research, you are gambling your resources, time, and money. The stake is bigger than the time spent on research.
So, how much time does the research take?
People who have never done research may imagine it as a serious science-like venture that involves people in white lab coats doing experiments in sterile rooms. Maybe some UX researchers would like it to be that way even. But what some people don’t know is that UX research process can be simplified and still bring results — with minimum time and money spent.
User interview is one of the easiest user research methods. At the same time, it is one of the most efficient. Studies show that as by conducting 3 to 5 interviews you already get most of the insights.
Five 30-minutes interviews would take no more than three hours of your working time. Add some more time to recruit the interviewees and analyze the results, and there you go — you can schedule and conduct interviews in less than two weeks and the actual working time is much less. UX research activities don’t have to take the majority of the design team’s time.
Michele Ronsen, UX instructor, says that you can say that there is no time for research only in “really extreme situations, like one or two-day turnarounds”. According to her, recruiting a person for user research takes no more than three hours. We believe that recruiting the minimum amount of interviewees can be done in 4 to 6 hours.
People who say that they have no time for research often just lack experience. Not every product owner knows how to do UX research and how to do it fast and efficiently.
2. We have no spare budget for user research
The story with lack of time can relate to this case, as well. Just count how much these 10 to 20 hours of time cost and you’ll see that this is a tiny dash of your development budget — but as important as a dash of salt in a soup.
There are very cheap and very expensive ways of doing UX research. And usually the cheap ways are more than enough to reach your goals. And that’s the next point of our excuses list.
3. We don’t have specific goals
When people say that, it means they have some basic understanding of how research should be done. It’s true, having a goal is crucial for efficient research. But goals don’t just appear on their own.
Especially if you are not used to doing the research and don’t have a clear vision of the value it brings, the goals won’t be clear as well.
Defining the goals should start with questions and challenges. Often research can help resolve roadblocks in product development. And then, there are always questions that every product manager should keep in mind regularly:
- Is the product easy to use?
- Does it solve the user’s problem?
- What do users want?
And these are exactly the questions that user research answers.
4. I can’t do the research without involving stakeholders
Sadly, not everyone in the world is fond of research (and that’s why this article exists). Not all product teams are at a high level of UX maturity, and when you are the only one interested in conducting user research, you may feel that it won’t have much impact: simply because people don’t care.
On the other hand, why expect that people will get enlightened at some point? They won’t, unless they are being pushed to it. There are a number of methods that help convince your colleagues of the importance of user research. Here are some ideas:
- Tell them stories about products that failed or succeeded because of (not) doing UX research
- Share some statistics that prove the business value of research
- Do little research on your own and present the results. Make sure that you boil it down to the most important insights, and don’t present lengthy documents that no one will read.
There’s no guarantee that it will magically turn your team into UX research Buddhas, but little by little it can change the situation. For more tips on how to become a user-centered company, read our article about UX maturity.
The purpose of this text is to combat the excuses, but when you dig deeper, it becomes obvious that there is the other side of the coin where user research is really unnecessary.
Apart from fake excuses, there are real reasons that can justify skipping user research. If you have that annoying colleague who is a fan of user research, just tell them one of these:
1. When you do user research just to prove your idea
Though it sounds like a case of an unprofessional person, this bias is very common even among academic researchers. Scientists say that no result is a good result, but UX professionals probably wouldn’t agree with that.
If you notice that your team approaches user research that way, it’s time to consider whether it is worth wasting time at all. Confirmation bias is one of the main UX research challenges.
2. When you can reach your goals through different types of research
When starting to do UX design for a new project, our designers often get many ideas from users’ feedback on competitors. It’s more than simple: you just go to Apple store, Playstore, or any review website and read what people are saying.
From there, you can learn what features users lack and what makes their experience pleasant or unpleasant. It gives lots of hints on how you can shape your product to get a competitive advantage.
If you only know two or three research methods, read our article about 14 UX research methods.
3. When the results of the research don’t turn into design decisions
Here we go back to the question about stakeholders. When you take on the initiative and conduct user research on your own, but other team members just go on with what they believe is the best, the situation gets frustrating.
The only satisfaction is telling those sweet four words later when you get feedback on the product after launch: “I told you so”. Is it worth the effort? It’s all up to you.
4. When there is no professional available who can do quality user research
This reason is pretty clear. When you can’t ensure good quality, don’t jump into the research until you find an experienced professional. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a dedicated consulting company. Finding a designer who did user research in the past is enough.
If you decide to do user research without previous experience and previous knowledge, you should take it more as a self-educational experiment than a reliable basis for design decisions. Experiments are good — just don’t think that user research is a piece of cake. There are many pitfalls that you are not aware of.
So, to do or not to do?
What are your reasons, fake or true? Not sure yet? When in doubt, just do user research. And if you don’t have a UX professional with relevant experience in your team, contact us — and get to know our designers.
Try, Then Try Again: Why Iterative Design Process Brings the Finest Results
You have 18 minutes, 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and a marshmallow. You need to build the highest tower possible with a marshmallow on top. What would be your strategy?
That’s not a child game, that’s a design exercise called Marshmallow challenge, that presents surprisingly valuable lessons about the nature of collaboration and project management:
- There’s a group of people that show consistently poor results in solving a Marshmallow challenge. They are recent MBA graduates.
- There’s also a group of people that performs consistently well. They are recent kindergarten graduates.
How is that possible?
Business students are trained to find the single right plan and then implement it. They spend half of their time planning, then building spaghetti constructions, and in the final moments, they put a marshmallow on top. Sometimes it works well, but more often MBA guys end up in “oh-oh” situations.
Children work differently. They start with a marshmallow and make successive prototypes, always keeping a marshmallow on top. So they have a chance to fix unreliable designs multiple times along the way. When time is up — ta-da! — a marshmallow stays on top.
The moral of the story: If you experiment early on, you build the highest towers. This experimental type of collaboration is the essence of the iterative design process.
What is iterative design process?
Let’s start from the iterative design process meaning. It’s simply a series of steps that you repeat, tweaking and improving your product with each new cycle. The goal of iteration is to get closer to the optimal solution with each repetition. Iterations underlie design thinking, as well as Scrum and Agile project management methodologies.
The iterative idea seems effective. It’s obviously effective, yet too-seldom-used — if you look closely at the design agencies’ landscape, you’ll notice how many companies employ the MBA students’ working model (together with their “oh-oh” results).
Take classical service agencies. They provide their clients with big impressive teams that, apart from designers, would include project managers, design architects, and researchers. All those people would investigate the case, draw pie charts, analyze the market to define the single perfect plan, implement it, and then… you figure out they’ve missed something crucial.
Why is iterative design used?
Clients rarely come to a design agency with a detailed project roadmap in place — they mostly have a foggy idea of what they need.
The designer’s main challenge in such cases is to get somehow into the clients’ heads to create the things exactly how they want them to look, even if clients themselves lack understanding.
“Iterative working process is the only way to ensure your design will be a precise fit.”
That was a quote from Maksym, a Design Director at Eleken UI/UX agency. Maksym is a stickler for the iterative design process and Figma (but that's another story). That’s why all designers at Eleken work iteratively (in Figma).
It's not because Maksym forces us to adopt an iterative working model. There are just some obvious iterative design benefits for both designers and their clients:
- Iterative design saves time and money. Mistakes and misunderstandings between requirements and implementations become visible in the first steps, so we can fix them early.
- It enables the team to leverage lessons learned so that designers continually improve the process.
- It involves clients effectively in a design process evaluation.
- It guarantees that the design would reflect the interests of all stakeholders. This is especially important in terms of designer-developer collaboration.
- It ensures that stakeholders of the project have a clear understanding of the project's status throughout the lifecycle.
How iterative design process works
One programming wisdom on Twitter says that theory is when you know something, but it doesn't work. And practice is when something works, but you don’t know why.
We won’t give you any theory here — you can easily find shaky theoretic structures if you google “iterative design process”. We are not theorists, we are an agency that uses iterations on an everyday basis for years already. Iterations are something that works for us (and we even know why).
So let’s look at an iterative design example — the project we carried out for TextMagic. TextMagic was an established CRM app that was going to add some new marketing functionality to their product. They hired Eleken to design that functionality.
The scope of the project was broad, so to start the first iteration we needed to split the whole job into tiny bits. In UI/UX it’s fairly easy — you just iterate screens one by one. Each iteration of the design process goes through three stages: creation, testing, evaluation.
- We take the first screen and make a guess on how it’s going to work based on our initial observation, research, and requirements we gathered. We shape our guesses into a raw mockup and send it for approval to the client’s Project Manager. That’s the stage of creation.
- The Project Manager points us to the ideas they like and those that they don’t. We gather the feedback and leave to reflect on it. That’s the stage of testing.
- We come up with new ideas on how to improve the mockup based on the feedback we got. That’s the evaluation stage, that closes the loop.
As you can probably guess, it’s not the end, only the beginning. Where the first iteration ends, the second starts. Thus, iterations work like spiral turns, that bring us closer to the goal with each turn. You review your solution, refine your guess, review the revised solution, and repeat until you get the answer that satisfies everyone.
Look at TextMagic’s chat widget below. It’s pretty minimalistic, but before it evolved to the final form you can see, it went through numerous approval cycles.
Anything like this, before going live, gets on the PM’s radar. If the design looks good for the PM, the screens land on the desk of the CEO. It can be also reviewed by a Tech Lead or developers that will implement the design. If something on the mockup turns out to be too hard or too long to implement, the designer may be required to simplify a feature of concern.
This iterative process is often called “rapid prototyping,” and it’s not for nothing. The important thing is that creating and testing ideas should happen quickly. The faster, the better. Working with TextMagic, our designers could run several iterations per day. The more often the client or their representatives can negotiate designers’ intermediate results, the faster the design process moves.
Let's not forget about user testing. Testing new designs for projects that are already running, like TextMagic, is an absolute pleasure because you can talk to people who already use the product.
Brand-new startups, however, can also test their prototypes on users. Design collaboration tools, like Maze or Lookback, allow you to test your work on different stages, from product concepts to prototypes.
Great design comes from iterations of good design
Ilya, the Founder & CEO at Eleken, likes to remind us that design is a process, not an event. One might even say it’s an endless process. That means the design can’t be finished — only put on hold for time. Users’ needs change, and the market changes — so should design.
A non-iterative design process is just not suitable for constant improvements. It tries to put a marshmallow on top of your design tower at the last moment and to step aside.
The iterative design project, in contrast, allows you to adjust the tower all the time. Billion-dollar startups take advantage of this possibility like no one else. To prove the point, we have five real stories of top SaaS companies that use iterative design thinking.