“Design thinking” and “the double diamond” are perhaps some of the most abused terms in tech today. They’ve read a few blog posts, or Sprint so know everything there is to do. Many businesses think they’re “doing” user centred design because they followed design thinking methods... yet they never actually spoke to a real user. It’s OK — “we know our users”.
Or they think you go through a linear process once and you’re done — “we already did research back in the first diamond, we don’t need to do it again”. While exploring more than one solution is a step in the right direction, design thinking without design research is only a quarter of the way there…
This post overlays the double diamond with the actual UX research and design tasks you should be doing at each stage. I’ve also combined it with the 30–60–90 framework and (tried to) represent the iterative nature of this process. For more details of the 30–60–90 framework check out:
Using the 30–60–90 Framework for Design Critique
For the past four years I worked in a mature design team at SEEK, who were familiar with how to give, and receive…
It’s important to note this is not a flaw of the Double Diamond itself — the British Design Council, who created it, intended the first diamond to be focused on users.
The below model was created to help my team better appreciate the design process and how it fits in with the other UX things I’ve been teaching them. Internally, I also overlaid where each of these artefacts live — a single point of truth. Hopefully this helps you too.
Before even starting the process, you need to first understand the users’ context. That is:
- Who are the users?
- What are they trying to do?
- Where are they when they are trying to do it?
- What devices are they using?
For a greenfields project you might need to do some preliminary research to answer these questions, before even starting with the diamond.
What are the Problems? (Diamond 1)
The first diamond is all about surfacing, and understanding, problems. Don’t try to design anything at this point, until you understand what your design is actually trying to achieve.
Discovery Through Research
We use divergent thinking to discover what these problems are, through user research. You should not be guessing what problems are without data. Even if you have a hunch that something is a problem you need to validate it with research. This data could be from:
- An insight from data analytics
- An increase in customer complaints
- A change in leading UX metrics (assuming you’re even measuring any)
- Primary exploratory research.
Using data from these sources helps us understand users’ motivations, goals, perceptions and experiences.
Define Problem to Focus on
When you synthesise this data into research findings we understand what the gaps, problems and opportunities are. Now we need to converge on one problem to focus. There may have been an overwhelmingly obvious problem to focus on, or you may need to do some more research (gasp!) to understand the desirability, viability and feasibility of solving the problem, and define it further.
What are Some Solutions? (Diamond 2)
At the end of the first diamond you should have a solid understanding of the specific problem you are trying to solve, why, and in what context. Now you are ready to explore how you might solve this problem.
The first half of the second diamond is called develop, which may be where some of the confusion is. This is not about starting to actually code solutions, it’s about developing ideas, so I’ve called it ‘ideation’ in this version.
We’re back to divergent thinking, don’t jump to one solution and stick with it — go wide and develop ideas about all the ways we could solve this problem or “how might we”. Start with brain storming and go as wide as you can. There are no right or wrong ideas here.
Then — based on desirability, viability and feasibility — begin to narrow in on a few ideas to take to lo-fo rough concepts that can easily be discarded. In terms of design critique this is 30%. We are at the go / no go stage for each possible solution. And guess what? You might even go back to research to make that call (what are the problems with the idea and back through to what are the solutions to these problems).
The second half of the second diamond is called deliver, which has the same problem as above; we are delivering a concept for the solution, not delivering the solution.
Back to convergent thinking — we’re focusing on the one best solution to the problem. We work on a first draft of a concept in high-fi wireframes or prototypes — we’re at 60% for more detailed feedback. We think we’ve got a solution that solves the problem. But how can we know that before we waste time, money and effort building it? Yup. Research.
At the end of the double diamond we have a detailed, validated, solution to a defined problem. It’s just about ready for development after a final critique — this is 90%. Depending on the maturity of your organisation will depend what this deliverable looks like — a detailed design spec or still a fairly rough prototype that developers can easily make using your design system.
Of course, we’re still not done. You need to measure that the solution has actually solved the problem. How do we do that?
Obviously this is still a model and as such simply a representation of the real world missing nuance. We’re (hopefully) not working water-fall and throwing things over the fence to developers. They’ve (hopefully) been involved at every step of this process.
But what kind of research do I do at each stage?
Glad you asked, check out Cheryl Paulsen’s post below and her handy dandy infographic (reproduced with permission).
Help! I Don’t Know What Type of User Research To Do (Part 2)
Learn about the user research landscape, 20 of the most common methods, and when to use which with this online tool
Where did the Double Diamond come from?
The British Design Council. Read about it here:
The Design Process: What is the Double Diamond?
Designers across disciplines share strikingly similar approaches to the creative process, which we've mapped out as…
How do I practically run through the Double Diamond?