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The Design Thinking process, the 5 stages and the benefits

Krisztina Kanizsai

Design thinking is a problem-solving approach used to develop creative and effective solutions which is especially useful in digital product development projects. It is a process that involves empathy, experimentation, and iteration to arrive at the best solution to a specific problem. The design thinking process has five stages: empathy, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

The 5 stages of Design Thinking


The first stage of the design thinking process is empathy. In this stage, the project team will try to understand the problem from the user's perspective. This requires them to observe, listen, and engage with users so they can gain a deeper understanding of their needs, wants, and motivations. This stage is crucial because it helps to get to the root of the problem and better understand the user's experience.

Defining the problem

The second stage is defining the problem. The team will synthesize the information gathered during the empathy stage and develop a clear understanding of the challenges they are trying to solve within the digital product development project. This stage involves creating a problem statement that encapsulates the user's needs and the goals that the digital solution should achieve.


The next stage of the design thinking process is ideation. This is where the project team generate as many ideas as possible to solve the problem that has been defined. This stage is about creativity and encourages designers to think outside the box and explore numerous possibilities. The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible and not to judge or criticise them.


The fourth stage is prototyping. In this stage, the best ideas from the ideation stage are taken and developed into prototypes so there is a working model for the proposed new digital product. These prototypes can range from simple sketches to full-fledged models, depending on the complexity of the solution. The goal of this stage is to create a tangible representation of the solution and to test it with users to see how it works in real-life situations.


The final stage of the design thinking process is testing. In this stage, the team will gather feedback from users and evaluate the prototypes they have created. This stage is about validating the proposed solution and refining it until it meets the user's needs and solves the problem in the most effective way possible.

Benefits of using Design Thinking in digital product development

There are plenty of benefits to the design thinking approach. Firstly, it helps to develop a deep understanding of the user's needs, which is crucial for creating relevant and effective solutions. Secondly, the process encourages the project members to think creatively and explore different possibilities, which leads to innovative solutions. Thirdly, the prototypes and testing stages allows the validation and refinement  until they meet the user's requirements.

When looking at digital product development, the design thinking process is especially useful. The iterative nature of the process allows the team to quickly test and refine their solutions, which is crucial in the fast-paced world of digital product development. Furthermore, the focus on the user's needs ensures that digital products are designed with the user in mind, leading to better user experiences, higher user satisfaction and retention.

The creative design thinking process is similar to the traditional design thinking process, but with a focus on creativity. The process involves the same five stages but encourages individuals  to be more imaginative and daring in their thinking. This approach is often used in the design of new products and services, as the boundaries of what is possible can be pushed and truly innovative solutions can be created.

This is a powerful tool for solving problems and developing effective solutions. Whether you are working in digital product development or in a more traditional design context, the design thinking process provides a structured approach to solving problems and creating innovative solutions.

If you would like to learn more about the design thinking process or are wondering how it could help with your digital product development, contact the Zoosh Product Studio team today.

Want to know more about design thinking? Download our whitepaper “Designing Intuitive and Lovable Software User Experiences” to find out more.