The Best Practices In UI/UX Design Thinking Process With Namnso Ukpanah.

On the 15th of January, we had our weekly tweetchat with Namnso Ukpanah. Namnso is a Designer Advocate at Figma, organizer at Figma Africa and Lead Designer at Hotels.ng.

This week’s Tweetchat focused on the best practices in UI/UX design thinking process, it started with an introduction of Namnso at approximately 7:00PM.

You can follow the hashtag #TweetchatwithNamnso on Twitter.

Please note that the contents shared in this article rightfully belongs to Namnso Ukpanah.

Namnso: Thank you so much for the introduction. So before we start talking about Design Thinking and how awesome it is, a quick highlight, of what’s to come.

We will have a quick summary of what design thinking is and how it works.

Next up I will be sharing a story of how we used Design thinking at Figma Africa to raise the next generation of designers across Africa.

And then we will wrap it up with a Q&A session.

The way I like to see it, design thinking, in summary, is a creative way of solving problems. This isn’t limited to design or coding problems, it spans across every industry. It is one of the most popular ways of brainstorming through problems. It is also a process that is mostly associated with creatives and functions more in a way allows one to learn as they are going about the creative process.

So in a way you are answering whatever problem you defined and creating different solutions or options for solving them while testing them at the same time.

Basically, with design thinking, you are wayfinding with options, after all, how will you know what you want if you haven’t seen the available options? This is a theory concept I learnt from Guido Stompff (I will explain on him later on)

Design thinking is one field in design that took me a while to understand even though I have been practicing it for some time, I just never termed it as such only that I’m brainstorming. As humans, we tend to think in a convergence manner but with design thinking, it is the opposite. I will explain following the 5 steps involved in design thinking.

Empathy | Define | Ideate | Prototype | Test

Let’s say you are already at the first step which is “Empathy” because you are trying to define the problem, your thoughts have to diverge first so as to explore all possible ways of defining the problem before converging on a possible ideas. That then allows one to IDEATE. This is you simply trying to go beyond the usual thinking to come up with ideas that address the problem. This is one step for creatives where we start sketching, forming mood boards and more research. A lot of time is usually spent in this particular phase of trying to solve the problem because one needs to have a clear picture of the possible solutions before trying to create prototypes for testing.

At Figma Africa, we went through these phases while trying to define the path to follow for the design community. We applied a lot of creative design thinking to the problem we were trying to solve which was raising world-class designers.

EMPATHY

The problem of unemployment is real anywhere no matter the economy or city. Unemployment if not checked often leads to a lot of other complicated issues. Now, companies rarely or don’t hire those without experience. You know those 5 years experience for a field that is just 3 years old. And if you are in the creative business then you need a good portfolio to show you can be trusted to deliver or fit into the team. And there are a lot of people coming into the field trying to build careers out of it. Or those with some experience but don’t have portfolios to show because they can’t get jobs in the first place to build portfolios.

So how do we help those just starting out in design to gain experience and also build their portfolios? It was like having 2 problems that could solve each other.

DEFINE

We started talking to designers across Nigeria and outside Nigeria, just wherever we could get some attention or listening ears. That’s when we discovered, it’s not a problem faced by Nigerian designers alone. That understanding totally changed our understanding of the problem but it also raised new concerns because if we are to scale this to international standards, how do we solve the problem of the English/French language barrier.

IDEATE

Brainstorming through ideas and possible solutions got us coming across design education several times but how do teach design or offer learn design programs to people all over Africa.

How do we work it out so people going through this actually learn and become of a standard high enough to be hired by companies or for them to start solving some of the problems faced by their immediate environments?

PROTOTYPE

That’s when we launched the self-taught learn design program.

Problem with this one was it required a lot of follow-ups and checking on those learning which ruined the whole idea of it being a self-taught program. Back to IDEATING

We decided to break down the curriculum into weekly phases so those learning will need to check in with us before proceeding to the next phase that way we can access their progress. Turns out we were wrong once again.

Finally, we came up with the idea of working with ambassadors who share the same dreams of providing quality design education to those in their communities. This worked but needed some more testing to prove it will scale.

TEST

Then the very first one was headed by one of our ambassadors at CcHub, flexible time with an experience similar to that of a real-life classroom. We ran this for weeks and in other cities too. Next one was Accra.

So back to Design thinking itself, it is more of a process than a one-time thing. We had to iterate on our ideas several times. Test it out in different environments just to see how it will work.

Key Learnings

Design thinking is a process so you need to figure out how to apply it during each step of your problem-solving. That’s why it has 5 steps so you can apply each step at a time. It’s okay to repeat several steps before testing

Design thinking can also be applied to non-product scenarios. That is why I used an example of @figma_africa trying to make design educative accessible and how design thinking was instrumental in defining the process.

Being conscious of each of the steps will guide you toward a solution faster and will be really helpful with the documentation. Because this allows you to apply the same solution to similar problems.

And finally, some of the main questions before setting out should include:

Who are the end users, who are we creating this solution for?

Is this human-centred?

Does it add to human values?

How will the data be measured?

Contributions and questions are welcomed. Special thanks to @_Ingressive_ for having me on this #tweetchat session.

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