Apply design thinking in the Web3 design process

Md Asif
UX Bonfire
Published in
7 min readDec 6, 2022

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Charles Kettering, the famous inventor, engineer, and holder of more than 180 patents, once said, “If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.”

If you are a Web3 designer, architect, entrepreneur or involved in any kind of creative work you are no stranger to the constant pressure to innovate. Innovation comes from thinking about something new or building something new from a creative perspective.

Design thinking is both an ideology and a process that focuses on resolving intricate challenges in a user-centric way. It is not an exclusive property of designers but the holy grail of innovation and a way to put off stagnation. It is a concept that is gaining popularity in the Web3 design process or other disciplines and yet it is still wrapped in mystery.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a human-centered process; thus, it solves problems while keeping user needs at the forefront. It is an iterative approach where you try to understand users’ needs, how they engage with particular environments, challenge assumptions and redefine problems. It’s all about adopting the designers’ mindset (several methods and techniques have been borrowed from the designer’s toolkit) and coming up with an innovative solution that is tangible and testable.

The traditional problem-solving approach is linear i.e., identify a problem and brainstorm the solution. In comparison, design thinking works in a way to continuously evolve your thinking and respond to consumer needs rather than achieving a single point of a solution. This is the ‘iterative’ part of design thinking that brings prototypes out to test very quickly rather than perpetual rumination.

What Does Web3 Mean for Designers?

Design plays an essential role in the adoption of Web3. Most people don’t know much about Web3 and they will be onboarded in this space through Decentralized Applications (dApps). Hence, Web3 design patterns can support or hinder the journey through this unknown technical space.

The design may vary based on the dApp type. Nonetheless, there are a few basic design concepts and principles that a designer should know when designing for Web3.

Design thinking is a non-linear process

Principles of Design Thinking

Some principles are pivotal to design thinking. Let’s take a brief look at the principles below:

Ø User-centricity and idea generation: The point is to generate many ideas by stepping into the users’ shoes and building genuine empathy for the target audience.

Ø Collaboration: Design thinking inspires collaboration between multidisciplinary and heterogeneous teams. In typical conditions, these teams don’t usually work together. However, these teams can produce wonder when harnessed by design thinking principles.

Ø Experiments: When the idea is generated you must create the prototype and test it in the real environment. Be prepared to make changes in certain steps as you will discover flaws and shortcomings in the prototype after real-environment experimentation.

Ø A stimulus towards action: As a hands-on approach, design thinking comprises fewer hypotheses and more user engagement. Rather than assuming potential solutions, you get to work, develop prototypes after thorough communications with the focus group and test them in a real environment.

Phases of Design Thinking

Phases of Design Thinking

The design thinking framework can be articulated in five basic phases. However, as a Web3 designer, you should know that these phases are not always sequential and can happen in parallel. These phases are a journey in a specific direction and a destination with seldom side stops or shortcuts.

Let’s briefly explore each phase in line with a practical design process.

1. Empathize: Gather a comprehensive end-user understanding

In this phase, you must paint a clear picture of the end users interacting with the Web3 space. Take note of their challenges, how they are affected by a product or issue, their needs and expectations. The observation in this phase must be non-biased and non-judgmental.

Observing with empathy is powerful because it unravels many issues the users didn’t know they were facing. This enables you to understand the user need for which you are designing. You may conduct interviews, surveys or observation sessions.

2. Define: Create a dazzling design brief for stakeholders

This is the phase where you accumulate all observations derived from the empathize phase and formulate a clear problem statement. The problem statement sets out the specific challenge you are about to address. At the same time, it will guide the entire design process.

A creative problem statement is not only the key to unlocking the best solutions but it also brings early thought leadership to the table. It is specific enough to provide guidance yet broad enough to leverage creativity. Once you can synthesize your findings, it is time to move confidently to the ideation phase.

3. Ideate: Unleash your creativity

With a comprehensive understanding of your end customers and a well-defined problem statement, it is time to unleash your creativity. This phase is where you think outside the box and explore new angles. Ideation sessions could be in a group or solo where different techniques like reverse thinking, bodystorming, the worst possible idea, mind-mapping, landscape mapping, etc., are used.

The key is to generate an environment where diverse and provocative options are assessed. The end goal is to intersect a few strong pathways that the designer can pursue. At the end of this messy yet brilliant phase, you should get the arsenal to build a prototype.

4. Prototype: Turning ideas into an actual solution

This phase is all about transforming ideas into a visible ‘customer journey’. Prototypes are not meant to be perfect; rather these are tangible version of ideas to see how it is accepted or criticized by the end users. For example, a landing page for a Web3 website can be a prototype to check the user’s reaction.

Improvement of the proposed solution is possible throughout the entire prototype phase — thanks to multiple stages of reviews, rejections, and critiques. This rapid iterative process is crucial in maintaining the user-centric approach as it allows creatives to be imperfect and embraces collaboration.

5. Test: Productive feedback from real users

The testing phase gives you an idea about the performance of the prototype. You should receive feedback on your work thus far.

The design thinking process is an iterative approach. So, at the end of this phase, you may have to go back to any of the previous phases. For example, the testing phase may reveal that you need to develop another prototype or that you haven’t defined the user needs appropriately. In either case, you need to return to an earlier stage and repeat the process altogether.

Why is Design Thinking Important in Web3?

The design thinking principle has an excellent track record of solving highly complex ‘wicked’ problems. These are the types of problems that don’t have any tried-and-tested solutions or any standard approach. Design thinking paves the path to:

Tackle ambiguous problems with empathy

Users in Web3 often don’t know the problem they are facing or can’t verbalize it. When the design thinking principles are applied here, the designer can easily track problems from what they see in real users’ behavior.

You can start small by focusing on one aspect of design thinking i.e., getting to know your customers with deep-rooted empathy. If you struggle to get positive customer reviews, you may conduct user interviews at their own convenience to identify their needs. Remember, the starting point is not a goal to achieve but to address the real-world problem with utmost empathy.

This helps you to solve ambiguous problems more effectively.

Create cross-disciplinary, innovative design teams

You may then emphasize the collaborative nature of design thinking which means holding idea-generating sessions with heterogeneous teams. Designing for Web3 is tough as you must consider a holistic approach. Chances are you will not find everybody on the same page. In such cases, the ‘collaboration’ principle of design thinking helps you a great deal.

More innovative solutions

In general, people can imagine things that they believe are possible. However, the design thinking principles enable you to think out of the box. It explores hypotheses and unlikely probabilities that would otherwise have never been known.

The ‘ideation’ principle gives rise to divergent thinking — how to implement blockchain technology to address certain needs. Imagine writers can publish their stories as NFTs for their readers to collect. This means that the readers can also trade and resell these story NFTs. Both writers and readers can be rewarded financially in an incentive-aligned way.

Solve concrete human needs by experiment and test

With a heavy focus on empathy, design thinking helps the business to uncover users’ pain points. At the same time, design thinking provides solutions to those pain points.

In the case of Web3 design, it is paramount to ensure that the potential solutions are possible with the current utensils in the blockchain. At the same time, these must be user-friendly. For example, interactive prototypes and wireframes for Web3 are often created with design tools like Figma.

The next thing is to test the performance of these prototypes in a real environment. This enables the builders to gather user feedback and improve the solution before the final launch. As a designer, you can arrange user testing sessions and collect data/feedback. Finally, rinse and repeat the steps all together.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, design thinking significantly impacts the overall design process of Web3 products and platforms. Just like Web3 products that are ever-evolving and require regular tweaking & improvement, the design thinking process/application should be infinitely adjustable with room for continuous development.

Hint: Design thinking workshops are a great way to do it, as these workshops can teach even non-design professionals to innovate and build with creativity.

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Md Asif
UX Bonfire

Passionate about cybersecurity, a crypto-enthusiast, & a creative writer